Nicholas Hite, Hite Law Group
The Hite Law Group is a practice focusing on domestic law (family, juvenile, and immigration) in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded in 2013 by Nicholas Hite. The firm has two goals: to provide affordable legal services, and to better meet the legal needs of the LGBTQ community in Louisiana. Since the firm opened, Nicholas has single-handedly served over 500 clients and has become recognized as a leading expert in LGBTQ representation in the state.
Providing access to justice with technology
When Nicholas Hite received a call from a transgender woman who’d had a less-than-stellar experience with not one, but two previous lawyers, he knew that something had to change.
“They didn’t handle her case the way I would have, and they most definitely didn’t handle her personally the way they should have,” Nicholas said. “That was really disheartening, and it really solidified for me that this was something that I had to do.”
Since Nicholas opened the doors of his family law practice in 2013, the response has been overwhelming. He’s single-handedly served over 500 clients (that’s a new client every three days), and has become recognized as a leading expert in LGBTQ representation in Louisiana, leading numerous training and educational programs on LGBTQ issues and advocacy.
Nicholas also aims to bridge an access-to-justice gap by serving people who don’t qualify for free legal services, but who can’t afford to hire a lawyer at market rates.
A key part of his success has meant using technology to keep the costs of running his practice low so that he can provide affordable services.
Keeping 160 cases organized in a single platform
In previous roles, Nicholas used a number of different practice management systems, but they all missed the mark. Take MyCase, for example. “It was really cumbersome. What should have been a very streamlined and straightforward system was definitely not,” he explained.
So, when Nicholas started his own firm, he started looking at different options. He chose Clio, because during a free trial, he found that he was able to pick it up quickly. “I liked that it was incredibly intuitive, that I didn’t have to go through any kind of tutorial or anything to just open it up and start immediately using it.”
Once Nicholas signed up with Clio, transferring his firm data was straightforward and easy. “I think it took all of an afternoon to get everything up and running, so the very next day, I was able to just jump in and get going,” he said.
Today, he’s opened over 500 files, and currently has over 160 open cases. He depends on Clio to keep every single one organized.
His power user tip? A Chrome Extension that lets him file emails and any attached documents to the correct matters in Clio directly from his email account.
“When I get an email, all I have to do is click the little dropdown menu for Clio, put in a case name or number, and tell it to send the email, including the attachment, to Clio. The email gets filed under communications, and the attachment automatically gets put in with the documents for the matter along with everything else that’s already there.
And that’s it. What used to take three or four different steps now takes just one.”
Nicholas also trusts Clio’s calendar so much, he’s abandoned his previous double-calendar-keeping habit.
“I kept a paper calendar and a digital calendar because I just didn’t trust that either one of those was going to be accurate at any given time,” Nicholas explained. “But with Clio, I can always make sure that my appointments are there. I can check it from my phone. Clio has all these great things that let me check and double-check my work and the rest of the work that’s going on in the office.”
On top of that, he likes that he’s instantly notified whenever his secretary puts a new appointment in his calendar, and that he’s reminded when it’s coming up.
Helping clients across an entire state
Nicholas is one of the few attorneys in Louisiana who works with clients who are transgender, so he often finds himself four, five, or six hours away from his office to attend a trial. That’s a lot of travel time, but because he uses Clio, Nicholas doesn’t lose out on valuable working time.
“I don’t have to give up an entire day of work just to travel and go to that trial, because I can still access everything I need for my practice wherever I am,” he said. “It’s really helpful when there’s not whole days of lost work that I then have to scramble to make up. Everything can keep working no matter where I am.”
If I’m billing somebody for the time I’m communicating with them, rather than it taking me five or 10 minutes to deal with documents and move them around, it takes me five or 10 seconds. I just click and it’s done. I don’t have to worry about it. That saves me time and it saves my clients money, both of which are very important things.
More generally, Nicholas appreciates the peace of mind he gets from being able to double-check what’s going on with any of his 160 open cases from wherever he is.
Right now my open caseload is a lot, to say the least. I physically cannot remember every detail about every client. So, it’s really important for me to be able to refer to documents, notes, or whatever it is, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, and Clio really lets me do that.
Whether I’m in court, or just out of the office, I can pull it up on my phone. It’s all right there. I don’t have to call somebody to go to the office to pull a file.
Empowering victims to become survivors
With his practice, Nicholas is aiming to set a new precedent in terms of what clients should expect from legal services, and Clio has been a key part of his journey.
For example, giving clients the option to use a secure communication portal, is extremely helpful. For survivors of intimate abuse, or for other clients facing emotionally charged situations, having a degree of control over their own cases is key. “Every time I’ve offered it, folks have been super excited about the opportunity,” Nicholas said.
I tell them ‘you’re going to get an email, and it’s going to give you access to essentially everything that I have for your file. It’s all right there, and you can go to it whenever you want. You don’t have to wait for me to call you back or wait for me to respond to your email.’ That’s really empowering for my clients, that they feel that they can participate and take charge in managing their own cases. It empowers them to be really in control of the situation, so that they can go from being a victim to a survivor.
From a business standpoint, using a client portal also means less client follow-up for Nicholas, which is another reason he can keep his operating costs affordable and help more people.
That doesn’t mean his practice isn’t profitable either—Hite Law turned a profit within one year of opening its doors, and Nicholas says that offering affordable services has allowed him to access an entirely new market that otherwise wouldn’t be open to hiring a lawyer.
I think there’s still this idea that if you go to a high-priced attorney, you’re going to get a better attorney. So they go and they do that, and they spend lots of money, and nothing really happens on their case, and they don’t really know why.
And then they come to me, and they can contact me directly, really easily. They can see everything that’s in their file whenever they want to, and I do all of that without having to charge them as much. And part of that’s because everything is streamlined with Clio, so I don’t need tons and tons of support staff. I’m able to do a lot more a lot more quickly than if I were doing it a different way.
For Nicholas, running a successful law firm and making a difference for his clients don’t have to be opposing ideas. With the power of technology behind him, the two go hand in hand.