Making Legal SaaS Trustworthy

One of my more recent clients is Clio, a Vancouver-based SaaS (Software as a Service) company built for web-based law practice management.

Clio’s target market is clearly set at solos and small firms, and feature wise they’re incredibly strong. They know who they want to serve, and what they want to deliver. However, like other SaaS companies, and especially within the legal market, the biggest challenge they face is how create an environment of trust.

This concept of trust is extremely important for clients both when establishing a sales proposition, but perhaps more important, in maintaining a strong relationship with those firms going into the future. You see, at least from my perspective, SaaS companies can apply all the fancy features in the world, but if they can’t make you trust that your data is 1) accessible, 2) secure and 3) that client privacy is protected… then the business of SaaS will become an increasingly tough sell.

Luckily for Clio, some of this ground has been broken already with other cloud computing services like Google Apps and Freshbooks. Both of whom I rely upon for my own business.

So are web-services the future of software? Given that I drink the kool-aid myself, I obviously think so. But for marketability of a service like this, I suggested to Clio’s founders, Jack Newton and Rian Gavereau, that they tackle these subjects head-on.

Their response can now be found in a recently blogged 3-part series – Part I on Data Accessibility, Part II on Data Security, and Part III on Protecting Client Privacy.

Comments are welcome on the posts themselves, or here at Slaw. And Jack & Rian have promised to be around to respond.


  1. I took a look at the features, and while I applaud anyone moving to the cloud, it struck me that pretty much everything they offer is easily duplicated through free or inexpensive services that already exist and are tried, trusted and true.

    Give me:
    – online law office bookkeeping
    – online invoice presentment with full range of payment options
    – an OSX widget and iPhone app for timekeeping
    – full remote document access with up to the minute desktop sync
    – contact and calendar management with full web / desktop / smartphone integration

    then we’ll talk. But all of this is hard for any one provider to do, and all of them are avail from separate providers – except online law office management.

    So I would suggest – stick to the latter, outsource the rest.

  2. Like Dave, I took a look at the features and wondered where the value proposition was.

    I am reasonable technical, but I wouldn’t pay $50/month for these services. It would ditching desktop software, amicus/pclaw for cloud computing. Why bother? I can access the desktop from anywhere using vpn/internet.

    There may be value, but reading the features doesn’t make it clear why I would move from my desktop.

  3. Hi everyone,

    Steve, thanks for the post, and thanks for the comments.

    @Dave: While I agree that some of the individual components of Clio can be found through other (sometimes free) services, we believe the real value-add comes from the integration that comes from putting all the services under one roof. You don’t need to double-enter your clients, time or bills. This means everything just works and helps you stay more efficient. The pricing of Clio was arrived by presenting a simple ROI proposition: if we save you an hour per month of time (save through not exporting/importing/copying/pasting, etc.), Clio’s paid for itself. Depending on your bill-out rate the amount of time Clio needs to save you might be as little as a few minutes :-)

    Another unique value proposition from Clio is our data escrow services, lawyer-friendly terms of service, and strong focus on privacy and data security. If you read the Terms of Service for many of the free services you’re advocating, you’ll find they almost universally have the right to terminate the service and delete your data with no warning. This is not the case with Clio.

    Thanks for your feature suggestions also – we’re hard at work making Clio as complete a solution as possible. We already have iPhone integration.

    @Michael: Thanks for your comments also. While your desktop can be accessed via VPN etc., for many lawyers this is an involved and potentially expensive process to set up. A true benefit of SaaS is that you can access the data from your iPhone or BlackBerry, something that is not possible with many desktop software products without additional, expensive software.

    Best regards,
    Jack Newton
    Co-founder, Clio

  4. Another issue that all 3 of you have touched on, is the ability to download responsibility for data security. It’s a task that a lot of firms are already doing, either delegating to an inside employee, or an outside consultant.

    For me this brings up a ton of questions… Is the data making it off-site every night? Are data copies going outside the geographic region for disaster recovery purposes? When was the last time a full restore was tested in a replication of the production environment?

    I know a lot of mid-sized firms that could take their data management more seriously, and this is one of the big advantages of the SaaS model, for me. I like that the responsibility for these tasks are outsourced to an outside service who makes this their priority. AND that the firm has the ability to make additional copies that get routed back in-house, AND (in the case of Clio, anyway) that a data escrow service is in place for yet another level of protection.

    I don’t think you can discount these elements in the overall value proposition. Replicating them in-house, especially for solos & small firms, isn’t cheap.