October 8th, 2012 by Gwynne Monahan
Meet Lindsey Drake, a sole practitioner in Austin, Texas focused on wills for families.
Tell us a little about your firm.
I am a sole practitioner, so it’s just me, and the occasional intern. I mostly do estate planning for small to medium estates, family law work, and recently branched out into probate, which is a new area for me. I was licensed two years ago, and have been an actively practicing solo for 14 months.
Before that I did a little bit of contract work but not practicing law. In order to stay in Austin though, I realized I was going to have to make my own job. I was tired of searching in Austin for a job with a firm and while I had offers outside of Austin, I didn’t want to leave.
What did you use before Clio?
I’ve used Clio most of the 14 months. I previewed and looked at different software options, both desktop and cloud-based, and used billing software in other firms where I clerked. I went to the GP Solo conference when it was in Austin and had dinner with a pair of the Clio staff. I was very interested. I think I’ve always focused on Clio and it’s been neat to see it develop over the past year.
One thing I was most excited about was the integration with LawPay. Once LawPay and Clio were connected, accepting electronic payments became very convenient. I also like the document integration with Box. I don’t have paper documents if I can help it and Box is easy for my clients to use.
I just discovered Clio Connect. I have been looking for a way to transmit bills among other things. Downloading and emailing or printing them is a real pain. Clio Connect makes it easy for clients to access documents, notes, and invoices. I love it! Clients can just pay their bills and don’t need to call me to process it. They can do it at midnight when they remember.
Indeed. Do you bill hourly or flat fee?
I’m big on cost-benefit analysis and because I usually bill hourly, each minute of my time has a value. If I’m spending 10 minutes on a website to process bills or organize documents, that adds up and costs clients. Saving time on administrative work means savings for clients.
Estate planning is usually flat fee as they are mainly straightforward cases.
What made you decide on Clio? Did you try out any other solutions?
I read about Rocket Matter, and a friend uses MyCase. Cloud-based systems really appealed to me so I didn’t spend much time on desktop ones. When I was doing my research, I also listened to the podcast series’ New Lawyer and the Unbillable Hour where they talk about different options. I looked at them all, and Clio fit me the best, based on cost/benefit analysis.
You really do like cost/benefit analysis.
I do! When you are starting a solo practice, every dollar counts. First, I bartered for an office, but the setup wasn’t right. I went back to my house but it was hard to schedule clients since I had little access to conference rooms. I spent quite a bit of time balancing out the cost of a physical space versus the savings of working from home; I had a tough time signing the lease though. A friend of mine worked in a converted house and some space opened up. Since moving in, I’ve seen a spike in appointments. Part of that is because I had a physical zip code so I popped up in searches. I’m also not downtown so I’m not in a glut of attorneys, and I’m near several large neighborhoods whose demographic makeup is my target audience.
Wow. Sounds like all the pieces just fell into place.
It was perfect timing. And I have windows and a reception area, too, so people can sit and wait. You don’t know how important windows are until you spend days in an office without them, and it is very uncomfortable having clients in your work space all the time.
Nice. So what problems did Clio help your firm solve?
I didn’t have problems before I started using it as I just started my firm. But I use it for scheduling, contacts, and matter management, billing and documents. I’ve used all of it extensively. I’m all about streamlining and simplicity. I don’t have time to track a whole lot of data in different systems.
I do need to see if there’s a way to do some task tracking in Clio though, other than the task list.
What do you mean?
I have a bulletin board right now because I can’t find a suitable workflow tool. I’m a visual person, so I need to see tasks for each client to know what is next and left to do. To-do lists don’t do it for me.
Interesting. And good to know.
Yeah. Overall I’m very pleased. I’ve really liked the changes in the timekeeping function. It’s better billing in increments, and I can customize the rates.
What did you find to be Clio’s most valuable feature?
I don’t know that I can pinpoint one exact thing because it’s an overall package that makes it valuable. To pick one, though, I’d probably pick matter management. I’d have a harder time duplicating that in other ways. I could do my billing in one way, client transactions in another ways, calendaring is already in Google and just links to Clio. Clio bundles necessary tools. It’s fairly cohesive and brings all the different elements together.
What benefits have you realized from Clio that you didn’t anticipate?
A lot! Especially over the last year as new features are added. I love that it’s cloud based since it’s just a better way to operate in a mobile society.
I didn’t realize how great being mobile would be at first. It’s a totally different legal market today, and we’re transitioning to a more client-friendly model. The cloud-based convenience aspect has been a wonderful thing for me and for my clients. I’m not tied down to a desktop computer at the office.
Have Clio & “the Cloud” changed the way you practice law? If so, how?
Absolutely it has. Hasn’t changed how I was practicing but how I could have practiced law.
I was in traditional firms, with named partners in their 60s and 70s, tied to a computer with all the work done in the office. That model doesn’t make sense now. Seeing that and thinking how to structure my own practice, Clio plus some other tools have allowed me to have a practice and lifestyle that I want. Flexibility is very important to me since I have a daughter. Without mobile features and mobile options, I wouldn’t have the flexibility to snag a laptop and work from the park or a sports practice if I want.
Virtual practicing and cloud-based tools save a significant amount of time for clients since they access their documents as soon as I upload them. No more postage, no more printing, no more time waiting on the mail.
Nice. What other tools do you use?
Google Calendars, which ties calendars on all my Mac devices and Clio. I can put an appointment on my phone or computer and it pops up everywhere else. I also use Box, which is easy for my clients to see and download their files without having to register with a site. And then the usual office tools, a scanner, the ScanSnap S1500. Google Voice has been wonderful since I have a work number without a hard-wired phone that uses my regular phone’s service plan. And I use myfax.com in place of a fax machine so even my faxes are emailed instead of printed.
How did you find the process of getting up and running with Clio?
It’s really pretty easy to get around. I have often, as part of different jobs, explored new software. Clio made sense. It wasn’t difficult to figure out how to navigate and the tutorials are great.
How has Clio improved your firm and the service you offer your clients?
It’s easy to track time using the client timers, I don’t have to keep a stopwatch and it updates the charge automatically. I was sad to see the desktop timer go away though. I miss that.
Since it’s easy to track the time, my billing is more accurate. Generating invoices is easy. There were a couple of bugs of just not knowing how to do something but I got those figured out with tech support’s help.
I really like cloud-based storage of documents, and I can email my communications directly to the Maildrop, which been really handy. I don’t have to save and store emails; they’re just sent straight to the file. I did just start using the Notes feature so I can be little more detailed about phone calls. Such information doesn’t belong in the billing statement, and I don’t want to sit there and handwrite notes.
I worked as a claims adjuster before law school, and their file management program was really good. While on the phone, we typed notes as we talked with clients. I’m working on doing the same for my practice, but I’d like to figure out how to send the Notes to the client.
Have you had any experiences with Clio’s support team?
Yes I have and it’s been good; they have been very responsive. They point me to the tutorial I need, or answer questions about specific issues. I have emailed and called, and the staff is very friendly, very professional.
Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?
I have. I think one of my friends already signed up; she told me about the Bar discount.
Mac or PC?
Mac. MacBook. I can’t go back to PC.