In September, I reported that practice management provider Clio, at its annual Clio Cloud Conference, had unveiled “the new Clio experience” — a top-to-bottom re-engineering and redesign of its practice management platform, which it dubbed Project Apollo, after the Greek god of healing and light. Having now had a chance to explore Apollo, I thought I’d offer more details.
As I wrote in that September post, there was perhaps an even bigger announcement from Clio at that conference — that of its future course. Whereas its mission so far has been to move law practice management to the cloud, its mission going forward is to move law practice to the cloud and, in the process, to, as its motto now says, “Transform the practice of law, for good.”
“The idea of practice management is a relic of the old way of framing what legal software can do.” CEO Jack Newton said during during a media day visit to Clio’s headquarters in Vancouver, B.C., which I wrote about in a column at Above the Law. “So the next chapter is to move the practice of law to the cloud. Eventually, all sorts of other facets of practicing law will get pulled into the cloud. The idea of practice management will become a limiting way to describe what we do and what our vision is.”
Clio sees Apollo, its redesigned platform, as a major step in that direction. It envisions the platform becoming the backbone of a modern law firm’s technology stack and the hub of an ecosystem of what are now nearly 70 integration partners and that will continue to grow.
In over a year developing Apollo, Clio spent more than 600 hours and 60 days visiting law firms, consulting with clients, conducting user testing, and monitoring feedback from customer surveys and interactions. It encompasses a new design, faster performance and some 220 feature improvements.
Clio has also created a new version of its API (application programming interface) that will allow it to better connect its ecosystem of integration partners, and it has launched a new App Directory to make it easier for its customers to find integrations appropriate to their practice.
For now, Clio subscribers have the option of toggling between the legacy and Apollo versions of the software via a toggle switch in the navigation bar. Eventually, that toggle switch will disappear and all users will default to the new version.
One notable improvement in Apollo is global navigation. The navigation panel now sits on the left of the screen, instead of the top as before, where you can access tasks with a single click. The panel is collapsible to give you more screen real estate.
The search bar is now atop the navigation menu for quick access. Search now includes custom fields created by the user. Next to the search bar is a Recents button to access the 10 most-recent items you’ve worked on.
The new application was built using a single-page architecture. That means that, when you click on links to move around within the application, the left and top navigation bars stay in place. Only the center of the page reloads, making pages load more quickly. Clio says its platform is now five times faster. While I can’t quantify it, I can tell you that the pages load very quickly.
Another time-saving feature of the new design is global create. Wherever you are in the application, the Create New button is available at the top right of the screen. Click it to quickly add a new matter, contact, task, time entry, expense entry or just about anything else that can be done within Clio.
Timekeeping has been enhanced by allowing users to start the timer with a single click, without having to enter any matter details. Also, a new Timekeeper button, accessible from anywhere in the application, allows you to quickly see and edit all your time entries and totals for the day (or you can toggle back through prior days). Click any entry to start a new timer for same matter.
A new Activities page shows all your activities in a data table. Columns in the table can be resized, hidden and added to create the view you like. Activity can be filtered by date ranges, keywords, matter, firm user, and other fields.
The Matters page now also displays as a data table with configurable and collapsible columns. The Create New Matter page has been condensed so that all fields fit within a single page. The top of the page is where you enter standard information about the case. Expandable sections farther down on the page let you add billing preferences, custom fields, automated tasks, and related contacts.
Also revamped is the matter dashboard page, to provide more information at a glance. At the top, the page shows current financial information for the matter, including total time and expenses, any outstanding balance, and available trust funds. Farther down, the dashboard shows the matter details. A box on the right shows contact information for the client and for any related contacts. Below that, a new Timeline replaces the previous version’s Firm Feed, showing all firm activity on the matter.
Other changes worthy of note:
- Apollo allows bulk billing of all clients with outstanding amounts due and also bulk application of trust funds to invoiced amounts. Bulk billing can also be limited by date ranges for billed activity or by responsible attorney. The platform has improved features for previewing, editing and sharing invoices.
- From the Communications page, when you create an entry to log a phone call, you also get the option to start a timer for the call. When you close the log, a pop-up lets you also create a time entyr for the call.
- Clio now integrates with Microsoft Office 365 and has improved email synchronization. Users can now link emails directly into Clio from Outlook, push attachments from Outlook into Clio’s document management system, and track time within Outlook.
About Those Integrations
A key differentiator of Clio over other practice management platforms is its integrations with third-party applications that extend its capabilities. At its September conference, Clio announced 12 new integration partners, bringing the total to more than 70. It also launched a new App Directory to make it easier for users to find applications that match their practice needs.
These integrations cover a range of categories, from accounting and client intake, to e-discovery and legal research, to timekeeping and workforce management. Note, however, that most of these third-party integrations require their own subscriptions, in addition to the Clio subscription.
And Coming Soon …
In addition to Apollo, Clio is working to finish another development project, which it calls Hermes, and which will be a secure, mobile-optimized communication platform for lawyers and their clients. Think of it as a legal-specific variation on communication applications such as WhatsApp or Slack.
The application will enable lawyers to securely message with colleagues and clients, initiate secure video chats, exchange documents, and more, from mobile or desktop. Clio was demonstrating a prototype version at its conference in September but had not announced a final release date.
With Clio’s rollout of its new platform, it left its pricing unchanged. Clio offers three plans. When billed annually, the per-user monthly costs are $39 for the Starter plan, $59 for the Boutique plan and $99 for the Elite plan.
Most lawyers would want at least the Boutique plan, which includes integrated credit card processing, accounting integrations, and Office 365 Business & Enterprise integration. The Elite plan adds court-rules calendaring and other features.
The Bottom Line
For lawyers shopping for practice management software, good options abound. The right choice for you depends on your practice and your needs. As I said above, a major differentiator for Clio is its third-party integrations. No other platform has anywhere near Clio’s number of integrations, and several decidedly avoid integrations, instead taking an all-in-one approach.
That said, I should emphasize that you do not need any third-party integrations to use Clio, although you will probably want a third-party business accounting program. It is a complete platform in and of itself. But the integrations can help make the platform fit better with the particular needs of your practice. And, going forward, the integrations will be the fuel that drives Clio’s vision of moving not just law practice management, but law practice, to the cloud.
Clio has many factors in its favor. It is a mature, reliable and well-funded company. Its new software is intuitive and robust and works equally well on desktop or mobile. It has an excellent reputation for customer support. While its pricing is generally higher than its competitors, it is still within range. Of the many good options out there, you won’t go wrong with Clio.