August 6th, 2013 by Gwynne Monahan
Brittany Pitcher started her lawyering career in Nevada where she was exposed to both a cumbersome paper process, and a server-based management system. “We wrote down all of our hours on carbon copy paper in Elko, which we then gave to the bookkeeper who had to enter it all. It took days.” She initially heard of Clio through the Nevada State Bar, a Clio Bar Association Affinity member, and really liked its features.
She’s been using Clio since moving to Washington State and joining McGuinness & Streepy, and thinks “it’s an awesome system. I can just turn on the timer, keep track of how many hours I’m working, how many hours I’m billing. It’s glorious.” She especially likes the reporting functions and the Practice Performance tab. As she described it, “I can set my billable target, and have actual, current and expected billings cards. I put my annual salary in there and my goal is to be higher than my annual.” She also likes that it tells her what she should have billed, “and it’s exciting when what I actually billed is higher than what I should have. The Practice Performance tab also helps me be aware. I might be very busy, spending time on contingency and flat fee cases, and the Practice Performance tab helps see if I need to spend more time on hourly cases. All cases are valuable, but at the end of the month I want to be worth something to the partners so at the end of the month I want to see what I’ve billed.”
From a firm-wide perspective, Clio makes it clear who is working on what, and where they are in a particular case. “We can see what everyone else is working on so if someone needs help, I can just jump right in and pick up where someone has left off. If I’m helping draft a reply, I can see the motion and opposition without having to track down the file, or waste a partner’s time on getting an update on what’s happened so far.” Other benefits the firm has realized include everything being in one place, better time tracking and billing, being able to work remotely or when otherwise on the go and providing better customer service.
Pitcher explained that “if a client calls and has a question on a case going on, I can see the last thing done. If it’s a scheduling question, I can check the calendar instead of putting the client on hold and transferring to a partner.” In closing, she thinks that “Clio makes practicing law easier, and that benefits clients the most. With Clio, we have so much information at our fingertips all the time so when emergencies happen we can just click over to another tab and deal with the emergency instead of driving back to office, writing down a voicemail and pulling a paper file.”
Read the full interview:
Tell us a little about your firm, location, practice area, etc?
We’re a small law firm made up of three attorneys, two partners and myself. We’re located in Federal Way in Washington state, right off the freeway between Seattle and Tacoma. We handle mostly labor and employment law, along with some estate planning. The partners also do general practice in some other areas, but about 80% of our cases are labor and employment related. I’d like to do some criminal work.
I have been with the firm since October 1, 2012. I moved from Nevada, was studying for the Washington bar and did more paralegal work/assistant work and helped however I could until I passed bar exam last month.
What did you use before Clio?
When I was practicing in Las Vegas, Nevada, doing complex civil litigation and criminal law, I used Outlook and some other cloud system that went through Outlook. It never worked on my Internet at home so I could only work from the office. When I worked at a firm in Elko, Nevada, we used a physical server so there was no cloud system. Everyone at the office could get on the server but we couldn’t access anything if out of the office. When it crashed, we had to call the IT person down. It was expensive and a huge hassle.
Time was kept by paper, too, in Elko. So we wrote down all of our time, on carbon copy paper which we gave to the bookkeeper and the bookkeeper would enter it into the system. It took days for the bookkeeper to enter everyone’s time.
Then I found Clio, this awesome system where I can just turn on the timer, keep track of how many hours I’m working, how many hours I’m billing and it was, like, glorious.
So was McGuinness & Streepy already using Clio when you started?
No. Before I started they had just been using their computers. One of the partners, Aaron, discovered Clio somehow and on my first day the firm started using it. We had a firm meeting on how to put all cases into Clio, how to break them up and we discussed how we were going to use Clio going forward, how to name things and save things in a consistent manner.
What problems did Clio help your firm solve?
The real problem was just not having everything in one place. Time tracking and billing are two big bonuses of Clio. So is the calendaring feature. We know what we’re all working on, and we can see what everyone else is working on so if someone needs help, I can just jump right in and pick up where someone has left off. Clio makes that clear, you can see people’s time, what they are doing, notes that have been saved and emails sent. So if I’m helping draft a reply, I can see the motion and opposition without having to track down the file, or waste a partner’s time on getting an update on what’s happened so far.
I also like to work on the weekend, but I don’t want to go into the office. With Clio, I can work from home since everything is right there.
What did you find to be Clio’s most valuable feature?
My favorite feature is the Practice Performance tab. I can set my billable target, and have actual, current and expected billings cards. I put my annual salary in there and my goal is to be higher than my annual. I like that it tells me what I should have billed, and it’s exciting when what I actually billed is higher than what I should have. The Practice Performance tab also helps me be aware. I might be very busy, spending time on contingency and flat fee cases, and the Practice Performance tab helps see if I need to spend more time on hourly cases. All cases are valuable, but at the end of the month I want to be worth something to the partners so I at the end of the month I want to see what I’ve billed.
I keep a to-do list, sometimes use task list. Keep a paper to-do of all cases and what I have to do. Keep it prioritized. Know what is hourly and which aren’t.
I also keep track of hours on flat fee cases. I can see if we charge a flat fee for one type of case, and I want to see if that’s actually a fair amount. Charging $1000 for something and I’m putting in $3000 of time, I want to know if not I’m not charging enough, or if a I’m just a little slow on the subject or something.
Flat fees are something I can experiment with. I wouldn’t know if a flat fee is fair or not without billing hourly first, or trying a flat fee to see if it works. Clio has a flat fee tab, so I don’t charge anything but I can still keep track of what’s going on in the case, and adjust next time, if necessary.
What benefits have you realized from Clio that you didn’t anticipate?
One thing I like is that I can go to a Contact and see what Matters relate to that Contact. Our main area of practice has a lot of similar clients. It’s easy to make a new file with a Contact, and then auto populate what we need it to.
Clio keeps everyone’s contact information, and being able to send emails directly was unanticipated.
Have Clio & “the Cloud” changed the way you practice law? If so, how?
It makes it easier. If I’m traveling, I don’t have to go all the way back to the office to keep working. Sometimes I have a meeting all the way up north, and when traffic is bad it can take three hours to travel 80 miles. With Clio, I can stop at a Starbucks and work, or work from home.
Clio is also good because I have a Mac, but the other attorneys have a PC. Clio runs in a browser, so it looks the same to all of us.
How did you find the process of getting up and running with Clio?
Aaron had signed up for it, and had been looking at it and checking it out. He had a good sense of how it works and was able to teach us.
We sat in a room together, set up our profiles and discussed what would be easiest. We went over how we will differentiate between cases with same client, how we’ll put things in Clio. The fact that we all started at the same time with common agreement on what things would look like has helped Clio clean and useful, especially in finding things later. It took about two hours.
How has Clio improved your firm and the service you offer your clients?
It makes things easier, and lets us provide better customer service. If a client calls and has a question on a case going on, I can see the last thing done. If it’s a scheduling question, I can check the calendar instead of putting the client on hold and transferring to a partner.
Have you had any experiences with Clio’s support team?
Yes. I had a promo code for when I licensed in Nevada, and I emailed them about it. They replied within a couple hours, and the discount was applied by the end of the day. That was neat.
We haven’t had any problems or anything. And when we have questions, we just go to the help articles. The Clio help articles are really useful. We had a billing question, and the help articles have pictures and tutorials on how to put information into the bill so we didn’t even have to call.
Would you recommend Clio to your colleagues?
Yes. I’m a member of the younger lawyers section of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. We were talking about who’d switched to Clio and if they like it. One of the girls does family law who recommended it to a contract attorney. She had a similar issue with a of couple major clients and how to differentiate between the cases. We talked about the email feature, and how to put the email code into the BCC field and send it straight to the file.
Mac or PC?
I also just think that Clio, the benefits it has on making practice easier benefits clients the most. We’re not wasting time driving to/from office because we can work anywhere, and still keep files all in one place. With Clio, the client benefits because we have so much information at our fingertips all the time. Emergencies happen, and we can just click over to another tab and deal with the emergency instead of driving back to office, writing down a voicemail and pulling a paper file.