December 3rd, 2012 by Gwynne Monahan
Meet Corey Carter, founding partner at Stephens & Cater, LLP.
Tell us a little about your firm.
My partner, Brian Stephens, and I started Stephens & Carter, LLP in March of this year. The firm is located in Southern California. Our primarily areas of practice are bankruptcy, business transactional law, and trademark law. We have one office in Los Angeles and one in Orange County.
Interesting. And just to get a sense of distance, what’s the travel time like?
The offices are between 45 to 90 minutes apart depending on traffic. It’s about 45 minutes driving. Orange County is a little south, and is a different little community.
What did you use before Clio?
Before Clio, I have used both Abacus and Credenza. Abacus was the first main one that I used, and I liked it at the time. It worked fine, though it was a little antiquated. I also tried using Credenza, which integrates Microsoft Outlook, and really liked it. However, it isn’t really
set up to work seamlessly from computer to computer at the time. It was setup more for solos who were using just one computer. We tried using some IT workarounds to get it set up how we wanted, usable on other computer systems, but to no avail. We tried some others like Clio, Rocket Matter and other online based management systems, and found them to be the wave of the future.
What made you decide on Clio? Did you try out any other solutions?
We called different companies to ask questions, we used free trials to determine usability and what features were offered. Clio was good at answering the phone, walking us through things, setting us up and giving us more time to mess around with the program. We spent a lot of time vetting practice management software, customer service, and ease of use. Clio did everything we wanted so we chose it. We’ve been using it since we started our firm and couldn’t be happier.
What made you decide to start your own firm?
Brian and I had been talking for about a year, discussing what we wanted out of the law profession, and what we wanted financially. Finally , we came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to enter the business of law. We felt we could offer better service at a lower price by utilizing technology to cut costs and administrative time, while increasing time available to service client concerns. So that is what we’re doing right now.
And how has the experience of starting your own firm been so far?
When asked that question, I say that I’m eating a lot of white bread and peanut-butter, but that dinner has never tasted better! It has been hard work, with some months better than others, but I could not be happier. We can take the cases we like, work with clients we want to work with, and have the final say in what we do and how we do it. It’s fun, rewarding and exciting.
Good to hear. So what problems did Clio help your firm solve?
Really just keeping the whole practice organized, especially with fact that we have two different locations, and Brian and I are only in the same place together once or twice a week. Without Clio, I don’t know how we would be nearly as organized with two offices. If we make a change on a case, or on the calendar, it’s reflected right there in Clio. We can set deadlines for each other as well. The biggest thing is just keeping us together and organized.
The billing function saves a lot of time, too. We use different billing templates for different billing scenarios: payment due; payment past due; and balance paid. As long as we input our time properly on the front end, it saves time on the back end when issuing the bills. By automatically inputting the time entries into the bill, we are able to merely do a quick review to ensure there are no typos or billing errors, and we can issue the bill straight away.
What did you find to be Clio’s most valuable feature?
At the old firm, we used Abacus for calendaring and notes, and used other programs too in terms of storing files etc. The most valuable feature of Clio is that it brings everything together in one place. Additionally, that ‘one place’ is accessible from just about anywhere. If I am away home for the weekend for example, and it becomes necessary for me to pull up work files, I can just go online, sign into Clio and pull up any of the documents in any case. And it’s all right there. Super helpful.
What benefits have you realized from Clio that you didn’t anticipate?
The recent update Clio made where you can do these short key codes so when typing in Notes, words automatically populate.
You’re talking about Text Snippets.
Yes. Text Snippets. We are really excited about that but haven’t started using it too much. I will probably get the hang of it soon though.
We really liked the custom fields feature so we can put our own custom fields in there. For example, there was no “Referred By” field, so that’s something we added so we can keep track of who is referring cases to us.
Another feature we like, talking about historical data, is the Reports. We ran some of the Reports and we used to see where our cases were coming from. We ran an entire Matter report where it had price of case, percent of total income, which kinds of cases (business, bankruptcies, refers, ads, etc.). We were able to come up with a really good past “road map” of where and how we’ve been getting clients. It’s really useful.
That’s really interesting. Did anything stand out?
We knew we got a lot of cases came from networking and referrals, but a large portion of business cases came from networking. We kind of had the idea, but it was more than we thought. It was neat to see it. Being able to utilize all the data that we input into Clio, the fact that Clio tracks it so we can go back and run reports and export the data to put into our own equations is really helpful.
Have Clio & “the Cloud” changed the way you practice law? If so, how?
It changed the way I practiced law now from the way I practiced with my previous firm. At my previous firm I’d get home late at night, be sitting down to dinner and my boss would call, “I need you to cover a hearing tomorrow morning.” I didn’t have the paperwork so I’d have to go back to the office either that night or the next morning before I drove to the hearing.
If that happens now, I can just pull it up on my computer at home, or even my cell phone! This happened recently when my partner had to cover a hearing for me. He just pulled up the information from his iPad at home the night before and was able to head straight to the hearing.
How did you find the process of getting up and running with Clio?
My partner is very tech savvy, he spent a solid two days making Credenza work with IT workarounds, but it wasn’t elegant enough. There were too many workarounds. When we signed up with Clio, we were up and running almost immediately. We had to go through and set some things up, but it was ready to go almost from the very beginning. It synced with Google calendar and contacts, which is synced to our phones. All our files are accessible from our electronic devices, including our phones.
You switched from Outlook to Google Apps?
Yes. We use Google Apps instead of Outlook now. We are used to being able to use Google online, you just sign into any tab. And we both liked that Clio was linked to Google. The more we could put our law practice management tools in one location the better. Using Google Apps with Clio was more seamless, so we switched.
How has Clio improved your firm and the service you offer your clients?
At a very broad general level, Clio has cut down on administrative time for bills, and we stay much more organized than we would without a good practice management service. Staying organized and efficient helps your clients because you’re able to carve out time for them by cutting down time spent on administrative tasks.
Have you had any experiences with Clio’s support team?
Lots of experiences. Good calls. I have never been on hold for more than a few minutes, if that, and typically get right through. They answer all my questions and point me to helpful links that give me more detailed help. Typically we call in because we’re trying to learn how to use a new feature and they’re great about directing us and walking us through the new feature.
Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?
Definitely. I have already recommended it to a few other people. I would recommend it to everyone, especially if you have a small practice and you may want to scale up the size of the firm in the future.
Mac or PC?
Brian and I both use iPhones, and we use Macs are our main computers. However, we run a program called Bootcamp which partitions a portion of the hard drive and enables us to run Windows 7 and its version of the Windows Office Suite. This is necessary for us because we use proprietary software called Lawyer Word that Brian has developed which currently only runs with the PC version of Microsoft Word.