How Tend Legal is breaking down traditional barriers with Clio
In 2020 when we were all in lockdown, dealing with Covid restrictions and navigating through a whole new way of working, Alistair Wells and his wife, Shona had a lightbulb moment. Alistair had over 13 years’ experience at Woodford’s, a small law firm in South West London, where he specialised in commercial and company law and became a partner in 2014.
Meanwhile, Shona who is also a solicitor had spent a few years not practising law while their three children were still young, and was considering her options for returning to work. However, finding a role that would still give her the family life balance she needed (an all-too-familiar challenge for working parents) was proving difficult. As the pandemic started to show signs that flexible, remote working could be the way of the future, the timing was perfect for Alistair and Shona to set up their own law firm. And so, Tend Legal was established.
“The pandemic showed us how possible it is to work from home, to do business on Zoom and that a permanent office wasn’t necessary. The world of work has changed enormously in the past 2 years and if we make the most of the opportunities that technology affords us, we should be able to create an environment in which people can do great work, but also have well-rounded lives. It also showed us that there is space for a more human, less formal approach to law. We realised that many clients don’t want formality, they want connection. So we started to imagine a firm that met those criteria and would be the kind of firm we would want to use. The rest is history!”
Choosing the right tools
Tend Legal is a small commercial firm that mainly acts for tech and creative businesses, from start-up to scale-up.
With a team of five working remotely from all over the UK, it was important to adopt technology that would support every area of the business. Having considered other cloud-based legal management practice software, Clio stood out as the clear choice for the firm.
Clio is effectively a complete law firm in a box
Alistair says, “We liked the fact that Clio is effectively a complete law firm in a box—it offered most of the tools we needed to get started right away. The range of integrations was also a big draw. We needed a system that was entirely cloud-based, reliable and secure. We wanted to make the admin as simple as possible (or even better, to automate it completely), and Clio offered that possibility.”
Training and onboarding with Clio
Running a law firm requires founders like Alistair and Shona to wear a lot of different hats. With so much to consider, including marketing, sales, tech support, bookkeeping, admin, and compliance (to name but a few), having strong legal management software was going to be crucial. New systems can often take weeks or even months to fully implement. From migrating all existing client data to simply learning how to navigate and manage other software solutions—onboarding can be arduous, not to mention time-consuming.
However, the team at Tend Legal were up and running with Clio in minimal time, thanks to its simple integrations with applications that the team was already using. This left them to do what they do best—building meaningful relationships with their clients.
“We had a demo and a training session and after that, we were off,” Alistair recalls. “Clio has given us the tools we needed from the start. It is very intuitive to use, so we don’t have to spend hours onboarding people. The integrations save us a lot of work and time—we integrate Clio with Outlook, Hubspot, Klyant, Xero, ScanSnap scanner, Google Forms (via Zapier). Although there are a lot of advanced features, there is plenty of guidance available on how to set them up and use them, and Clio Support are really helpful.”
Organising a law firm’s processes
The successful day-to-day running of a fully remote law firm requires having exceptionally organised processes—something that would be impossible to achieve without cloud-based software. With staff members dotted around the UK, it was vital for everyone to have access to shared files and folders, and Cloud Drive for Clio has proven to be a winning feature for the team.
“I’m a big fan of the new Clio Drive feature. To be able to access and save documents through Explorer is a big step forward,” Alistair says.
With unlimited storage, built-in audit history, and the ability to recover deleted files, Cloud Drive enables the entire team at Tend Legal to manage, save and edit all of their documents straight from Windows Explorer.
Another key consideration for firms that are just starting out is cost. Startup overheads are significant, and for Tend Legal, Clio’s subscription-based payment plan was a huge draw.
“Because you pay monthly, there isn’t a big upfront cost involved. Think about the specific features you would use and give them a go,” advises Alistair.
Tending to clients in a new way
Creating a client-centric experience has been at the heart of Tend Legal since day one. While legal matters are often viewed by businesses as simply another box that needs to be ticked, Alistair believes that law is about removing barriers between firms and clients, rather than putting them up.
“We want to continually improve the way legal services are delivered. Getting legal advice should be a useful, relevant, and enjoyable experience that directly impacts client’s bottom line, not just an unavoidable cost.”
Law firms can be informal, but still professional in Alistair’s view: It’s possible for solicitors to form deeper connections with their clients over Zoom than if they were to sit in a meeting room at a physical office. The key to success lies not only in the technology that makes running a business possible, but the people who are behind it.
As Alistair puts it, “Law is all about relationships. Every business, no matter how big, is run by people, and if we are to understand our clients and serve them well, we have to connect with them on a personal level. Law firms have traditionally presented themselves in a very formal, slightly aloof way, from how they dress, to how their offices look, to the language they use.
“There might have been a time people found that reassuring, but times have changed. Increasingly people are used to brands communicating in a very human, direct, informal way, and they don’t feel any connection with a more traditional formal approach.”
With Clio’s cloud technology helping to power the connections that the team at Tend Legal are building, the sky’s the limit for this innovative business to change the face of law (or, in this case, put a human face to it!)
Hear More from Alistair
To follow more of Alistair’s journey in setting up and growing a new law firm, see our popular webinar series, The Making of a Law Firm. Following four law firm leaders who set up their own law firms in a challenging market, including Alistair, it covers key considerations for new law firms, including technology, hiring, funding and financing, marketing and more.
Hear from Alistair in the introductory session below.