Most attorneys are familiar with Clio. Clio’s a cloud-based practice management software. Clio is holding its Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago, and is announcing its full-functioning Android app. I got an early look at the “beta” release of Clio’s app.
Clio’s Android app isn’t too big of a news event, since I got a peek at the application during ABA TECHSHOW. Except the app was only half-way finished, and really lacked any usable functions. Several months and a number of designs later — Clio even sent one of their developers to Google I/O 2014 — and the production release of Clio’s Android app is something they should be proud of. The app is beautifully designed and improved your ability to manage your case files.
Clio’s beautiful design
The overall design of the Clio app was one of the features that impressed me when I reviewed the app at ABA TECHSHOW. Thankfully, they’ve carried the beautiful design forward with this final release.
Users will notice that most of the menus are tucked away to the left side of the device. This helps keep the main desktop screen clutter free, and allows you to easily access Clio’s other features like contacts, calendar, and tasks.
Unfortunately, you won’t see any way to access documents from the mobile app. Clio does offer Box.net, Google Drive, and other storage options from the browser, but that document access is missing from the app. Personally, I like using Google Drive — please don’t harp on to me about scanning — since there’s already an app installed on my devices, but there are other connected options that work well, too.
For some reason (because of Clio Next), Clio’s abandoning its classic yellow design and adopting a blue look (a la one other case management system). The blue theme is making some awkward appearances on some of the menu (usually in sub-menus) banners in the new app.
I’m not a big fan of this change, but in this case the color scheme works well to separate some menu pages from other ones. Or at least the color’s only slightly distracting from the rest of the app’s design — most users won’t notice.
Clio app doesn’t operate in landscape mode, yet. The designers missed a huge opportunity to maximize productivity and workspace. I have a hard time with portrait-only apps, especially with ones that could be so much more useful in landscape mode. Of course, developers shy away from designing portrait and landscape compatible apps given the number of Android devices on the market. Don’t worry though, users should expect landscape mode functionality over time (“it’s in the design pipeline.”)
Clio sign-on and setup
The Clio app has both pin and password sign on. You’ll use your username and password to log onto the Clio system. This is kind of confusing because the app asks for your information, but doesn’t hide the password by default. You need to press the “HIDE” button to block out your password and username.
Fortunately, Clio’s developers are fixing this flaw, and the app will hide your login information by default. [Clio’s design team fixed this issue since I drafted the post. Passwords are hidden by default.]
Once you’re into the Clio case management system, the app will ask whether you want to set up a pin code to protect your client information.
Honestly, entering a pin code each time you open the app is a hassle, but it’s a necessary “evil” if you’re using any practice management programs on your mobile device. Plenty of Clio app users will be tempted to disable pin security, but I’d strongly recommend against that. Your clients’ personal information is a risk, and not having pin protection definitely breaches your duty of confidentiality.
The rest of the setup is fairly straightforward (there’s nothing much else, really), and you should see all of your Clio matters transferred into the app — it’s more of a portal than a transfer of information.
Normally, I’d say that you would be fine just accessing cloud programs from a mobile browser, but that’s not the case with practice management. These types of programs really need their own application that helps to separate extemporaneous material from the necessary elements. The mobile apps give you a quick look at the entire case.
A few “beta” issues
In addition to the random use of blue banners, I found that the Clio app has a hard time saving descriptions, notes, comments, extra information…well, just about anything on the sub-menu.
For instance, I spent time entering the description for a time entry. This is a fairly simple process.
But after pressing the back button (), I realized that my description wasn’t saved.
This wasn’t too big of an issue for my testing, but I could see an attorney making a lot of comments only to realize they were fruitless. Clio is working on fixing the issue, but as of press time, description is not working. For now, avoid entering descriptions in the app.
There’s a similar issue with the “NOTE” entry, but since you’re not taken to a sub-menu screen you can save your note by clicking the “load to the cloud” icon in the right hand corner.
The designers are working on a fix (which should be available before the release) to address the issue. If not, I’d suggest using the note field when you need to describe the time event.
Update: This issue seems limited specifically to the time entry menu after a small, pre-press app update. For now, I’d avoid using the description in the time entry menu.
Up next are the inconsistent color menus. This is one of the quirkier problems I found, and most people probably won’t notice (except now you will and it might bother you).
Here’s more evidence of Clio’s color conflict, and occurs throughout the app. Using the app felt like a less musical version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Personally I like the red or green. This is another should-be-fixed issue. The idea is that the colors seem to separate the menu choices, but the chief problem is that there’s no consistency between the menu colors and their sub-menu colors.
Control your cases
Clio users should be happy with the new Clio app. You’ll have full control over your cases, including the ability to open and close matters directly from the app. If you’re billing by the hour, then you’ll easily track time and control billing while on-the-go. I tested Clio’s app for several weeks and my tests convinced me that I need a cloud-based practice management solution.
This new app gives users the ability to work from anywhere and manage the information they have. Ditch your paper files and really become a mobile warrior.
Overall, I’m giving Clio 4.5 of 5 stars.