It took me a long time to believe in case management software. Not the idea of it–I’ve liked the idea for 20 years. But in practice, it hasn’t worked for me until now.

I installed a case management software program when I opened my practice in 2002. I hardly used it. It just didn’t do much that helped me. This was in the pre-ECF and paperless days. I bought a different version a few years later. It died on the vine. I’ve looked into many other versions over the years and not gotten excited.

But this time it’s different. I tried Clio after attending the Miss. Bar’s Technology CLE in May. I love it. It’s a fantastic addition to my practice. And I’m still not using all its features.

The difference makers for modern case management software is that its cloud and subscription based without big up front adoption costs or long term contracts that try to lock you down.

Years ago case management software was on the server and you had to be in the office to use it. Today it’s wherever you have internet access and on your phone. Clio has a great app for i-phone and android that I use a lot.

Before Clio, I was a to-do list fanatic. But I was doing it by hand every week in OneNote. Clio has a great task system that makes it simple to create and modify tasks. It gives options for setting deadlines and tying tasks to specific matters.

Clio’s contacts feature works better than Outlook. My Outlook contacts became such a mess years ago that it was largely worthless. I keep my contacts organized better in Clio.

Clio also integrates with Outlook so that my Clio calendar is also maintained on my Outlook calendar. I use an $8 per month add-in called Click-to-file that makes it easier to save and read old emails within Clio. When I need to find a particular email or attachment, its easier to find it in Clio than Outlook. In Clio the emails are listed and you can read the entire email by hovering the cursor over an email.

Like the tasks feature, Clio’s calendar allows users to tie calendar entries to matters. When you create a calendar item and link it to a matter it will show up on the calendar section within the matter page. Same for tasks, contacts (you can link contacts to matters), expenses and time. This matter centric organization is fantastic. It centralizes and organizes a ton of information that was spread all over the place.

Within the matters are the following sections for each case: dashboard (general case info.), activities (time, expenses), calendar, communications (emails), notes, documents, tasks, bills, transactions, Clio Connect (client portal). For instance, hit the calendar tab and you can see everything scheduled in that particular case. That’s a handy feature when you are on the phone and need to identify a deadline or deposition date fast.

Clio has a great search function that is fast.

I use Clio to record time and create invoices. I was previously doing this in Quickbooks. With Clio it’s easier to create and modify time entries. Plus, I can do it on my phone. Clio creates practice reports that some lawyers and firms find very beneficial.

Clio has an app directory with over 60 integration partners. These allow you to add additional software and tie it to Clio. Examples include Office 365, Box, Dropbox, Quickbooks on-line, Ruby Receptionists, Factbox, Fastcase and many others.

Clio recently launched its Apollo platform, which makes the software slicker and faster. I liked it before. Now it’s better.

You can try Clio free for 30 days and get a 10% discount through the Mississippi Bar. Pricing starts at $39 per month. I use the $59 per month boutique plan.

Before you think this post is a Clio commercial, note that Clio has competitors. Rocket Matter may be the biggest, but there are many others. My purpose is not to rank them.

Many lawyers get hung up trying to identify the ‘best’ case management software instead of trying to get the most out of the one they have. My advice for implementing case management software follows.

Advice for Implementation

Start slow

Pick out a case management software and install a trial version. Don’t waste your time putting your whole practice in it. Get going with 1-3 cases. See how you like it. That way you will not have a lot of time invested if you decide you don’t like it or want to try something else.

Try others if you aren’t sure you like it

A recurring theme on legal tech list servs is people asking for advice on what case management software to try. The responses are interesting. Lawyers have a tendency to not be monogamous to their case management software and are always looking for a prettier partner.

Invariably, someone responds that they’ve basically tried them all. Of course, they are in love with their current software. I always wonder whether if I checked back in two years they would be using something else.

What makes the most sense to me is to find something you know you like and then stick to it. I didn’t do this, but one idea would be to test a few programs at the same time. For instance, get a free trial of Clio, Rocket Matter, and Panther at the same time. Put a few cases in each. Then work out of all the programs at the same time depending on which case you are working. That would tell you which system you like best.

Stay committed

Rather than looking for something prettier, spend your time figuring out how to better use what you have. I’m not going to say that I am only scratching the surface with Clio, but I may be. I do know that it has a lot of features and app partnerships that I have not tried yet.

Room for improvement

My biggest gripe with Clio is the lack of ability to organize notes. I wish I could organize my notes like in OneNote and Evernote. Since I can’t, I still mainly use OneNote for notes and analysis. I would also love to see outlining software like NoteMap within the notes.

It’s hard for me to imagine any lawyers not using case management software in ten years. It’s great now and will only get better.

Next tech topic:

In my next tech post I will discuss why Microsoft Office users should be using Office 365 rather than desktop versions of the popular software.