April 9th, 2012 by Gwynne Monahan
Meet Ashley Rahaman, founding lawyer of The Rahaman Law Firm, PLLC, a solo practice focusing on family law: divorce, custody, child support and adoptions. She is based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
First, congratulations on the launch of your firm!
Did you decide to incorporate?
Yes. I formed a LLC, which is a PLLC, or Professional Limited Liability Company, in Arizona.
Why did you pick a PLLC?
Mainly on the advice of my accountant.
Good plan. So, what did you use before Clio?
I worked for a different firm before, and it used TimeMatters. I started my own firm in June, and learned very quickly that TimeMatters was way outside budget. I couldn’t justify the cost with my firm just being me. I was looking for alternatives, and my accountant recommend I at least look into Clio. I did the trial, really liked it and went ahead and signed up for it.
Wait. Your accountant recommended Clio?
Yes. My accountant, Paul Carlson, does a lot of work with small law firms, and Clio makes it easy for him to log on and take care of the money side of things.
What else made you decide on Clio? Did you try out any other solutions?
It’s easy to use. I was worried about doing something new, with everything that I had to learn starting a firm from scratch. I was trying to limit new knowledge I had to take in. Clio is easy to work with, and it offers everything I need to manage my case load, which is growing. TimeMatters maybe offers a handful more features, but they were features I never used which didn’t justify the increased cost.
I also like the fact that Clio is mobile. I’m mobile. I work from home, and meet with clients at my executive suite I rent so being able to take my laptop and access files during client meetings is a nice perk as well.
Cost, ease of use. And if I had questions, never had a problem getting answers from customer support, either by calling or sending an email.
What problems did Clio help your firm solve?
I didn’t really have any problems. I’m starting from scratch, and the number one problem most firms have is bleeding money, waiting to turn a profit, but I haven’t had that problem. I’ve been able to really maintain my costs so that everything I take in is profit.
Overhead is really low, and part of that is paying only $49/month for Clio, which is something vital to running my firm.
Wow. Good for you! Sounds like you really enjoy being solo.
I love it. Been kind of a whirlwind the last 12 months. I got engaged, was planning a wedding, moving. I got married in March, and starting the firm seemed like something that’d be a really huge undertaking. Going step-by-step, it hasn’t been as big. I create my own schedule, I’m in charge of how everything is run, my name is on the firm, and I don’t have to take on cases or clients I don’t feel strongly about. I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position, and am taking full responsibility/flexibility of being my own boss.
What advice would you give to others starting out?
Be aware of your limitations, don’t bite off more than you can chew and yes, you can do it. Having made it through law school, you have enough up there you can figure it out. If not, there is someone always willing to help.
Can you give some examples of someone willing to help?
The Solo and Young Lawyer Division of the State Bar of Arizona. It’s been good to meet other solos and young attorneys, and start a relationship with these people. And it’s been helpful to meet people who are solos who practice in different areas of the law.
You do have to look for support though. It is not just going to fall out of the sky and into your office. And it is easy to get overwhelmed, so you need to be willing to make connections and follow up. It does go a long way. I get a lot of calls from people who need service I can’t provide, and it’s nice to send them to someone I’ve actually met, shaken hands with and feel comfortable sending referrals.
What did you find to be Clio’s most valuable feature?
I very much appreciate that my client documents are on some cloud based server so I can still access them. A benefit of having that cloud backup system beyond the four walls of my office.
And a small thing, but a favorite: I love the assigning of an email address for a matter. I was used to a 2-3 step process in TimeMatters in order to see emails for client files. As soon as I set up in Clio, I set up the Matter email in my email contact list, personal email and Clio email. So every correspondence related to that Matter, I bcc the Clio email address and then it’s just there.
My third favorite feature is the bill generator. My bills look so professional. I am easily able to show charges and any payments from their trust account. It’s just the easiest thing in the world, and I can’t imagine anything easier.
What benefits have you realized from Clio that you didn’t anticipate?
I never imagined it’d be so easy. It’s how I run my firm. Calendar syncs to my Android phone, and I love the calendaring system. I don’t have a paralegal or assistant, it’s just me, so I like having everything at my fingertips. I don’t feel overwhelmed by it, and don’t find it confusing.
And any questions I have are answered right away.
I just didn’t anticipate it would make things so easy, and wish I had done this a long time ago.
So why did you want to start your own firm?
I wanted to work part time, start a family and take some classes. I wanted to be a lawyer on my time. I didn’t want to bill an exorbitant amount of money, have a ridiculous hourly rate. That’s not why I wanted to be a lawyer to begin with. Now I can charge what I want, and charge what my clients can afford.
I don’t have a lot of bills to pay on overhead. $49 a month for Clio, $181 a month for an office, so if someone needs help, I don’t have to turn the person away.
Ah. So why did you become a lawyer, to begin with?
I wanted to become a lawyer because I like helping people. Particularly in family law, people get taken advantage of in a really low point in their lives. The system is kind of frustrating, it takes a long time and you need someone there to help you through it. Having been the product of a split family in a way that helped me and sisters feel safe, I feel can help do what’s best for the family instead of draining the bank account or dragging a custody battle through the mud.
I just really wanted to help people see that, and do it in a way people can afford. No reason why what I offer needs to be out of the reach of 99% of the people.
Have Clio & “the Cloud” changed the way you practice law? If so, how?
Not particularly. I do appreciate having my calendar right there. While I’m in court and setting up future hearing dates, I need to know right then if I’m available and I can. I’ve just taken advantage of Clio to run my practice.
Sounds like you’re on the go often. How do you stay connected?
I have an Android tablet and phone, though I’m not a big fan of touch screens at all. I think they’re totally cool, I’m just bad at it and need a keyboard. I do have a Mac laptop, though, I need something with a little more functionality for me.
I’m the last known person who can’t master a touch screen. My Android phone even has slide out keyboard.
And Clio does work on my Android tablet, and my Android phone. Thing with iPad/iPhone is that they don’t use Flash.
How did you find the process of getting up and running with Clio?
Really easy. On a scale of 1-10 easy, it’s a 10. I’m not even super technical. I used to consider myself technically challenged but I’m not as bad as I thought I was. I’m not a tech genius at all, but I can’t afford an IT guy so I need to be able to call someone and get an answer. Clio is very user friendly, but I’ve been able to get a responses from Customer Service without any delay, including the message boards. Those are great too.
How has Clio improved your firm and the service you offer your clients?
I’m sure it has. I’ve taken calls at Starbucks. I have a Google Voice number that rings to my cell or home phone. I don’t need to say “need to call you back when I’m in the office,” I can pull it up right there, wherever I am.
I went on vacation, took my laptop and people called me and I was able to pull things up with no issues. The sooner you can get them an answer, the better. My clients are decent people going through a crappy time, and being able to rely on one person to answer their question is all they want.
Have you had any experiences with Clio’s support team?
They’re great. Haven’t had a question that didn’t get answered, haven’t had to wait more than a few hours to get feedback.
Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?
I would. I did in an article printed in the Arizona Attorney Magazine. The state bar offers a great service, the Lawyers Office Management Assistance Program, and I recommended Clio to new attorneys and attorneys starting out solo. I met with one of the program’s attorneys who came to look over everything I had set up and she was impressed with everything I had going. She asked about Clio, I told her how awesome it is, and in the process of writing a feature story about various law office management programs for the magazine, she asked if I wanted to write a couple paragraphs about Clio. So I wrote 250 words about my experience with Clio. It was included in the magazine, and I when I read other reviews of other systems, mine was the only one entirely positive.
I love that I don’t need to install stuff, don’t need to pay for upgrades and don’t need a new installation and an IT guy to come out and explain everything that’s new. With TimeMatters, you have a certain number of licenses that can be on at one time. As the old firm grew, we couldn’t
all be on it at the same time. People had to log off, in the middle of the day. It was incredibly annoying.
Mac or PC?
Macs, Android Devices and PCs. I’ll use whatever I can get my hands on, whatever works.
Fair enough. And finally, is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those considering going solo?
Do it sooner rather than later. The benefits definitely outweigh the costs.