Looking at Features
Clio is a very popular, and rightfully so, cloud-based practice management tool. I have been working with Clio as a consultant for a few years now and thought it was time to share my experiences in a few specific areas. Those areas are customization, support, and ease of use. In order for you to understand the evaluation, let’s start by defining each term.
- Customization – The degree to which users can utilize custom information, like tasks lists and custom fields.
- Support – This includes the documentation, videos, webinars, chat/email/phone support, and their responsiveness to product feedback.
- Ease of Use – The ability to use basic features of the applicant with no training.
I realize some items, primarily ease of use, can be rather subjective. By laying out a definition, I hope that much of the subjectivity has been removed.
Clio offers lots of customization, but it stands to be improved. Firms can create custom fields to capture any data necessary. This data can be required or not, specific to a practice area, and added as need. Even better, users can add this information in groups, or individually. However, some aspects do not seem well thought out.
Let’s assume an estate plan where a couple has several children. Normally users must add the children as custom data. This is not the issue; this situation is common among practice management. The issue appears when you must figure out how many children there are. Assuming each child must be listed individually, then you need a single custom field for name, one for a birthday, one for SSN, etc. Now we can make a set, but how many sets. If they have two children, you would need two sets. If they have three, you need three sets. However, users cannot duplicate a set. The firm would need to create ChildName1, ChildName2 and so on. So instead of duplicating the information, the firm must manually create many duplicate custom fieldsets.
Continuing the scenario above, users can use these custom fields sets when merging documents. This allows the firm to pull specific information and place it into a specific location in a document. This makes document drafting a breeze. However, if we look at the situation above, then the firm would need to have document templates for a will with no children, one child, two children, three, and so on. It would be much nicer if there were a way to just have one template and append information.
Also with document merges, the functionality requires the firm to specifically call out to only one custom fields. Where you have 3 expert witness, you can make a “contact” merge fields that will let you select which contact goes there. Instead, you must remember the order, or look it up and then choose the template for expert witness number 4.
Finally, if the firm collects a lot of information in the custom fields, as most firms do, there is no way in the matter dashboard to sort, organize or filter this wall of information.
Clio has a good start for custom fields. But they have not done anything new or revolutionary, and are behind some other practice management applications.
With support, Clio is easily among the best. Their documentation is excellent, easy to find, and up to date. They often include screenshots, with callouts to specific buttons or features. The language is easy to understand and direct. What makes it even better is they often include videos, that are again short, direct and easy to follow.
Perhaps the best part is the weekly webinar they hold to get users up to speed. Every week there is a basic session and a second session. That second session changes but I have not looked, nor figured out a pattern to it. This is not to say one does not exist, only that I have not needed to look.
However, as with everything, things can go wrong. When they can, Clio has support available via chat, email or phone. Every time I have called, I received answers, usually on the first call. I’ve seen minimal wait times, and have yet to encounter a representative anything other than polite, knowledgeable, and helpful. In my experience the worst situations for any product’s support involves integration. This usually plays out in a blame game that leaves me with headaches. This has yet to occur with Clio, and believe me I’ve tested the waters.
My only complaint is that tickets opened through email, seem to receive less urgent attention than a call. I have not used the chat tool.
The last area of support is their ability to receive customer feedback. Their score here is off the charts. I have never met a company that listens to feedback so well. They listen to their clients’ needs and understand the context around the feedback. This lets them provide a better solution than even the client expected.
In summary, their support is fantastic. Just call, if the issue is urgent, or try the chat tool and let me know how that worked out.
Ease of Use
Clio is easy to use. Well, the basics are. With zero training people can figure out how to set up a new matter, client or send out bills. The only assumption I’m making here is that the firm in question is willing to try something. For example, sending out bills looks difficult but if a test client is created and the user goes slow and follows along, this can be easily figured out. When paired with their support documentation, videos, and webinars, it’s easy for firms to grow as long as they’re willing to spend a little time learning.
However, some of the more advanced features are less clear. Custom fields have items that are difficult to figure out. The same is true for merge documents.
But bouncing back in the other direction again, their ability to listen and incorporate feedback, means these items will be resolved.
If the firm is looking to extensively customize Clio, it can work, but make sure to plan around the items discussed and take advantage of their trial period.
If you are looking for an application with better support, good luck finding it. Clio is a good partner with which to grow if you are invested in your practice management solution. Assuming you understand the boundaries of the software.