Meet Chad Burton, founding attorney of Ohio law firm Burton Law LLC. He has developed a unique law firm model using Clio, Box.net, Google Apps, and Cybertary.
So how does your firm operate?
We have taken the traditional firm model and blown the walls out of the firm, got rid of on site administration help. Each lawyer gets an iPad, a Clio account and a Box.net account. While we use a virtual firm model, we still meet with clients in person, but since everyone works in different parts of Ohio (and soon other states), we use Clio, Google Apps and Box.net to tie everyone together.
How does that work?
We handle litigation and transactional work, so lawyers can collaborate on documents via Box.net and Nextpoint (an ediscovery review tool),which eliminates the need for everyone to be in the same place. And Clio allows us to do everything else, like bill clients, and just easily share information. Clio is everything we need all in one.
Did you use anything before Clio?
Yes. Rocket Matter, High Rise and another 37Signals product. Nothing talked to each other. Then I heard about Clio in a conversation with another lawyer starting a solo firm in Dayton, Ohio, and starting seeing it everywhere. I threw out something on SoloSez about considering Abacus, or more traditional software. Personally, I’m all Mac, so would have had to run a parallel, which presented an unnecessary challenge.
Have you had any experience with Clio’s support team?
Yes. I have. They’ve been great. Catherine on the Clio Support Team, and Brett Burney, who is a Clio Certified Consultant, have all been great.
Help section has 95% of questions I’ve had. And I’m in Catherine’s time zone, so anything else she’s been all over. She’ll have answers back within hours. It’s been good.
Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?
I do it all the time. Even to people outside the legal industry. Clio can be used for any kind of service-oriented business, like a business coach, that has contacts, and does invoicing and accounting.
You said before every lawyer at Burton Law gets an iPad. Why is that?
I found a laptop between me and the client makes meetings awkward. I started using an iPad last fall, and found it eliminated that awkwardness while increasing my mobility more than my iPhone. So I decided every lawyer of Burton Law gets an iPad. And an iPad, Clio and Box.net just work well together.
“I decided.” What other decisions have you made about Burton Law?
Hiring. I’ve hired people I know so far that have been referred to me or have come to me, or through conversations that have identified this could be a good fit. I want to grow the firm strategically, but not just to go grow it.
Earning potential. It’s based directly on your work, no hourly billing requirements. Lawyers can set their own fees, alternative or hourly, whatever works best for the particular client. The firm keeps x percentage of billable brought in the door for accounting/book keeping, invoicing, technology, Lexis, marketing — business stuff. The firm lawyers keep the rest.
Entrepreneurial. Burton Law lawyers can develop their practice without the constraints of a firm hierarchy getting in the way, and get to practice law without having to deal with the administration stuff that they aren’t good at or don’t want to deal with.
Administration stuff. Who handles that?
The firm. We handle management of matters in Clio, including invoicing, as well as transcription of documents, and Cybertary, which is a local franchise owner for book keeping and other administration assistant projects. It made sense to break up by expertise since what one doesn’t cover the other does. And it made more sense to do it that way instead of bringing someone on.
Firm does marketing. As with any law firm, each lawyer is responsible for marketing themselves and their services. People hire individuals, people hire people. We have a two pronged approach: Word of mouth and networking events.
Another way to think of it is having all the benefits of being a solo without dealing with all the things you don’t want to deal with by having a bigger firm structure behind you. We can plug a lawyer into the process, with some integration they’re off and running. Firm deals with back end stuff.
Yes. Networking events are good for business. It’s critical to get involved in the community, and the bar associations. It’s a time investment, sure, but if you pay dues but don’t do anything, it doesn’t get you anywhere. You have to put in the time or else it doesn’t work.
So why virtual?
A significant portion of the profession will head this way over the next several years. Lawyers, who are adverse to technology will eventually come to grips that they need to embrace it or they will be left behind. Plus, the flexibility under the model makes it easier to balance family life with running a law practice.
And finally: Mac or PC?
For the firm, Macs and PCs. Beauty of concept of using Google Apps, Clio and Box.net is that it doesn’t matter what kind of computer you’re using. It all works. So Burton Law lawyers don’t have to leave what is already comfortable for them.