How a Multi-State Law Firm Uses Cloud-Based Legal Software to Save Time and Empower its Staff
Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, P.L.L.C.
Number of Staff
Started Using Clio
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Jeff Bursell, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, P.L.L.C.
With more than 140 total staff—38 of whom are attorneys—Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, P.L.L.C. is a successful and rapidly-growing bankruptcy and Social Security law firm. Headquartered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, with offices in multiple neighboring states, Hoglund Law wanted cloud-based legal software that could make the firm’s operations more efficient, collaborative, and strategic. So, they implemented Clio Manage.
A growing legal practice
Since its founding almost 20 years ago, the bankruptcy and Social Security law firm of Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik—better known as Hoglund Law—has grown into a multi-state law firm with more than 140 staff and approximately 20,000 open matters at any given time. Now, Hoglund Law uses Clio Manage to handle its practice management processes—and to operate as the central platform that integrates with the firm’s other essential software applications.
This wasn’t always the case, however. Attorney Jeff Bursell has been with Hoglund Law since 2001, and he’s seen how technology has, at times, been a catalyst for the firm’s success—and, at other times, how it’s also been a roadblock because the tech tools couldn’t keep pace with the firm’s needs.
For example, Hoglund Law’s first electronic system wasn’t Clio Manage. It was an on-premise system—the kind that had to be manually installed, and that required data to be stored on physical hard drives or servers (as opposed to in the cloud).
From the start, Jeff knew it wasn’t a long-term solution. “The CEO of our old software provider even said, the moment we purchased their product, that he knew we would outgrow their services some day,” Jeff recalls.
So, Jeff began re-evaluating the processes in place at Hoglund Law. What he found was that, without an open API (application programming interface), the firm’s old software couldn’t support the kinds of new integrations that would be most valuable to the practice. The existing software also wasn’t helping to streamline Hoglund Law’s operations, nor did it include robust legal billing software, document automation tools, or time tracking software.
So Jeff, the day-to-day manager of the firm’s operations, decided to start looking for cloud-based practice management software—with an open API—that could meet Hoglund Law’s standards, work with the firm to achieve its goals, and scale with the firm so that the practice would never “outgrow” the platform.
Searching for a solution
“We’re a high-volume practice. We have to find efficiencies,” Jeff says. “We have to find ways to let computers do the work, so we can always be pushing the envelope and making our decisions based on numbers.”
To find practice management software (also referred to as case management or matter management software) that could satisfy his criteria, Jeff did his homework.
“I explored a lot of different platforms,” he says, “I looked into them. And I was intrigued by Clio.”
Clio Manage’s technology caught Jeff’s attention, but he knew that technology wasn’t the only important factor for finding a software provider that could partner effectively with Hoglund Law.
“I looked at the Clio team, and everybody I was dealing with,” he explains. “It was never ‘No.’ I was never told ‘No,’ where I was told, ‘No,’ many times from other people at other software companies. With Clio, even if a certain feature that I wanted wasn’t possible yet, the Clio team said, ‘Let’s talk about it. Let’s find a solution.’”
For Jeff, these are the “big three” reasons why Hoglund Law chose Clio Manage:
- Clio Manage has a strong technological base that could be further augmented, through software updates and integrations with third parties, to meet the firm’s needs.
- As a company, Jeff says, “Clio wants to be the biggest, baddest program out there—and that is really intriguing.”
- Though some other legal technology solutions have similar features to Clio Manage, Clio has the support and people factor that others can’t match.
“The people that run Clio, and the people that talk to me and deal with me were the tipping point,” Jeff says. “The people at Clio listened…and they’re still asking the right questions today.”
Implementing a new system
Clio’s tech experts steered Hoglund Law through the entire data migration process, working with the firm from start to finish to ensure a successful transition. But changing software providers for a firm of Hoglund Law’s size entails more than just moving data—and when it came to implementing the software, Jeff says Clio met and exceeded his expectations.
Clio’s legal technology experts helped Jeff learn the software inside and out, until he felt comfortable bringing it to a small group of trusted case managers within the firm. With this small group—and using Clio’s training sessions and learning resources—Hoglund Law rolled Clio out to all its staff with ease.
“When they started using it, I didn’t hear anybody really complain or say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Jeff says.
Throughout this process, Jeff and Clio’s customer success team worked together to make sure he had the resources he wanted to empower his staff—and Clio continues to provide Hoglund Law with its award-winning 24/5 support, making sure that the staff’s needs are met.
Benefitting from investments in technology
To keep everyone at Hoglund Law on the same page, Jeff has a motto: “If it isn’t in Clio, it didn’t happen.”
He says that because he knows the difference that technology has made for Hoglund Law. Here are just a few of the ways that Jeff says legal software—including Clio Manage and the many applications Hoglund Law uses which integrate with the case management system—makes an impact on the firm’s business.
One of the key reasons why Clio Manage works for Hoglund Law is that it boosts the firm’s efficiencies in a number of areas, including billing, document management, and time tracking.
Jeff is a self-professed “numbers guy,” always looking for business processes that can be automated and simplified thanks to technology—and in his eyes, it is well worth it to invest in powerful tools like Clio Manage, which often pay for themselves over time.
“When we get to January of 2020, we’re going to look back, and the way we practice law is going to be completely different. I say that because of the technology, and Clio is going to be a central piece of that,” he says.
Ease of use
“The way we operate has already changed,” Jeff adds. “It’s easier for our attorneys out of state to work. It’s easier for us to jump into a matter to see what’s going on. It’s an easier system. The data’s cleaner. We’re using a lot of the integrations, and everything will pretty much be either driven to, or based out of, Clio Manage.”
Jeff says, “In the near future, we’ll also be able to move our customers from Clio into our new billing, and that’s going to save about 40 hours per week between two of our people. So that’s real change—that’s real dollars.”
Additionally, Jeff says, Clio Manage enables Hoglund Law to automate many tedious tasks which the firm’s staff used to do manually.
“That’s really the biggest thing Clio brings to the table,” he says. “It saves us time.”
Jeff feels that the ideal system for Hoglund Law would be one in which “computers do the work that computers can do, and humans do the work that only a human can do.”
Enhanced client service
By doing things like auto-sending generic emails, legal technology enables the Hoglund Law staff to sympathize with debtors, answer complex questions about matters, and handle the finer elements of cases that require an expert touch.
“If I can automate more and more of their work, then they spend less time clicking buttons and more time talking to clients,” Jeff says.
“The investment in Clio is opening doors to further efficiencies, and I know it’s an investment worth taking,” Jeff says.
As one of the top bankruptcy and Social Security practices in the country (in terms of the volume of cases it files), Hoglund Law’s operations require robust collaboration.
The firm can have more than 20,000 files open at any given time, and it coordinates such a large caseload by utilizing an “assembly line” system, as Jeff describes it.
“We care about our clients, but our work product is structured so that we have people who do one or two jobs exclusively, every day,” he says—adding that to make such a system work like a well-oiled machine, all the firm’s departments need to be on the same page.
“How we collaborate together is that we’re all a cog in the wheel,” he says, “and Clio Manage enables us to get more proficient at our individual tasks.”
Beyond that, Clio Manage makes it possible for members of Hoglund Law’s staff to work remotely—and to Jeff, that’s significant.
“Our paralegals, for example, have the opportunity to work from home, because our practice management is now cloud-based,” he says. “They can sit at home with their kids, and they can do the same amount of work as before—so we’re not losing work hours because somebody’s sick.”
Additionally, because almost everything the firm does flows through the Clio Manage platform, it’s easy for Jeff, the firm’s partners, and the firm’s staff to see exactly what’s happening with matters in real time.
Expounding on his earlier comments, Jeff describes how Clio’s open API and comprehensive App Directory of software integrations lets Clio Manage steer the firm—even when the staff needs to use a different application.
“I tell other software companies that we work with, ‘If you’re not connected to Clio, that’s dumb,’” he says. “Because it’s got to be automated.”
Jeff keeps a simple diagram on the wall in his office. In the middle of the diagram is Clio Manage, with a number of branches coming out of it to represent the other software applications that Hoglund Law utilizes, with Clio Manage operating as the firm’s central command center.
“That’s how I look at Clio,” Jeff says. “It’s the base. It’s where we store everything.”
Rather than attempting to be an all-in-one solution, Jeff says, Clio Manage does the majority of the things a law firm needs really well. And for everything else, the software integrates with other apps that can augment the firm’s total capabilities.
“Instead of trying to do everything—which is impossible—Clio integrates with third parties that do those other things really well,” Jeff says.
“That’s the beautiful thing about Clio: I’ve got my baseline. I can do my documents, my tasks. I can watch my staff, do all these things. But if I need a little piece here or there to do something different? I add it in, via an integration.”
Taking the leap
Lastly, Jeff has some advice for other mid-size and large firms that are considering cloud-based legal software systems: “Take the leap.”
In other words, don’t be afraid of adopting cloud-based legal software such as Clio Manage and Clio’s newest product, Clio Grow.
Additionally, Jeff suggests keeping your end goal foremost in your mind. He recommends writing down your vision—what you hope to get out of the technology—on a piece of paper, because this will help you when you’re evaluating software providers and implementing a new system.
“If you don’t take the leap, you could be left in the dust. You can’t be afraid of change,” Jeff says. “But take your time, build it out, and do it right.”
“We did that at our firm, and now, when I talk about Clio Manage with my staff, they say, ‘Wow—what would I do without it?’”