Justin Osborn, Founding Partner, Osborn Gambale Beckley & Budd PLLC
Half the time, Counsel Carolina (Osborn Gambale Beckley & Budd) is a traditional small law firm with a brick-and-mortar office—but the other half of the time, Justin Osborn and his colleagues drive around in a custom RV to provide much-needed legal services to their North Carolina community. In addition to the RV, Counsel Carolina runs on Clio.
Compared to other legal software the firm members have used in the past, Clio Manage has been easy to implement and use, and it has made a tremendous difference for the firm. Thanks to Clio, Counsel Carolina has grown faster than its founders ever imagined while serving clients in need from practically anywhere.
Read the case study summary below, or scroll down to the Q&A section.
Redefining “working on the go”
Working out of their Raleigh, NC law office, Counsel Carolina does for-profit personal injury work—but outside of the office, Justin Osborn and his colleagues use an RV to deliver pro bono legal services to underserved communities in their area. And according to Justin, all of this depends on Clio.
“Honestly, without Clio we would not be able to do the pro bono work that we do and help the community,” Justin says.
“Almost half of our week, we are not in an office space. We are sometimes in a church basement, we are in an RV, and a parking lot. There is no way to physically bring client files and things with us that we need to work on.”
Using Clio Manage—the legal industry’s leading cloud-based practice management software—and the Clio Mobile App, Counsel Carolina has all of its documents, contacts, billing information, and other files available at all times, from anywhere.
“We need to have everything electronically in the cloud and stored in a way that we know is both protected and also easy to access,” Justin explains. “That’s probably the most important feature that we are looking for with this type of software, and Clio does that seamlessly.”
Based on his experiences with other legal software, Justin thought it would be impossible to take important conference calls or look at discovery responses while sitting in an RV, working off an iPad or a cell phone. But with Clio, that’s exactly what the firm does.
“The ability to run our firm no matter where we are, sometimes in the rural parts of North Carolina where there are no stoplights, is incredible. To know that basically our entire case file—our entire firm—is with us in our pocket all the time, has really been a lifesaver.”
Driving growth and success with Clio
Originally, the firm started with a small co-working space, and it had humble initial goals.
“We sort of anticipated that maybe we would make a profit in year three, and maybe we could afford to move into an office space in year two,” Justin recalls. “And we’re about two years ahead of all those projections so far.”
According to Justin, that’s not an accident—and Clio has played a major role in the firm’s success by enabling the lawyers to easily accomplish administrative tasks that they previously had to outsource to others or deprioritize.
“I think Clio absolutely had a hand in why our firm has been growing and doing so well so soon,” Justin says.
Enjoying the ease of simple, intuitive legal software
For other law firms thinking about switching from older legal software to Clio, Justin has some advice: “I could not recommend making the change fast enough—no matter how comfortable you are with the other systems or how used to them you are.”
Justin speaks from experience: He’s used other legal software at other firms, and his firm researched other software before deciding on Clio. “After taking a few different software platforms for a spin, Clio just stood out head and shoulders above the rest,” he recalls.
“I can tell you that not only the features of Clio but just the ease of use makes the transition worthwhile. Within days, you are already up and running on the system,” he says. “I’d say that within a week of us being open, we all felt comfortable enough to use it full-time.”
Justin adds that he feels blessed to have software like Clio as opposed to other platforms he’s used at other law firms, which were “so clunky and difficult.”
By contrast, he says, “With Clio, we’ve just found a seamless integration between the software and our email system, with our phone, with our calendars—everything speaks to one another.”
“It’s impossible to think of how things would be different without Clio because it’s not really something that I want to imagine.” Justin says.
“To me, the best feature of Clio is the fact that we don’t sit around thinking about Clio. It works. It works very well. It doesn’t require a second thought or any attention on how to make it work better—it just enables us to be lawyers, to be business owners, and to focus on the things that matter.”
How does using Clio enable you to serve your community while working remotely?
“Honestly, without Clio we would not be able to do the pro bono work that we do and help the community. If you think about it, almost half of our week we are not in an office space. We are sometimes in a church basement, we are in an RV, and a parking lot. There is no way to physically bring client files and things with us that we need to work on … so the ability to sort of disconnect from the office to go on the road and to know that everything we need really just requires a Wi Fi connection has been a lifesaver.
The mobile aspect of Clio is probably the one that fuels our firm the most because we spend so much time out of the office, and because we have a relatively small brick-and-mortar space. We need to have everything electronically in the cloud and stored in a way that we know is both protected and also easy to access—that’s probably the most important feature that we are looking for with this type of software, and Clio does that seamlessly.
Particularly on the Clio Mobile App, the ability to access documents and records to take significant, important conference calls while sitting in an RV and looking up your correspondence—or looking at discovery responses on your phone—is something that based on my experience with other software, was not something we even thought would be available. So the ability to do that no matter where we are, sometimes in the rural parts of North Carolina where there are no stoplights, is incredible.
To know that basically our entire case file—our entire firm—is with us in our pocket all the time, has really been a lifesaver.”
How has Clio helped your firm grow and succeed?
“We do a lot of collaborative work as a firm among partners, and Clio Manage allows us to work on documents jointly, even though we may be in different parts of the state at different times. It allows us to store key communications in a very seamless way that used to be very difficult for prior software that I’ve used.
So from a collaborative standpoint and also just an integration standpoint, Clio has been very integral for making sure our firm grows—really, it started growing from day one. We’ve been having success from day one.
Our original projections for the firm’s growth—we started off in a small co-working space—we sort of anticipated that maybe we would make a profit in year three, and maybe we could afford to move into an office space in year two … And we’re about two years ahead of all those projections so far.
It’s hard to imagine that part of that growth isn’t based on Clio, and that we’ve been able as lawyers to do a lot more of the sort of administrative work that we used to have to farm out to somebody else. Because it’s not taking up so much of our time, we’re able to do it ourselves. We’ve been able to grow, do things, and invest in things we were putting on the back burner before.
I think Clio absolutely had a hand in why our firm has been growing and doing so well so soon.”
Why did you choose Clio, and how did you implement it at your firm?
“We placed one of our partners in charge of trying to figure out the software that we would use. He took a tutorial, and spent a couple of hours sort of playing around with the system. He compared it to a number of other well-known systems like Filevine and Practice Panther, some of those, and right away he said, ‘This (Clio) is what we have to use.’”
He gave each partner basically a 30-minute breakdown of where certain things are in Clio, and how to kind of click through the platform and and how the search function works. Within days, we were all up and running and already using the functionality—pretty much to the same extent that we do today.
Recently, we hired a paralegal—our first non-partner staff member—and we gave the paralegal the same 30-minute tutorial, and he was up and running on it within days. Whereas prior software that I’ve used at other firms, it’s a two-to-three-week, couple hours a day tutorial for those other software platforms. And with Clio we trained our new employee in about 30 minutes, which has been great.
Working with the Clio Team, we’ve gotten incredible feedback, guidance, and help on how to basically lay out the systems that we wanted to create for our firm—functionality that we didn’t know existed, and in some cases functionality that was tweaked to make it work for us.
So because of that, we feel more confident. We have more peace of mind about trying new things, and thinking about how we can practice law better because we have such a great backstop in Clio—such a good foundation on our firm’s practice management software.”
How does Clio compare to other legal software?
“After taking a few different software platforms for a spin, Clio just stood out head and shoulders above the rest. It was just something that seemed very clean and easy to use, and—because we have a number of different practice areas—it wasn’t too specific in one area, and it allowed us to do a bunch of different things that we would need … The versatility was also very helpful.
At prior firms, I’ve dealt with issues where they purchase something and then they basically have to pay for or hire someone to maintain it. With Clio, we have been able to avoid hiring an IT Person—we’ve been able to avoid having someone whose job, basically, is to deal with our practice management software.
I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have software like Clio versus some of the software that I had at the other law firms that were so clunky and difficult.
I’m used to software that I had to go ask somebody, even after years of working, ask somebody questions on how to upload things, how to log things on a calendar, because if you click the wrong thing, it changes and just ruins the file. And with Clio, we’ve just found a seamless integration between the software and our email system, with our phone, with our calendars—everything speaks to one another. It has been an easy way to make sure that we don’t drop any deadlines, and we have that peace of mind that what we’re putting in Clio will make sure that we don’t screw anything up down the road, and we deliver good results for our clients.”
What are some specific ways Clio Manage helps your firm?
“Clio Manage has been beneficial because when we started off, all of our partners were very familiar with Google Suite software, and we knew that we wanted to build our law firm based on the integration between Clio and everything in the G Suite—and it has been phenomenal.
Clio Manage has also been great for the two buckets of work that we do, both the billing work and also our contingency fee work. From an expense standpoint, Clio is very good about tracking and maintaining client expenses. You know, clients have questions about those. So the ability to generate a quick expense ledger or report to the client to let them know, ‘Here’s a breakdown of what’s been occurring in your case,’ and to make sure that our clients don’t feel like anything is unexpected or coming out of nowhere. That’s been very, very easy and helpful, and it’s helped us really create a strong sense of trust with our clients when it comes to firm expenses.
On the billing side, having worked with very clunky billing software in the past, the fact I can now do billing on my phone—Clio makes it very, very easy to do your regular billing, and to take a task that is otherwise pretty monotonous, not fun, and make it easy.”
Is Clio easy to use?
“We’re a very lean firm and kind of have to be in order to do the work that we’re doing. And the intuitive nature of Clio—for a bunch of guys who are not necessarily the most tech-savvy people—has also been a real lifesaver because it’s just so easy to use. It’s easy to find the things that we need without a bunch of training and extra sort of headaches along the way.
We had heard from other lawyers that that Clio was easy to use, which is why we give it a try. And Clio has been such an easy product to work with, an easy product for us to transition to, because—if you have experience with Gmail or really any type of software that most people use for email accounts and other things—Clio somehow has the same intuitive breakdown and functionality as those services.
Everything is very easily identified. Things are where you would expect them to be. Like I said, it’s just been a very, very intuitive software to use, and the functionality has really exceeded our expectations—as to how it works with our calendar systems, how it saves emails automatically to correspondence and attachments. Those type of things, at our prior firms, would require basically an entire staff member to handle, and we can basically do that now on the fly, in an RV in a parking lot, which is incredible to me.”
How would running your practice be different without Clio?
“It’s impossible to think of how things would be different without Clio because it’s not really something that I want to imagine. It’s worked so well.
To me, the best feature of Clio is the fact that we don’t sit around thinking about Clio. It works. It works very well. It doesn’t require a second thought or any attention on how to make it work better—it just enables us to be lawyers, to be business owners, and to focus on the things that matter.”