How Clio “Makes Life Easier” for Ceiba Fôrte Law Firm

Ceiba Fôrte Law Firm

  • 2016

    Year Founded
  • 2-5

    Number of Staff
  • 2018

    Started Using Clio
  • St Paul, MN, USA

    Location
  • Contingency

    Flat Fee

    Hourly

    Fee Types
  • Business

    Civil Litigation

    Employment

    Practice Areas

Clio Manage Case Study + Q&A

Inti Martínez-Alemán and Ofelia Ponce, Ceiba Fôrte Law Firm

When Inti Martínez-Alemán and Ofelia Ponce founded their firm in 2016, they initially tried the default legal case management software they’d used in their incubator program—but that software was clunky and challenging to navigate. As a small law firm, they wanted intuitive, straightforward, and efficient software to make the legal process easier for them and for their clients. So, they started a free trial of Clio. 

The difference was like night and day—or, as Inti puts it, like switching from a buggy to a Tesla. Clio’s user-friendly design and exceptional customer service enabled the firm to get up and running quickly, and now Ceiba Fôrte uses Clio Manage’s practice management, document sharing, and Clio Payments features to perform like a larger firm without hiring additional staff or contractors.

Read the case study summary below, or scroll down to the Q&A section.

 

Embracing the convenience of a centralized system

Ceiba Fôrte Law Firm’s founder, Inti Martínez-Alemán, said that running the firm from one centralized system—through Clio—has propelled Ceiba Fôrte’s success in three important ways: 

”One is the ease of use,” Inti explains. “We’re able to access Clio from our desktop, our laptop, our iPad, and our iPhones.”

“Second, Clio gives our clients access to many documents that are very confidential and privacy-sensitive. So, we’re able to share documents with clients, and clients are able to share documents with us very securely. 

“And third, Clio Payments: It’s extremely easy for clients to submit their payment, and we are also able to track invoices and payment statuses for all of our clients.”

“With Clio, we have everything in one place. And that makes it easier for us to better serve our clients.”

By operating as the firm’s home base or central command center, Clio helps the civil, business, and employment litigation practice stay organized. Not only does this centralization help the firm work more efficiently, it also benefits Ceiba Fôrte’s clients—almost all of whom have immigrated to the US and do not speak English as their first language.

“We have the client, and then we have documents, we have notes, we have related names, we have organizations—we have everything in one place,” says Ofelia Ponce, the firm’s administrator. “And that makes it easier for us to better serve our clients.”

Additionally, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Ceiba Fôrte was already entirely cloud-based in Clio. Because the firm’s remote working processes were already in place, Inti says, it enabled the firm to grow 25% year-over-year growth during the pandemic.

Because Ceiba Fôrte was already set up in Clio before Covid-19, the firm was able to hit the ground running—and actually grew 25% year-over-year—during the pandemic.

Boosting profitability and productivity with Clio

In order for a small practice like Ceiba Fôrte to stay profitable, the firm has to handle a large volume of work without increasing overhead by hiring additional staff. Clio lets Inti and Ofelia take care of administrative tasks quickly and easily, allowing them to operate like a larger team—accomplishing more, in less time, with lower costs.

“Clio helps us reduce costs by not having to hire outside staff to do very simple tasks.”

“I think if we didn’t have Clio, we would probably have to hire staff, or an independent contractor, to do some of the work that we can easily do in Clio,” Inti says. “Clio helps us reduce costs by not having to hire outside staff to do very simple tasks.”

When they used a different software in the past, Inti explains, things took longer and prevented the staff from doing important, billable work.

“Not using Clio was harder. It was more difficult because something that takes maybe five minutes to do in Clio, in other software before, we used to spend 15, 20 minutes doing. So there you can get an estimate of how much easier and more cost-effective Clio is. 

“We’re able to work and practice law—more than just be busy with admin work, or the business of law.”

“Something that takes maybe five minutes to do in Clio, in other software before, we used to spend 15-20 minutes doing.”

“Clio just makes work easier.”

As Inti experienced first-hand, not all software is created equal—but the right software can truly make an impact for a firm.

“For me, the difficulty that I had with other software that I don’t have with Clio—and that Clio completely solved—was how to enter information into the system,” Inti says.

“With Clio, it’s pretty clear: You enter a note, it’s under Notes. If you upload a document, it’s under Documents … Before, with other software, you would enter what you thought was a note, but no, that was not a note … so that was troublesome before, but now, it’s so straightforward.” 

“When we used another software—a client management software or a practice management software before—it was like riding or driving a buggy, and now we’re driving a Tesla,” Inti says. “Frankly, it’s just so much faster and much easier to use, for lack of a better phrase.”

“Clio will make your life easier, and you will be able to spend more time doing the things that you love … It has significantly changed the way in which we manage our law firm, and I believe it is the most convenient option compared to other legal software that we have used or tried.”

For other lawyers considering their options for legal software, Inti offers this advice:

“I would recommend to any law firm, any sole practitioner, small, big law, what have you—get Clio, because it will make your life easier, and you will be able to spend more time doing the things that you love, because Clio just makes work easier,” Inti says.

“I recommend Clio because it’s an excellent software for organizing your law firm, and for doing administrative work in a more agile way. By doing it this way, you’ll have more time. 

“You can do the things you really like to do, and not be focused on using software that is far too difficult—because Clio is not that. I would recommend Clio any day. It has significantly changed the way in which we manage our law firm, and I believe it is the most convenient option compared to other legal software that we have used or tried.”

“I would recommend to any law firm, any sole practitioner—small, big law, what have you—get Clio.”

Q&A with Inti Martínez-Alemán and Ofelia Ponce

How does Clio help your firm succeed?

Inti: “Clio helps our firm succeed in three ways. One is the ease of use—we’re able to access it from our desktop, our laptop, our iPad, iPhone, etc. Second, Clio gives our clients access to many documents that are very confidential and privacy-sensitive—so we’re able to share documents with clients, and clients are able to share documents with us very securely. And third, Clio Payments: It’s extremely easy for clients to submit their payment—and also we are able to track invoices and the status of payment for all of our clients.

The thing that helps us in civil, business, and employment litigation is the ability to have a central system where we can manage documents—where we can take notes, where we can share documents, and where clients can share documents with us confidentially and securely. That’s something that we absolutely appreciate about Clio, having that central system.”

Ofelia: “That also helps us serve our clients better, because when they call, they’re like, ‘Oh, I just uploaded the document.’ Okay, so then we just go to Documents. Or, after ‘I just had that consultation with the attorney,’ we can go to Notes, and I know at the bottom, he will have a little note of X and Y for the client or the opposing party. So we just go to other related names and we have them right there. 

We have the client, and then we have documents, we have notes, we have related names, we have organizations—we have everything in one place. And that makes it easier for us to better serve our clients.”

Inti: “It’s way better than jumping around between screens or different apps … Everything is right there in Clio.”

Has Clio had an impact on your firm’s profitability?

Inti:

“Clio helps us reduce costs by not having to hire outside staff to do very simple tasks. I think if we didn’t have Clio, we would probably have to hire staff, or an independent contractor, to do some of the work that we can easily do in Clio—work that is non-attorney work, but that’s so easy for us to do that we don’t mind it at all, because it’s very straightforward.

Not using Clio was harder. It was more difficult because something that takes us maybe five minutes to do in Clio, in other software before we used to spend 15-20 minutes doing. So there you can get an estimate of how much easier and how cost-effective Clio is. And we’re able to work and practice law—more than just be busy with admin work or the business of law.”

How does Clio compare to other legal software?

Inti: “When we used another software—a client management software or a practice management software before—it was like riding or driving a buggy, and now we’re driving a Tesla. Frankly, it’s just so much faster and much easier to use, for lack of a better phrase.

When we opened our law firm in 2016, we were part of an incubator program. There was already a software that was used there, and they offered it as part of the incubator fee. So we used (that other software) for the year-and-a-half that we were there, and it just happened to be that it was so clunky and difficult to use.

So once we were done with that incubator program, we checked out different options. We had heard many of our colleagues talk about Clio, so I reached out and signed up for the one-month trial to see how it worked out, and the customer service at Clio was excellent. They were able to transfer most of the client information and matter information into Clio from the old software to the new software.

For me, the difficulty that I had with a different software that I don’t have with Clio—and that Clio completely solved—was how to enter information into the system and make it easy to retrieve. With Clio, it’s pretty clear: You enter a note, it’s under Notes. If you upload a document, it’s under Documents. Before, with other software, you would enter what you thought was a note, but no, that was not a note … So that was troublesome before, but now, it’s so straightforward.”

How has Clio Payments made a difference for your firm?

Inti: “With Clio, we’re able to better understand our financial status, and also the status of client payments. We’re able to track things much clearer.

But even before that, it’s just the fact that we can prepare invoices in seconds and prepare a quick bill and share it with a client—that’s extremely pleasant and we absolutely love it. We couldn’t imagine practicing law or running this shop without that ease of use that Clio offers for invoices and tracking payments.

Clients are very satisfied. We have yet to hear a complaint about how Clio Payments works. Almost everybody understands if they’re able to buy something online, so they’re able to make a payment online. So we have Clio, and that’s never been an issue so far.

Clients appreciate being able to have a secure way to submit payments, and also secure documents from anywhere in the world.

90% of our clients use a card to pay for their bills, either for a first consult or for their ongoing invoices every month. It has made our job much easier. We don’t have to be tracking down people and—we can brag about this—in almost four years of running Ceiba Forte, we have yet to see a client not pay their bills. So we have a 100% recovery rate, and we don’t offer discounts on the bills. They just pay what we bill, and it works perfectly.

When you’re using a tool like Clio that is making life easier and work easier, then revenue will definitely increase, because it’s just easier to use on both ends—from the law firm experience and also the customer experience as they pay. They don’t have to click 20 times to submit payments—it’s just one or two screens and then you’re done.”

Does Clio make things easier for your clients?

Inti: “I would say clients, like all of us, like intuitive things. So they’re able to click a link and then enter their information then submit—we found that clients have little to no difficulty. We rarely have a client call us and say, ‘How do you submit a payment? I don’t know what to do after you click that link.’ It’s pretty intuitive.”

Ofelia: “I always tell them, ‘I’m going to send you a link via our legal system, Clio,’ and I feel they feel more confident that their information is secure … We want them to make sure that they feel comfortable sending us that information.”

Inti: “For our clients, it’s very easy to use Clio because Clio places significant focus on making access to the software very intuitive. Therefore, clients can see and visualize exactly how their cases are progressing, which documents have been uploaded, and which documents the lawyer is sharing. The client can also see how to make payments, and what the status of their account is.”

How do Clio’s app integrations help your firm?

Inti: “The integrations that Clio has with Google are very helpful. Our ecosystem here is primarily Google-based, with our email, calendars, and the G Suite, and that all works with Clio. For example, when we add a new client: Automatically it syncs to our Google Contacts, which is part of Google Voice. So I add someone right now, in a minute I’m able to call them right away, and it’s already in my phone or in my iPad or in my web browser system—so that definitely helps with reducing the time of doing admin work.

I find Clio is like the trunk of a tree, and from there you have the different branches and the different branches could be, you know, just the Apple ecosystem, which we also use, but primarily the Google ecosystem. But, I would say that the trunk would be Clio, and that is the main source of information and two-way information.”

What was it like getting started with Clio?

Inti:

“Something that we really liked about Clio was the ease of use. It was extremely user friendly, and very intuitive. It wasn’t like I had to sit down for two hours or two days to figure out how to operate the system. No, it’s very clear what to do and what not to do, and how to follow instructions whenever we have questions. It was pretty straightforward.

I’d say Clio can be for any lawyer, regardless of their experience with technology. If you can dial a phone number or enter a phone number into your system and dial it, then you can use Clio as well.

Initially, we were very skeptical because anybody can offer, ‘Yeah, we’re going to migrate your data.’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah, after you pay us.” But with Clio, it was so easy to do. We just provided what they asked for and downloaded it from (our old software), and then provided it to Clio—and within a couple of days, Clio had it set up in our account.

For us, the onboarding process was seamless because Clio has so many online tutorials or webinars. So while we’re cooking or while we are hanging out, we just put it on in the background—the information that Clio has online on YouTube, for example. So it’s just how to do this or that, how to add a client, how to link it to a matter, how to send invoices, how to prepare a quick bill, how to set up a flat fee, and all the different arrangements that you can do in Clio—that’s pretty straightforward. 

Chatting online with Clio’s support team has also been useful, because you just ask either a simple or complex question, and you get an answer pretty quickly.

It’s also how to obtain an answer either through your website or blog or also chat online, phone, etc—all the other options that Clio has for customer service. That’s key for us, customer service from Clio.”

What advice do you have for other firms considering Clio?

Inti: “I would recommend to any law firm, any sole practitioner, small, big law, what have you—get Clio, because it will make your life easier, and you will be able to spend more time doing the things that you love, because Clio just makes work easier.

I recommend Clio because it’s an excellent software for organizing your law firm, and for doing administrative work in a more agile way—because by doing it this way, you’ll have more time. You can do the things you really like to do, and not be focused on using software that is far too difficult—because Clio is not that. I would recommend Clio any day. It has significantly changed the way in which we manage our law firm, and I believe it is the most convenient option compared to other legal software that we have used or tried.”

Ofelia: “Clio makes legal work easy.”