#GoneClio: Christopher G. Hill

Meet Christopher G. Hill of the Law Office of Christopher G. Hill and author of the blog, Construction Law Musings.

Tell us a little about your practice and how you got started.

I practice almost exclusively construction law representing contractors, subcontractors. I’m solo in just about every definition of the word. You’re talking to entire staff of my law firm.

One day after 13 years I was only one at the firm I where I was working that did what I do, I just looked at it and decided I’d try it on my own. I was at a firm with about 18 lawyers. Depending on where in the country you are, that’s either small or big. In NY, that’s pretty small. Around here, it’s probably about mid-sized.

And where is “around here”?

Right outside Richmond, Virginia.

I also kind of stumbled into construction law. I started off at the Virginia Attorney General’s working at a 10-lawyer firm that did a lot of real estate and construction. I started doing that and kept going. Guess I like hanging out with the contractors, and I figured you might as well like the clients.

What did you use before Clio?

I used whatever the firm was using. Think I’ve used TimeSlips before. Most recent firm used Tabs, and frankly I became aware of Clio through Solo Practice University, and thought OK I’ll try it out for a little while.

Through a course at Solo Practice University?

No. I teach and record a construction practice class at SPU.

Ah. So what made you decide on Clio? Did you try out any other solutions?

I started off because it was free for three months. And I like that it’s cloud based, and that you guys update it so I’m not getting a disc every month, and next year being told “we’re not going to support the last version.” I also like that I can get to it anywhere. If I can find an Internet connection I can get to my stuff, which helps when I’m the only one in the firm and I’m out of the office. I don’t have anyone I can call and say “hey grab that file!” Clio also helps me keep that two-drawer file cabinet.

Paperless! Like your Small Firm Innovation post.

Correct, or mostly paperless. I just figure we’ll never go completely paperless as there will always be courts that require paper, and there will always be paper somewhere.

And I didn’t try anything else. I just started with Clio, stuff kept getting tweaked and I just stuck with it. I don’t know that I use all the features. I’ve had several clients say how much they like being able to pay online and you guys have added more pay vendors. I use LawPay, as that’s the one the Virginia Bar recommends. And if it’s easier for clients to pay me, then I’m more than happy to do it.

Do a lot of your clients pay online?

About a third of them pay online. Some of the commercial contractors like to write a check. Either way is fine with me. A lot of people get so used to shopping online now anyway, and it’s also easier for me. Otherwise they’d have to call me, I’d have to write down the credit card number and then go shred it.

What problems did Clio help your firm solve? 

One, frankly, is time tracking and billing. It also helps with the fact that I’m not always sitting in the office. It makes billing pretty easy. I either email a PDF or use Clio Connect. It cuts down on that administrative time, and the more time I’m not spending doing administrative stuff, the more time I’m either making money or hanging out with my family.

Document hosting helps too. I can get to it from anywhere I can get to an Internet connection. And I don’t have to do a whole lot of updating it. I just look at the link at the bottom and see if anything’s changed.

What did you find to be Clio’s most valuable feature? 

The one I end up using the most is the Maildrop. Every time I email something to a client, counsel or something else, I can just automatically BCC the Maildrop address and the email ends up in the Matter. I’ve started to use the ScanSnap, Scan to Clio function although it would be nice if I could search Matters by name as I can’t remember all the numbers. I can eventually get to it by number, but if I can just type in the name, like I can in the regular Clio, I’d get to it faster.

It’s a great feature though. I scan everything anyway.

Have you always used ScanSnap?

No. I started off with a 3-way printer/scanner/fax, after about six months and enough people telling me how good a ScanSnap was, I got one and it’s a whole lot faster than the other one. It makes the whole process go a little faster. I haven’t tried to scan files I brought from my old firm that has 8,000 pages in it, but anything new I scan. I’m as paperless as I can be.

What benefits have you realized from Clio that you didn’t anticipate?

The one I didn’t anticipate is the Clio Connect billing. That just makes billing much faster. I create the bills, click that button and I’m done. The other thing I like is when someone actually opens the bill, it shows up in the Firm Feed. I know people have actually gotten it and actually looked at it.

Have Clio & “the Cloud” changed the way you practice law? If so, how?

Not really. Probably has as much to do with my area of practice as there are probably still contractors that use the computer to hold the door open. It also depends on how you practice law. I mean, I don’t have to be sitting at my office all the time, but I’m still writing pleadings and advising clients and everything else. But I’m also constitutionally incapable of working from home. Even my wife said I need an office.

Three kids. Two dogs. A yard and everything else. Lots of interruptions.

How did you find the process of getting up and running with Clio?

It was actually pretty easy. The first part was just figuring out stuff like how to get my contacts imported. That wasn’t hard, just a matter of figuring out how to do it. Starting up was basically putting in my information and a credit card. Then I was off and running, and spending a little time exploring to see which parts I’m going to use more.

And I didn’t have to install anything on my computer.

How has Clio improved your firm and the service you offer your clients?

Online billing is probably biggest thing the clients see. And also goes back to that I can spend more time on them and less time on stuff like billing. I don’t think most clients think about how the bill gets put together. They just think about the bill. I don’t use Clio Connect a lot for collaborating with clients. I use it almost exclusively for billing.

Have you had any experiences with Clio’s support team?

Yes, and most of the time they get back pretty quickly. When necessary, the Clio support folks actually called to make sure things get done. Speaking of online pay, LawPay managed to do something that made the Clio side not work. Just fixed that when you called. Clio support team was very responsive and figured it out which made it easier to fix.

Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?

Yep, and I have. I’m in an office suite, a shared office space where you just rent an office, and I’ve recommended it to several other folks around here. At least a couple of them have signed up.

Mac or PC?

I use a PC at the office. Part of that is because up until the last year or so, MS Office didn’t work well with Macs. I might switch to Macs. Was looking into syncing a Mac with Clio and looks like it’s multiple steps at this point. I’ve got most of my contacts are in there now anyway. I may switch when my present laptop dies. I’m not really an evangelist for either side.