From our legal calendaring software to remote access and mobile synchronization, there are endless ways that AbacusLaw can make your life easier. But we wanted to go a step beyond to show you useful tips and tricks that will streamline your practice, which is why we enlisted Tomas Suros, Abacus’s Chief Solutions Architect, to provide you with even more tips and tricks of making AbacusLaw work for you in today’s Free Training Friday.
Note: Due to a brief audio glitch, we are presenting a slightly edited version of the webinar.
About Free Training Friday: Since the beginning of 2017, we have been holding these free, 30-minute training hosted by our industry-leading experts and innovators who will teach you about AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, the Abacus Private Cloud, and everything in between. If you would like to request a topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, everyone! I hope we’re all having a wonderful day. My name is Allyson and I am the content manager at Abacus. Today, we will be teaching you some great tips and tricks for Abacus Law. Before we begin, here’s a few housekeeping notes: Please feel free to type in questions throughout the webinar and we’ll answer them in the order that they were received. This is going to be about a 15-minute presentation with a 15-minute Q&A.
Please allow me to introduce our presenter today, Tomas Suros. He is Abacus’s Chief Solutions Architect. Tomas applies his legal, technical, and business acumen to achieve workflow automation requirements for clients. He leads the sales engineering team at Abacus, and if you haven’t met him in person yet, he’s a real snazzy dresser. So, please welcome Tomas.
Hi, everyone. First off, I wanted to thank you for attending, and without further ado, I’ll jump right in to the tips and tricks of AbacusLaw. So, what I’ve done so far is gone through the help menu and selected keyboard shortcuts. This gives me quick access to a shortlist of keyboard shortcuts.
The keyboard shortcuts are great because they help achieve what I am always looking to do: to minimize the number of clicks that are required to get from Point A to Point B, and to perform the action that I wish to perform in the program.
If you’re in any date field in Abacus, clicking “T” on your keyboard jumps to today’s date. I use that almost every day.
Next, we’re going to make sure that I’m able to enter information on a different date. Plus “+” or minus “—“ on the keyboard will move forward one day or backwards one day. It seems like a small action, but it’s actually really helpful.
Another useful tool is to move weeks. If you want to move one week forward or one month forward, you can. So, “T” and “M” and “W”, and even “Y” for year, are great ways of helping navigate and helping enter date information.
Another thing that’s easy to do is to shift months and years. Shift “M” or Shift “W” moves a month or week back, respectively. To move forward, you click “M”. Shift “M” will move a month back. So, it’s a nice way of getting shortcuts or having shortcuts by giving you a way to enter the right information into your date field with a minimal number of clicks.
Another thing I want to point out, and I urge you all to come take a look at the shortcut link in its totality, but F2 in the example, which opens a note timer.. So, with pressing F2 on your keyboard, you open up the note timer and you can actually configure it in the settings to start tracking time automatically. If I’m typing, I can just click F2 to get that functionality. So, those keyboard shortcuts are available to you. It’s in the help menu at all times.
The next thing that I’d like to touch on is in a similar vein, and it has to do with access to help within the program.
So, if you go to the Help Menu, that certainly is helpful. You can access the content, which is our online updated searchable help. Now, the F1 key can also launch the Help Menu.
I think it’s most useful because it’s not just access to general help in the system, but it’s actually context-sensitive help. So, where I am in Abacus, when I click F1 or when I click that question mark button, it gets me to this online guide already focused and presenting to me information that’s specific to where I was in the program. I think this is invaluable, when you’re a little lost or on your own, just click the F1 key. Instead, it’s a shortcut from the right place in the program to the right information you need to get the most out of that function. So, it’s F1 or clicking on that question mark. It’s a nice way to get to this help guide, including the ability to print any specific pages that you might need, or print them as a PDF and have them as a handy reference on your desktop. It’s a nice way of learning the program, or I use it a lot to help clients use parts of the program that they maybe have not been utilizing as much. Being able to have that context-sensitive guided help can be extremely valuable.
So, there’s a couple things I wanted to start with, and they’re focused on built-in help and the information that you might need about where you are in the program, and how you might be able to gain some benefit from it. I also did want to show you the “Other Resources” section. I think this is valuable because it’s a nice way to get quick access to webinars such as this one, or our regularly scheduled training webinars and training videos that are available 24/7 and specific to features and functionality within the program.
And, of course, the Knowledge Base. The Knowledge Base is also helpful because it can break down specific ways to get to the end result, albeit in more granular detail than the overall Help Guide.
I wanted to point out those resources for you – they are available at any time. The next thing I wanted to touch on is specific to a question that came up as we were researching for this webinar, and it has to do with kind of personalizing Abacus Law. And the specific question had to do with adding firm logos to invoices.
Adding Firm Logos to Invoices
Oftentimes when you’re presenting to a client a custom setup for the firm, in accounting, if you go to file, setup, and company preferences, you’re able to select an image that you have for the firm’s logo. If the logo is available on your website, you can grab that as an image.
In the Abacus Accounting company preferences, select the logo bitmap (it should be a file on your system) and upload your logo. This is a nice way of being able to personalize your invoices and have your firm’s logo (and other information) presented in a consistent way. Again, it is an easy enough function of selecting the bitmap, adding it to your accounting settings, and then have Abacus include that logo to all invoices going forward. This tip and trick to customize and have a nice, professional look and feel to your invoices.
Here’s another thing I wanted to touch on: It does have to be a bitmap, and there are programs that are available to help you very quickly create that file type of any logo image file that you have. There’s a Knowledge Base article on exactly how to create that bitmap. And, also, the bitmap should be one inch by one inch. So, there are also programs in the Knowledge Base that can help you determine how to create the logo image file that then you apply and use going forward on all your invoices.
Another tip and trick that I wanted to point out goes to automation, which is dear to my heart. So, if I’m in the Abacus program and I’m accessing a note or an event, or any of these memo fields where I capture information, we have a text macro system in the program that can help enter information that you may want to enter consistently. And the way that functions is to create these macros and then be able to type, instead of a full description of that information, you’re able to type from your list of macros.
So, I’ve created macros, an example being “CC”. I just need to type “CC” and hit Space as a way of entering that description. This can be very helpful in doing time entries because there can be codes or descriptions that you use that are consistent. I often recommend that if there’s kind of a prefix to the description, where it puts in a consistent language that you might want to use, it certainly makes your bills easier to read because it can kind of itemize and give descriptions in a consistent way.
So, we call those text “macros” and they’re available in the Abacus program. You can call them up and create your own. And then when you’re using them, it’s a straightforward process of entering the code and hitting “Space” to enter that description. So, those are text macros and that goes to the automation, the automation of entering consistent text. And then, of course, you can continue to type after it, but with more specificity about maybe the content, the topic of that phone call that you’re entering as a timed activity.
Unique Identification Numbers
Here’s a question that came up: Is Abacus a program capable of adding or assigning unique identification numbers to both client records and casefiles in the system?
And the short answer is yes, but I’m not satisfied with the short answer. So, here’s my long answer: Not only yes, but you can have the system auto-increment based on the last number used for a matter or for a name.
And even within different types of matters or different names, you can create a prefix where maybe a client has whatever kind of syntax you might do, or a case file, whether it’s maybe the year, or the type of case, or something like that. So, as you create those kinds of consistent syntax starting elements of the file number or the client ID number, Abacus will then increment based on the last number used in that syntax.
And the way you set that up is, in Abacus, you go to file, setup, system options, and you’re able in the general section to either check or uncheck whether you’d like Abacus to automatically increment your names ID, based on the last number used, or also increment case file number.
That is a straightforward way, an easy way, to initialize, or to get Abacus to increment those numbers. Now, if you uncheck them, it gives you the ability to add your own numbers. It really comes down to the need, but I think the question that really came up is, or the desire was to have the system keep track of numbers and assign them in a unique way.
I’m going to circle back to an original question that came up, and it had to do… And bear with me, that if this is repetitive, it’s so it can kind of help make that information that more useful for you. But the first thing we touched on in the webinar had to do with the Help Menu. But the thing I touched on was Keyboard Shortcuts.
Keyboard Shortcuts are an invaluable way within the program to get to the result with the fewest number of clicks possible. That is always my goal, is to give you tools that help you automate data entry or automate access to information.
So, I pulled the keyboard shortcuts, because this is a comprehensive list of the tools you have already available to you. You know, and it’s everything from the Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste that we’re all familiar with, but there are additional elements to the shortcut keys that I think are extremely helpful, and the first one has to do with date fields in the program.
So, if you’re in Abacus and you have a date field. Let’s say it’s a filing date or a statute of limitations deadline or something like that, or the date it was opened, for instance, or closed, if you click into a date field and you hit a key on your keyboard, it will populate that field with today’s date pulled from your system settings. So, that’s a nice way of automating entry of a date value into a field in Abacus.
Building on that, if a key enters today’s date, a plus in the keyboard will move one day forward and a minus will move one day back. Building on that, if you use the “M” key, it’ll move forward one month. If you Shift+M, it’ll move one month backwards. So, those date field shortcuts I think are a helpful way of being able to enter information into any of the date fields that you have in Abacus, and then control very quickly how you need to move. You kind of navigate in time forward or backwards.
“T” enters today’s date
Plus/Minus can move forward a day or back a day
“M” is for month
Shift+M is back a month
“W” is for week
“Y” is for year
So, we all use date fields a lot, managing time and work flow and life cycle milestones are important. And those date field shortcuts are an extremely useful way to very quickly enter information and then manage it within those fields.
Keyboard Shortcuts – Note Timer
The other thing I touched on was the note timer and F2. I’ll jump back to the Abacus program to cover that, as well.
F2 basically means that, with a single click, I can, on the keyboard without needing to reach for my mouse, I can actually open a note timer. I have it configured to start my timer automatically, but this is the very quickest way to get to the point where your time system knows who you are and is kind of the credential user, it has the date and time assigned to it, it can be automatically connected with the case you’re working on, or I can change that association at any point.
But the F2 keyboard shortcut was one I did want to call out as a very efficient and effective way of getting to the point where you are tracking your time as a user in Abacus, especially with the case file you’re working on, with one click.
The next step that I wanted to touch on has to do with, tip and trick lives, with the dashboard in Abacus. And I want to point out that quick access to the dashboard, one click down here in the toolbar, the dashboard is something that I’d like to get to toward the end of these types of discussion.
The dashboard builds on the concept of Abacus as a true comprehensive case management system, meaning your calendar and your contacts and your case files and documents and emails and invoices and all the accounting, all that information that you’re tracking is handy in one system, meaning it’s handy, it’s accessible, and nicely organized for everyone in the firm who may need it.
The reality is, on a day-to-day basis, on an individual “get things done” perspective, the dashboard provides that individual with a focused view of information of whatever type being stored across the board in Abacus. It can be tailored so that the layout presents to that individual their tasks and priority order, or their deadlines, or the cases that are nearing a deadline or even a milestone.
What it does is it focuses that information, so I no longer need to go to the Abacus system and access a case, get its information, move to the next case, and so on. That information is stored and managed for me. The dashboard becomes a way where the information is told and presented to me in a meaningful way. So, I recommend individual users, or a firm that has departments or even roles, you know, personnel that maybe has specific roles and responsibilities.
Creating a dashboard layout that provides those individuals with the information that they need in a nicely-organized way, where being able to bill for them and mark things done and prioritize, the dashboard becomes a very effective way to get that information in a focused and accessible way, whether it’s to enhance productivity or give quick access to training videos, if you’re new to the program or you’re bringing on new staff or want to learn new functions or features.
The Abacus dashboard is a very good way to configure what you’re viewing at any given time, and being able to very quickly jump to the records that are most important, because you’re working on them or you’re focusing on them this week, or having aggregate totals, like billable time or dollars broken out by timekeeper, or clients by referral source. The dashboard becomes a flexible way to view information in a kind of priority order for productivity, or gaining insight by being able to kind of aggregate information and present it in chart form. This is helpful when you’re making comparisons or looking for either gaps or either consistencies or inconsistencies with the way things are handled in the program.
I do want to touch on the dashboard. The dashboard does have its help section. We do have training videos, and it becomes, I think, a very effective way. We’re thinking about tips and tweaks to get the most out of Abacus. The dashboard really is a way to get a priority or focused view of information stored in the system that is pertinent to you as a user in the system based on your role, your responsibility, and really, your kind of priority.
So, with that, maybe we’ll handle some questions that might have come in during the training.
Q & A
Can individuals be notified?
That’s a good question. So, there are a number of different ways of having notifications. The first thing I’ll touch on is message slips.
Message slips are the instant message tool that is part of Abacus. You can use that to send information, send notifications, and things like that. That’s more for kind of a messaging perspective, if you want to give a heads up that somebody has called or somebody’s online or is waiting for a response. That’s one thing I’ll touch on, message slips.
The second one I wanted to touch on is the calendar notification. This is a relatively new feature of Abacus, but I think it’s core to the functionality of the system, in that you could have Abacus proactively notify you if an event of a certain type has been added to the program, to your calendar, or if an event that you are aware of has been rescheduled. I think that can become extremely important, because with mobility, and many attorneys are spending time outside of the office, the ability for the program to notify you via email or via text message is now built into the system. I like it because, whether you’re looking at your smartphone or you’re looking at your Abacus calendar or you’re in Outlook, all those different kind of ways of accessing real-time information, and then having the next layer be, should any of that information be changed, you kind of receiving push notifications. I think that’s an exceptional way to make sure that you’re never far, you’re never out of the loop of information that’s either newly-added or that has been modified.
So, text and email notifications are a nice way to make sure that you are aware of any changes. And I actually like the aspect of it in that I can control which types of notifications I receive. I don’t want to be notified every time something is added to the calendar. Instead, I can use inquiries, which are, in essence, filters in Abacus, establish the criteria that would then trigger those notifications. So, maybe reschedules of activities that have me out of the office, where the where code is not local, or a deposition, or some other kind of activity that requires preparation or other activity, or other action, I should say. That’s an important component of the system.
Another thing, if we’re on the concept of notification, the ability for Abacus to notify a client of an upcoming appointment. Abacus has a nice function where clients’ kind of automated emails the evening before, or the day before, let’s say, a client is scheduled to appear in the office. Abacus now also has a notification system. This is maybe going outside the question, but not only intra-firm communication and notifications are supported, but also the ability to send a nice, gentle reminder via email to your client. That’s also available now in the system, as far as notifications go.
How can I print out tips of the day?
In the program, I’m kind of circling back to the help menu, but the tips of the day are handy. You can also access them outside, the first time you initiate them in Abacus. The tips of the day are presented to you. There’s that question light to help me kind of come to the tips of the day. They’ve available in the help guide, and printing them or saving them off as a PDF is probably your best bet. So, the tip of the day can get you to the help file, and then once you’re in the help file, any of the pages that you view and any information in here is yours to kind of print. And, of course, you can move backwards or forwards. This can become a nice way to kind of move through the program, learning as you go, or using index or search, jumping through the exact point in that help file that’s most important to you. And, of course, there’s a print button that’s helpful and available at any time. Okay?
Can Abacus synchronize with Outlook?
The short answer to that is, yes, you can synchronize.
The setup of Outlook sync allows you to do a number of different things.
One, I can enable it with a check box; two, I can control how often this thing happens. The good thing is I set this up once. It runs behind the scenes. I don’t need to go in and click a sync button. It happens based on the timeframe that I’ve scheduled.
And also, kind of the second part of that question, one, does it integrate or does it sync? The short answer is yes. The next part of it was, does it synchronize more than just the calendar? Can I do contacts and the calendar? And the answer to that is a yes, as well. So, when I come into the Outlook integration, I can set up the sync, whether I want it to be two ways or one way. But the names is how I can synchronize my contacts between the programs. And by synchronization, here’s an example. So, should I enter an email address in Abacus that was new, or I update their cell phone number in Outlook, synchronization, if I have it set up to synchronize, one, and two, how have a bidirectional sync, it means that new information entered in Abacus will also be available in Outlook seconds after the next sync, and vice versa. So, if I’m in Outlook and I update a contact, it can then work its way back to Abacus. So, that two-way sync is a very nice way, from a contacts perspective, to make sure that in Abacus it’s up to date, and, of course, in Outlook, and then with exchange back in through that to your phone, you have access both in your phone’s contacts, in your Outlook contact, and, of course, in the Abacus main record for that contact.
Just to wrap it up, events, as well. One way, two ways you can kind of determine how you want events, calendar events to sync. And then kind of going on that notification, you also have the capability to determine which type of events are synchronized. And some of the things that we work with clients to do is to maybe remove events that are marked done, or secondary reminders. So, if you don’t want everything to sync, you do have granular ways of determining exactly which events go over, which events come back, and also making sure that you’re not either cluttering one calendar or you’re being overwhelmed by the number of messages, and what I’m really thinking in that scenario is your smartphone. So, on that small screen, I do want to see just my appointments, let’s say, and just my tasks, but maybe not reminders.
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