I’ve used both Clio and Rocket Matter in a small firm and as solo practitioner, practicing divorce, child custody and personal injury law in Portland, Oregon. I have approximately six months of time with Clio under my belt and one month with Rocket Matter. My present firm, Blair & Vestigo, PC, uses PC Law, and I’ve used Time Matters in the past, so I can provide direct comparison to non-cloud based case management systems. I have seen reviews of both Clio and Rocket Matter in various blogs, and I’d like to throw my two cents in for solo lawyers and firms looking to dive into cloud based case management. I am writing this review without having direct access to either product, so if additional features have been implemented in the last two months, please let me know.
This post will cover my background, why I chose the system I did, and a brief overview of the sign-up process, cost of the services, feature set and calendaring overview. My next post will cover time management, billing, trust accounting, contact, file and email management capabilities of the products.
Switching from one case management system to another is far more difficult than moving from nothing to something. When I first explored Clio and Rocket Matter, I was with a small family law firm that was using nothing. I had taken steps to at least assist the firm with basic e-mail handling and calendaring through Google Apps, and I alone in the firm was using Google’s contact features for phone, e-mail and address management. The problem was effectively tracking time and getting it into a billing system. My only option to track time was by pencil and paper. I’d give my billing slips to a paralegal, they would manually re-enter all my time into Timeslips. I knew that from a productivity standpoint, I wasn’t effectively capturing my time, and the hourly cost of having someone re-enter the entire firms billings into a separate system was the monthly price of a case management system itself. It seemed like moving to a system that would cover calendaring, contacts, tasks, billing, and time management was a no-brainer. This would become even more important and apparent when I left the firm and moved to into my solo practice.
Initial sign-up and cost:
I should preface this review by saying the owner of my old firm was extremely skeptical about online case management, and was inclined to keep their fragmented system in place because they were familiar with it and change is frightening. I had taken the basic steps to research each of the products and gave a small presentation to the owner. Rocket Matter offered a one-hour online presentation which we viewed, however I knew the proof would be in the pudding, we had to use both systems to figure them out.
Thus, the first difference between Clio and Rocket Matter: A 30-day free test drive (Clio) vs. the 30-day money back guarantee (Rocket Matter). It might seem like a small issue to some, but the pitch between “we can try it for 30 days and not pay a dime,” vs. “we can try it for 30 days and then ask for our money back,” to a skeptical and money conscious owner matters. This was the reason we signed up for Clio first, and we stuck with the product until I left the firm and started a solo practice. I had an opportunity to try Rocket Matter the first month I went solo, however I have to wonder why Rocket Matter doesn’t offer a similar 30-day no-cost trial. I think most users will opt for the system that is initially free, and I believe once a user is integrated into the system, retention rates increase exponentially.
The sign-up process between both products is similar and painless. Each product asks you to answer questions about the firm and you have an opportunity to add attorney and non-attorney users. From a cost perspective, Clio takes the edge with a lower monthly fee and a pricing scheme that discriminates between attorneys and non-attorneys. A firm of two attorneys and two staff members will cost approximately $150.00/mo with Clio and $210.00/mo with Rocket Matter. A solo attorney with one assistant will spend $75/mo with Clio and $110/mo with Rocket Matter. For a solo attorney, that’s a cost savings of approximately $420.00/year. The savings will pay for an attorney’s yearly state bar dues.
Both systems offer calendaring, task management, billing, trust accounting, file attachments, contact management and each product is updated routinely. I think the competition between the two products will always ensure that each has a similar feature set. If Rocket Matter releases a major feature, you can be sure Clio will do the same. The difference between the products is the user interface and how those features are implemented. What I found is that it’s the little things that matter the most, and that’s what I would like to explore in this review.
I stated before that our office was using Google Apps for calendaring before we signed up for Clio. I think that Google Calendar is powerful, elegant and most importantly allows me to exchange sync to my phone. There’s little advantage, in my mind, to using Outlook, Clio, Rocket Matter or other software to directly manage appointments and important dates. At the time of my initial sign-up, neither system offered 2-way syncing integration of their calendaring system with Google, which was extremely disappointing and frustrating because it forced me to user their calendaring software, and thereby eliminated my ability to manage my calendar through my exchange sync. Both applications now allow you to fully two-way sync with Google Apps.
Clio syncing involves going to user settings and selecting the Google sync icon. If you have your calendar already configured on Google’s end, you simply input your user name and password and have the ability to select which calendar to sync locally and remotely. With Rocket Matter, the process is similar, although simplified. You simply input your Google username and password and it syncs with the account you are logged into.
The difference between how Rocket Matter and Clio handle syncing is significant. Clio syncs automatically, with Rocket Matter you have to navigate to the calendar and click a button to sync. I don’t know if this has changed, however in my mind the whole purpose of two-way syncing is to give you one less thing to worry about. Attorneys already have plenty to worry about, Clio got it right.
Another small difference between the Clio and Rocket Matter calendars is a “Firm” calendar. Clio offers a Firm calendar entry for no additional charge, which they allow you to sync to Google. At the time I used Rocket Matter, they did not offer a Firm calendar entry, rather you had to pay an additional $50/mo for a user devoted to this separate entry. I find a Firm entry is useful for office appointments, meetings or anything related to a non-user. I can create an appointment notifying the office that our filing assistant will be in on a specific day. I don’t sync calendar entries to my phone for all the attorneys and users in my office – I worry about what’s on my plate. In Rocket Matter, if I choose not to add an additional user for the Firm entry, I have to assign this appointment to all users to ensure it is seen on all exchanged synced devices. That’s potentially four or more entries for a single appointment.
If Google Calendar is not something your office is interested in utilizing, I found that Clio’s calendar was easier to navigate from a graphical and user interface perspective. That is not to say that the Clio calendar is without faults. For example, you cannot assign user colors, and colors are not synchronized across the system. On my screen, my appointments will be shaded in Orange. On my coworkers screen, their appointments will be shaded in orange. It would be nice to have the ability to choose one color per user, and have that color unified across the platform.
Even with their faults, both Rocket Matter and Clio offer better calendaring systems than PC Law. Presently, my only option with PC Law is to sync the calendar entries with Outlook, and then to run Google sync to ensure the entries are on my Google Calendar and mobile device. What’s most frustrating with PC Law is that if a calendar entry is published when I’m not at the office, there’s no chance it will be displayed on my phone or online unless I leave my computer and all programs running (which I do). That’s a lot of extra steps to accomplish a simple task.
I hope that anyone looking to utilize either service finds this short review helpful. I know that both Rocket Matter and Clio have worked very hard to offer a relevant and useful product. Next week I’d like to address how the systems compare in respect to time management, billing, trust accounting and other features.