Today we’re happy to feature a case study written by Nicholas J. Slinde, founder and managing partner of Slinde & Nelson LLC, a law firm in Portland, OR. This case study originally appeared in LJN’s Legal Tech Newsletter.
In December 2008, my partner Philip Nelson and I established our boutique legal firm, Slinde & Nelson LLC, in the in the vibrant Pearl District of Portland, OR. Our firm provides a spectrum of legal services ranging from general counsel and business law to construction law and employment litigation. We primarily service clients from Oregon, Washington, and California.
In addition to our law practice, we also operate Carbon Trader, a consulting company that counsels clients on matters involving green and sustainable business strategies, including carbon trading credits. Both the law and consulting firms are housed under one roof, and are supported by the dedicated efforts of three attorneys and four project managers.
Since inception, the growth both firms have experienced has outpaced our most ambitious expectations, which I attribute to a “perfect storm” of circumstances, many rooting from the current economic downturn and the “green” movement. Additionally, the downturn has inspired the legal profession as a whole to rethink the billable hour, something we think will bring much-needed flexibility and innovation to the pricing arena.
As a young, modern firm, we wanted to make use of the latest technologies to support our highly mobile contingent of lawyers and staff, and to offer our clients unprecedented, round-the-clock, and fully transparent access to our legal expertise. We recognized that optimizing our internal efficiency through the use of leadingedge tools was critical to delivering responsiveness, transparency and an exceptional customer experience.
SaaS Making Strides
In early 2009, we began our search for a practice management tool that would support our demanding requirements and the needs of our complex environment. This search led us to consider a number of options, among which were several traditional client/server software packages. Although impressed by their feature richness and complexity, we ultimately elected to consider other products due to the generally high up-front costs associated with software licensing, maintenance, training and implementation.
Wishing to avoid unnecessary resource costs, we continued our search and were pleased to discover that SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) was beginning to make significant advances in legal practice management. Having decided on several other Web-based services to support the needs of our practice (such as Google Apps for Domains), we were already sold on the idea of storing our data in “the cloud,” and were attracted to the reliability and availability inherent to SaaS.
We were looking for something scalable and capable of growing with us as our firm rapidly expanded. We required a low cost of initiation and implementation to accommodate our fledgling budget, rigid security to provide the necessary protections required to maintain client confidentiality, attentive service with exceptional responsiveness and customer care, and sufficient versatility to manage the large volume of information for both the legal and environmental consulting entities.
Our research led to a handful of legal SaaS offerings, including Clio. On the surface, the various offerings looked quite similar, since they offered many of the core practice management functions such as matter management, contact management, calendaring and time-and-billing features. Mobile access from either an iPhone or BlackBerry interface was an option as well.
However, as our research continued, we found the interface and several key features of Clio helped separate it from the crowd. Most importantly, Clio offers Clio Connect, which functions as a secure, private Web site (extranet or portal) whereby we could give our clients access to various documents, bills and correspondence we had produced for them. Clio Connect aligned perfectly with our dedication to accessibility and transparency for our clients. Clio Connect allows us to deliver information to our clients easily in a timely fashion. In fact, we feel Clio Connect offers such convenience to our customers that it serves as a competitive advantage for our firm. Hand-in-hand with the Clio Connect functionality is Clio’s document management functionality, which allows us to upload documents to the system and manage versions over any Web connection from home, office or on the road.
In February 2009, we decided to move forward with implementing Clio as our practice management solution. Like many SaaS products, Clio is sold by monthly subscription. For Slinde & Nelson’s staff, three attorneys and two staff members, we pay $49 per month for each attorney, $25 per month for each staff member. There are no hardware costs and there is no maintenance fee — Clio simply runs over our Internet connection. For a young firm like ours, the lack of capital expenses associated with Clio was a major selling point. We were also able to set up and deploy Clio without any IT integrator or consulting expenses.
Since Slinde & Nelson is a new firm, we had the benefit of not having to convert any legacy data over to Clio, although Clio does offer data migration services for firms with existing practice management data. Data migration, technical support and weekly upgrades are included in Clio’s monthly subscription cost. We have our entire firm’s practice management and client collaboration needs fulfilled by paying one, predictable monthly fee.
For the past several months that we have been using Clio, it has performed extremely well for both our law and consulting firms. It fits well into our overall plan to go paperless and wireless in all of our workflow. Clio has allowed us to integrate old and new technologies to give our clients comfort, and to deliver exceptionally good customer service with a high degree of transparency. For a small, agile, and rapidly growing firm like ours, Clio was definitely the right choice.
This case study originally appeared in LJN’s Legal Tech Newsletter, Vol. 28, No. 4 (July 2010). © 2010 ALM Media, LLC. All rights reserved.