Amicus Cloud is very slick but it has some major stumbling blocks. The good stuff first. Gavel & Gown had a brilliant idea, which no one else has ever implemented. Amicus Cloud is closely intertwined with Microsoft Exchange: in fact, you must be running Exchange in order for the email function to work. Therefore the email function – which is the operational center of many lawyers’ functioning – is directly tied into the Amicus Cloud code. This is not a “synch,” you do not have to “send” emails to the program, there is no separate button in Outlook to link to Amicus. The two are directly intertwined. Since email synch/integration tends to be one of the central issues in complaints about other programs’ functionality, this resolves that central problem.
If you are currently using Exchange, this is a no brainer. If you are using another program, Gmail or whatever, although there are ways of getting your data into Amicus Cloud, in essence you will wind up having to abandon your other program. So this can be a bit of a two-edged sword.
The other usual modules - contacts, files, time entry, billing, etc. are very slick, big buttons and all. The program is designed (or “optimized”) for use on a mobile device, so when you log in there are big buttons informing you about appointments, email, phone messages, etc. This leads to the second brilliant conception behind Amicus Cloud: all your data is available on whatever device you are using: iPad, iPhone, Android phone, Mac, tablet, normal desktop browser, you name it. There is no download or synch, your data is “just there.” As Ron Collins would say, “phenomenal.”
But,... there are some big “buts.” The first of course is bandwidth. One of the major drawbacks to previous cloud-based applications has been speed and response time. For any cloud app to work acceptably you have to have major bandwidth available. And you better check the data plan on your smartphone carefully. If you will be using a smartphone heavily, you better have a 4G connection. In addition, response time depends on the response of the bandwidth Gavel & Gown has contracted for with the Microsoft data center it is using (which should not simply be taken for granted). When I was testing (even with only a small amount of data), some days the program was very zippy, other days the program dragged and I have a lot of bandwidth in my office. In any event, you should not expect response time to consistently be equivalent to what you have with an in-house network.
Then there are some of the usual drawbacks of web-based products. There is no search function in the contact list, for example. You have to go to the first letter of the contact (after choosing to sort by first name, last name or company name) and then scroll down. As a solo, I only have about 1200 contacts, but this can still be frustrating.
Several functions are lacking in the initial release. There are no linked events, no precedents, no document assembly/merges and no custom fields. Many firms don’t use these functions, but for those that do they are likely to be critical.
Gavel & Gown has announced that their upgrade strategy will be very aggressive, with updates, fixes and new features every three weeks at least initially. They have assured me that fixes are “in the works.” And in fact, there was a major issue with the formatting of contacts up to just before the formal release, but this issue has been fixed. So unless you are prepared to “limp along” for a couple of months, you might want to wait a bit.
Setup is a major issue. There is basically no import routine. Data can be imported from Outlook, but that does not help with your client list. The only import option available is from the Amicus Small Firm Edition, and you will have to pay Gavel & Gown to import your data for you. They say their charges will be “reasonable,” but it is not clear what that will wind up meaning for a firm with a lot of data.
For a more detailed review, see Legal Loudspeaker
At $34.95/user/month, Amicus Cloud is priced substantially lower than its nearest competitors (who range from $50 to $85/user/month), but you have to add the cost of Microsoft Exchange. Since many firms have this already, this is not really an issue. If the firm does not, Gavel & Gown will rent it to you for $10/user/month, which is on the high side of the going rate. It may pay to shop around (but make sure you are comparing the same things, i.e., including backup, anti-virus, anti-spam, etc.).
In short, Gavel & Gown has come up with a couple of brilliant innovations, but Amicus Cloud is still a work in progress and if you badly need one of the still-missing options, you might want to hold off for a couple of months to see how it shakes out.