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Best cloud-based CRM?

edited June 2015 in Legal Marketing
I am currently a new associate who joined up with a long-time friend and soon to be retiring solo.  It is a great opportunity for me, I get most of the freedom of being a solo but I have established systems including 3 paralegals and another attorney to help me along.  The only problem is those systems are all from 1970!  Not that there is anything wrong with that (heck I am from 1970) but we are seriously in a tech black hole here.  I have recently convinced everyone to move to Freshbooks from timeslips (version 7!!!!) and implemented a file naming and file organization system for our digital files.  My next project is CRM/updated our client contact info from Phoneslips (version 6!!!!).  I want to do cloud-based because I like to work from remote locations and because while the office uses windows I am currently saving for a Mac. 

Suggestions?  I have seen 37signals Highrise and that looks good, the Basic plan at $24 per month sounds nice and I hear it syncs with Freshbooks.  The tasks I want to be able to do are:
  • track contacts
  • track matters (with associated contacts, and notes of activity in a log format so everyone in the office can have an idea what is going on)
  • Perhaps store email communications (if we CC to the program) but this might be much for most of the others in the office
  • cloud based
  • around (or less than) $40/mo
  • very intuitive UI for my less-than-tech savvy coworkers.
So I am all ears!  Thanks for your help.
Post edited by samglover on


  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Highrise is nice and simple, and you can probably get by with the free version unless you want to collaborate across the office. And as you say, it's cheap even then.

    But it would be a good idea to check out SalesForce.com and ZohoCRM, as well. They're much more powerful than Highrise, but also more complex. I prefer Highrise myself, but I don't have any need for the additional features of the other options.
  • Well we definitely need to collaborate between the two lawyers and three paralegals in the office. Thanks for the feedback Sam, I liked what I have seen of Highrise in the free version, perhaps time to consider an upgrade? I think the simplicity is a bonus for the not-so-techie members of our office.

    Any other opinion out there?
  • So would Highrise + Freshbooks be an alternative to say Clio?
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Not a very good alternative, in my mind. Clio is much more full-featured than Highrise and Freshbooks together, although Clio is not really a CRM, and it isn't quite as good at timekeeping and billing as Freshbooks.
  • Thanks, Sam!  Based on other threads and posts I've read in the forum, either Clio or RocketMatter seem to be the ticket.  When I called Clio to inquire as to whether they sync with Freshbooks, they said that they do not.  And I'm not sure if it was freshbooks or Clio that told me that freshbooks cannot do trust accounting.  Not sure it that is accurate since I have not tried freshbooks yet.
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Freshbooks is not accounting software. Neither is Clio or Rocket Matter, although Clio does have some rudimentary accounting features.
  • thedanshermanthedansherman Maple Plain, MN
    We use Solve360. It has amazing integration with gmail (if your into that sort of thing), and is very flexible. We're paying around $50/month for four people. It integrates with freshbooks too, but that's limited to read-only right now.
  • We used S360 for about a year. Lots of nice things like autoresponders, task templates, contextual tag fields, etc. I finally left it for a few reasons:
    • I did not care for the interface. It looked nice and there were nice things about it, but as much as I tried to get used to it, staff could never get the hang of it.
    • Blogs/Projects got very disorganized over time, with many activities stacking up in no particular order. As much as I tried to get staff to keep things organized, it just didn’t happen in the fast and furious world of a law office…
    • The custom fields didn’t get used. It was just an extra step to input all that information, and it wasn’t doing us any good since it was just as easy to search for the case number in Gmail or dropbox via windows search. There was no doc assembly, so why bother putting it in.
    • There was no way to quickly log a phone call or generate a quick followup task. The system forces you to look up the project or contact before logging anything to it. I believe they have a “queue a followup” feature now which is supposed to address this and it does help some. The problem was always when I hung up and immediately got another call, had to resort back to stickies…
    • Staff often got information split between the contact and the project. Again, they launched a “show related activities” feature to address this but that just added to the confusion in the blog layout.
    • No specific event for logging correspondence like faxes, mail, etc. Just phone calls, which seemed odd.
    • E-mail integration, as nice as it sounds, was really worthless. Yes, I could attach or archive gmail messages into S360. Unfortunately, they wound up in a small ‘tray’ activity at the bottom of the contact and/or project. No way to flag another user about its existence. No way to create a task from the e-mail. No way to do much of anything other than index it (and I found just searching for the e-mail in my gmail archive was about 10x faster)
    • No dashboard. As the attorney in the office, I wanted a “bird’s eye” view of what people were doing at any given time, and what the status of our various cases are. I could never get a feel for how to do that in S360.
    • The client portal suffered from the poor interface. The few clients I tested it on couldn’t make heads or tails of it and were really confused.
    • The comment system was terrible. You can comment on any activity, which sounds great. But if you commented on something, no one would see it unless you e-mailed them a notice, which completely ruins the idea of commenting in the system (why not just send an email?). No in-system notifications of comments or ways to “flag” something for another user’s attention.
    Sorry to sound so anti-S360 because again, S360 has some REALLY good stuff going for it. These were just too much to justify the cost of the system in money and time.

    Just as an epilogue, what we now use is:
    • Google Apps for email and calendar
    • UCM as an interface to Google Apps Shared Domain Contacts
    • Flow for tasks
    • Trello for CRM and case status (Kanban board – each ticket is a lead/case with the columns as a stage in the workflow)
    • Freckle for time tracking
    • Dropbox for documents/backup
    • Evernote for consult notes
    • MS Word/XpressDocs for doc assembly
    I’m always tempted by “do it all” software; I just can’t find anything that does it all as well (or cost effectively) as the above individual apps.

    (edit: fix formatting; edit 2: evidently lists aren't working on this forum so I apologize if the layout above looks goofy...)
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Yeah, lists don't work right, but I've decided not to effect repairs because a big update to our forum software is in the works. After that comes online, I'll make sure it gets fixed.
  • thedanshermanthedansherman Maple Plain, MN
    Paul, those are some great points about S360. I think one of the reasons it works for us is that we don't bother with the project blogs. Instead we just put everything into a client's record.

    Some of your suggestions look really good though, I'm going to have to check them out. 


    Edit: I've been playing with Trello for a few hours now, and I love it. It is exactly what we used S360 for, but it doesn't have all the untouched features. The price is right too.
  • ... and the price, so they say, will always be free.  They may charge for extra features in the future.  Here is the development board which you can watch and vote on for improvements: https://trello.com/board/trello-development/4d5ea62fd76aa1136000000c


    A few other big names in the kanban field are: SmartQ, Pegby, and AgileZen.  All are fairly new and constantly improving and adding features. 

    The whole concept of kanban is slowly gaining momentum.  I know I'll always use a kanban board now in my practice, it just makes so much sense.
  • Wow Paul - very informative posts!!

    We also used to use Trello as well as a few of the other sites you listed above. Still searching for that perfect all in one software as none seem to have VERY good CRM or invoicing or time tracking (like some of the others specialize).

    Since this post is almost 2 years old - is there anything new that anyone has been using?

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    edited January 2015

    Wait, how did we get onto Trello. Trello isn't a CRM, it's project management software. Let's try to stay on topic, folks. Feel free to start a new discussion about project management software, Trello, or whatever you like.

  • Jeremy, if you are set on using cloud-based system then I would say, you should check Clio, RocketMatter and MyCase. Don't go with generic CRM like force.com or Microsoft Dynamics.

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    edited January 2015

    Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase are not CRM software.

    From Wikipedia:

    Customer relationship management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.

  • Sam, I know the difference between CRM and Case/Practice management systems :smile: , but form the way Jeremy formulated the question it looked like he needs Case Management system, not the generic CRM.

  • Thank you for all the information everyone! I've narrowed my search down to 3 finalists:

    1. SalesForce
    2. PracticePanther
    3. Zoho

    My criteria for the search was:
    1. All-in-one software
    2. CRM / Lead Management
    3. Time Tracking
    4. Invoicing
    5. Cloud-based, mobile

    SalesForce is the biggest company by far, but also the most complicated to use and will require the most time to setup. They are however able to scale and integrate with almost any 3rd party app in the world it seems.

    PracticePanther looks like the newest player on the block with most of the features I need and a dedicated CRM software built-in. They use tags/lists similar to HighRise to filter your leads and clients. They are also made for lawyers which is always a plus.

    Zoho is very complete and has everything I need as well. Only part I'm not liking is that every single feature is another integration or another app (and an additional cost). They seem to be rather big though and could possibly work if I'm willing to pay the extra cash for it.

    The hardest part of this journey is finding a dedicated case/practice management software that has a built-in CRM and easy to use time tracking and invoicing features that just WORKS out of the box without having to go through any extensive training or setup.

    There are great programs out there, the only problem is, they only specialize in 1 thing only (like Trello for tasks or Basecamp for projects or Freshbooks for invoicing). I could use all 3 but then I would be tripling my work-load by adding my clients in 3 times across all programs - not very efficient.

    Any additional comments would be greatly appreciated as I continue my free trials and narrow it down to the winner.

  • NewBrunswickAttorneyNewBrunswickAttorney New Brunswick

    We are also looking for CRM tailored for law firms. So far we have narrowed it to three.

    1) Practice Panther : It has everything from CRM, Both back office and front office. If you're looking for one solution they have everything.

    2) Lawcus (www.lawcus.com - they just launched BETA) : Signed up for them today. They are deal based CRM instead of lead based. We are using Highrise now and deal based CRM make more sense to us.. as there are so many of my clients who are returning back and I can track those opportunities.

    They are like Trello for legal. We use Leankit and were looking for case management software using Kanban boards. Also, they are just 20$/month isn't that just great ?

    3) Lexicata (www.lexicata.com in BETA launching soon): Signed up haven't received my invite yet. UI look good and it integrates with Clio which is great of you're using them. Lexicata seems client intake form + crm. Read on lawsitesblog they will charge 40$/person.

  • What do you think about Insigthly?

  • dshinkledshinkle Lawrenceville Illinois

    I use Insightly for some projects. I really like it and have considered making it my primary CRM. I haven't due to it's lack of invoicing, time and expense tracking, and document assembly. I really like it's flexibility, it's use of tags, and I find it to be very intuitive.

    I use MyCase as my CRM. It is easy to use and has very good time and expense tracking as well as invoicing. I am considering a switch because the document assembly is terrible.

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