Kevin Vela and Radney Wood, Vela Wood
Charging themselves with making better citizens of their staff through travel, Kevin Vela, who founded the firm in 2009, and Radney Wood, who joined as a partner in 2015, are the names behind Vela Wood, the go-to law firm for small businesses and venture capital funds in Dallas and Austin. Adding attorneys and increasing revenues year after year since founding the firm in 2009, Kevin and Radney use Clio to stay organized and keep connected across international boundaries.
Embracing desk independence
Desk independence is a concept that the partners at Vela Wood want to instill in their firm, where every employee has the opportunity to work abroad for one month at a time.
In 2017 alone, they’ve sent a first-year attorney to Lisbon, Portugal, a second-year attorney to Valencia, Spain, and their marketing coordinator to Zagreb, Croatia.
“We see it as where the future is headed,” says Radney Wood, Partner at Vela Wood. “We want to provide this as a benefit for our employees—to let them know how much we care about them, and how much we want them to grow as individuals from these international experiences. We know that when they come back, they’ll be better for it.”
Cloud-based technology makes it possible for Vela Wood’s staff and lawyers to work from wherever they are, while seamlessly tracking all of their work for the rest of the firm.
Overcoming technological boundaries
“One of the big pain points for any attorney is just entering their time,” says Radney. “When you have to keep track of every moment of your work life, and you’re so busy handling clients and trying to keep up with a very busy workload, I just don’t know any attorney who doesn’t hate entering time.”
Tracking time and managing case information can be even more of a challenge while traveling abroad—especially without remote access to your firm’s database. Both Kevin and Radney have worked for firms with poorly designed, out-of-date software built for desktop computers, or even disk-operated systems like MS-DOS.
“I just couldn’t believe that, for such an established profession, lawyers were billing hundreds of dollars an hour using a super clunky database to track their time,” says Kevin. These software systems wouldn’t integrate with any email or file management services, and they were often customized solutions that only worked for that particular firm. “Going from one firm to another meant that you had to learn a new language,” he added.
Whether tracking time or logging other important case information, these software systems made it extremely difficult to manage firm information, regardless of whether they were in or out of the office.
Clio keeps Vela Wood connected
One of the first things both Kevin and Radney do in the morning is open Clio in their web browser, and then it stays open throughout the day. From the Activities tab in Clio, they can add new time and expense entries as they happen, with in-depth task descriptions, linking them directly to a client and matter. “Very, very rarely do I go to bed without having all my time in for the day,” says Kevin.
Radney says, “Whether it’s reviewing a document, drafting a motion, talking with a client, or attending a meeting, I can see how much time I’ve entered, what clients I’ve worked on, and the overall bigger picture.”
Clio also helps the partners at Vela Wood keep up with what their staff is working on, no matter where they are. “If there is a particular matter that I’m working on or leading, I can filter activities for the case,” says Radney. “I’ll see how the case is going, which associates have worked on it, how much time they’ve put in, and I get a quick overview of what’s going on.”
On top of that, Clio ensures that case notes are logged in one place. “We use the notes feature pretty heavily within a matter to keep information,” says Kevin. “When did we get the engagement letter? What did we promise the client? Do we have any significant milestones? We’ll take detailed notes and put them in Clio so that we can access them later.”
When it comes to bringing up information, Clio’s search makes it easy to find and retrieve anything for a specific client or matter. Radney says, “For anything that reaches a certain level of importance, we save it in Clio, so we have it in one spot—so we’re not going back and looking through a huge file or through emails to find these important communications or deadlines.”
“Jumping between reviewing the hours you’ve done, during different time periods and different matters, it’s just very simple and easy to handle,” says Radney. “Clio makes it easier. It’s simple. It’s intuitive. It’s easily searchable. It makes everything easily reviewable.”
“Rad and I have slightly different perspectives on travel,” Kevin says, “but the one thing that we 100% agree on is that traveling the world makes you a better citizen. And we think it’s really important for our employees to experience that.”
Going forward, Kevin hopes that members of the firm who are hesitant about travel will be encouraged to give it a shot when they see their colleagues having positive experiences abroad.
“This isn’t just a job,” Kevin explains. “You can’t own a law firm and separate work from life. With today’s technology, you don’t have to. It’s easier than ever to integrate work into life.”