Automated Form Generation in AbacusLaw
In this quick free training webinar, learn how to eliminate the time consuming process of manually creating form letters, and streamline your efficiency by using the auto generation features built in to AbacusLaw.
About Free Training Thursday: Since 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 now, Results CRM and OfficeTools Software. If you would like to request a topic, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All right, thanks everybody for joining. My name is Scott Heist, welcome to another edition of Free Training Thursday. I also have my colleague Amanda on the line, who's going to be reading everybody's questions at the end. We'll go ahead and get those answered for you towards the end of our session. Just so everybody is aware, we are actually recording this. So, this is going to be posted on our website so you can reference it later. Don't feel like you need to take a bunch of diligent notes. You can always just reference the recording a little later on. Just by a show of hands, if you could click that little hand-raising button there on your GoToMeeting window, just to let me know that you can see my screen okay. You should be able to see the AbacusLaw Program.
All right. Perfect, thank you everybody, and I'm going to go ahead and put your hands down there. And because you responded to that question, I think it's safe to say that everybody can hear me. It's looks like we have a pretty good crowd, I see some familiar faces out there, some familiar names, I should say. Any questions that we don't get to today just in our short timeframe, don't worry, we will follow up with you later. Those questions are logged, but since you're on mute, make sure you use the chat box to ask any questions, so we can address those at the end.
So, like I said, we're going to be talking about document creation in AbacusLaw. This is a big part really of our daily routine, because it takes up a lot of time. If anybody's ever done a training with me, you probably know that I am basically the anti-typist. I cannot stand having to type, and any time I can automate it, I am all for it. So, most law firms tend to be the same way, because it's a big time killer. So, this program has a few different ways that you can actually automate that document generation, that document creation process. So, that's what we're going to talk about.
Now, when we're talking about document creation, we really want to look at it from a matters perspective. Usually when we're creating some sort of form letter or some sort of court document, it's from a matters perspective. Like, we're usually inside of our case, I'll open up my Doe v. Smith case here. We're usually inside of a case, and we have to send out that non-rep letter, or that engagement letter, or that request for information, whatever it may be. So, during that generation process, there's a couple different pieces of information that go into that letter. Usually we've got client personal information, we have recipient information, like if you're sending a medical records release request to maybe a hospital or a doctor, for our PI and worker's comp attorneys out there. We have to include personal information into these letters, and that's really what we're trying to eliminate when we do our document creation. We want to eliminate having to type the personal stuff.
So, what I tell people to do, is open the matter first. Okay, go into the case and identify in this case which items you're going to need to include in that letter. So, if I was sending my client my notice of deposition appointment letter, okay, that's the letter we're sending out to our client to let him know, hey, you're depo's on this date, it's at this time, it's at this location, so on and so forth. What I would want to do is open up that matter, go to my events tab, and actually find that deposition appointment in my list of events. So, I can see right here, I have the deposition scheduled for 9:00 am on the 23rd, right? So, what I can do, since I'm going to include this event information in my form letter, I can check the box next to that event. That cues Abacus up right there to know what event it's going to be pushing that data from.
Now my next step is to just go into my forms library. When I click that forms library button, that's going to open up my lovely library here of all of my internal forms that I use, all of my court forms, whatever it may be. The process is the same, by the way, whether this is a PDF court form, whether this is a Word doc, whether this is, for those of you using Word Perfect, the process is always the same, okay? But if I go into my library here and I find that letter that I'm going to utilize, and I click on it, and I select fill form, that is going to invoke my word processor … Notice it say there, "Running the word processor." Okay, and it's going to take the information from that matter that I chose, and that includes that event that I clicked on, and it's going to push that information into that letter. So, here's my end result, just by selecting that matter, going into my library, and clicking "fill form" once I select my letter.
I didn't have to type the date, I didn't have to type my client's name and address, I didn't have to type the matter, I didn't even have to type the date and the time, not even the greeting. Okay? These are all fields within that record that the system grabs and if … assuming there's data in those fields, like the "Dear" field. Mr. Doe, right? Assuming I had Mr. Doe in my "Dear" field in my record, the system can auto-fill that information for me. And this is what the end result looks like. You can even see in the content of my letter, I have data that auto-filled there as well. We can see the date of our depo, we can see the time of our depo. All the rest of the content in this letter, because it's a form letter, because it's a form document, that usually stays the same no matter who we're sending this letter to. It's the personal items that change. So, that's what the end result looks like.
And again, just to recap on that, the first thing we usually want to do, is we want to find our matter, open that up, choose the event that we are referencing in our events list, or in our letter I should say. And then when we go into our forms library, we can just choose the letter we want to run from our list and click "fill form." And that should generate that letter for you. And then at that point, the letter is just sitting in your word processor program, so probably Word for most of you. Some of you may be using WordPerfect, or maybe it's a PDF. And then, you can either just save that letter just like you normally would, or save that form like you normally would on your computer. You can link it back to your matter, you can print it and mail a hard copy if you're doing that. So, the rest of it is kind of up to you. But it eliminates all of that typing time.
Now, not every time are you going to be in the matter before you go into the library. So you don't have to be in there. I just recommend doing that if you're referencing some sort of event, because you need to check the box for that event, right? You got to tell Abacus which event you're referencing in the letter. If you're just doing like, I don't know, maybe like a non-representation letter, or something like that, then maybe you just go directly into the forms library and choose that letter from your list. And then, choose your matter from within the library. Okay? You can do it either way. It's kind of up to you, it depends on what info you're trying to put in. Then when you click "fill form," it's going to do the same thing, runs the word processor, pushes the data, and you can see, there's our end result.
This is still an editable Word doc. So you can see here, I didn't reference any sort of event, so it didn't fill that in. But I can always delete that, and actually type a date if I need to. So, just keep that in mind. You're still able to do that. So hopefully, that sparks a few questions. Now when you are in your library, if you're looking at your list of documents, whether they're court documents, whether they are internal documents that you're using, you can always design those documents to have the right fields in them.
For instance, this client deposition appointment letter, the reason we can look at this and we can see field names, is because I customized this letter to work that way. So if you need to do that as well, you can always use the design features here in the program to actually insert those fields into each of your letters after you import them. If you need any help with that, we do have some great reference information inside of your reference guide. What I recommend doing is, just opening up your forms library and then hitting that F1 key on your keyboard. That will open up your help menu, and it will teach you how to actually import your letters into Abacus if you haven't done that already. If you're still having some problems with that, shoot us an email at email@example.com, and we can set up some time to go over how to import your letters. But for today, we're just talking about how to auto-fill the ones you have. And you should have some of these prototype letters, so to speak, already built into your program. So feel free to utilize those to get the hang of how to auto-fill your letters.
So, that is how we access our forms library, that is how we tell the program what data, which matter, we're going to use to import into our system. If you ever run a letter … Let's do it one more time here. If you ever run a letter, and you get the end result in Word or whatever your processor is, and things are missing … Like, let's say the Mr. Doe part isn't there. That's because you probably don't have that typed into the field inside of the record. As a matter of fact, that is the reason why. So what you want to make sure you do if you're missing that information in your end results, in your letter, make sure at some point you go in and you add that information to your client, or whoever it is, to their actual record. Like, here it is. There's the field right there. It's actually called "Dear." So, if that wasn't auto-filling in my letter, it's probably because that field is blank. Right? So, Abacus can only auto-fill what you have typed into the records. So, just keep that in mind, or else it's just not going to fill in anything, and you'll have to manually type it.
Now, during the day, usually when we first come into the office, we usually say to ourselves, what's on my calendar? We'll open up our calendar, and we'll usually have appointments and reminders and things on our to-do list. What I recommend every firm do is create a to-do list of documents that need to get done on that day. In other words, the daily documents list.
So, you can see here, I've got three that I have in my to do list. I need to mail out a notice of deposition. I need to mail out a non-rep letter. I need to mail out an engagement letter. These are three things that I need to do. A quick way, if you are attaching your letters to your events, which you should be doing … A quick way to see all of the documents that you have to do that day, is by just going to your documents menu on your toolbar and selecting "Today's documents." Today's documents pulls up every single document that is attached to an event on today's date. And you can actually filter by date if you want to.
The cool thing about this, it lets you do your documents en masse. This little "Go" button, assuming I just select the ones that I need to, and I click my "Go" button, that's going to fire off that document, and it's going to auto-fill just like it would if we launched it from our forms library. So, this is a great tool for you to use during the day just to knock those documents out en masse.
But again, like I said, this list is only as accurate as the documents that you are linking on your calendar. So, for this Jane Doe home purchase, if I open this event up here, notice I linked a document to it. That's what the little "Forms" button in the bottom of your event window is for. If I didn't have anything linked to this, this event would not show in my documents list. If I want to attach a document to this event, I would just click my "Forms" button, that's going to ask me if it's an Abacus form, in other words, a form that's already in our library, or if it's an outside Microsoft Word form. So, I would choose Abacus form. That opens up my library, I choose the letter, just double-click on it, and now it's attached. I click "Save" and now that event has a document attached to it that I can auto-fill just by going to "Documents," "Today's documents," clicking my "Go" button.
All right, so I hope that makes sense to everybody. Again, inside of your reference guide, there is great information on form generation. All you have to do is just open up a window inside of AbacusLaw, and hit that F1 key on your keyboard, and that should take you directly to that topic section inside of your help guide.
So, I will go ahead and turn it over to my colleague, Amanda, to read out any questions that should be in the chat box, and hopefully we can get as many as possible answered here in the next 15 minutes. Amanda, take it away.
All right, so I'm not seeing any questions at the moment. So, if anyone has questions, we're just going to give you a minute here. Oh, okay. So, Margaret asks, "How do you link letter to Abacus?"
So, how do you link a letter to Abacus? So, that could actually mean … that question could be referencing two different things. So, let me answer both, just to cover all of our bases.
If what you mean is, how do I import a letter into Abacus to use in the future, to auto-fill in the future, what you want to do is, inside of your forms library we actually have a little button that says, "Add." If you click that "Add" button, that's going to open up your Windows Explorer window, where you can actually search for wherever that document, wherever that letter lives on your computer, or on your network, wherever it may be. And it would just be like searching … just like your computer. Okay, you would just go find wherever that letter lives, double-click on it, that will import it into AbacusLaw, into the library I should say.
Now, once it's in the library, you're still not done. Because it's never been used with Abacus before, what you need to do is highlight that letter, and then click "Design" on your toolbar. What that will do is open up the letter in design mode in whatever your word processor is, so probably Word or WordPerfect, or potentially Adobe. Once that opens up in design mode, that is where you can go in and start merging the different fields in place of the text. So, where you would normally have a client's name actually written out right here, you know, client address, you would actually just delete that text and, in its place, click the "Insert Merge Field" button and choose the appropriate Abacus field. So now, Abacus knows to always put the client's name and address there. So that would be, if what you were referring to is importing letters into the library.
Now if what you mean is, how do I just link letters to a case inside of Abacus … So, you know, it could be like pleadings or whatever it may be. If that's the case, you can actually just open up the matter in AbacusLaw, and then click on the "Docs" tab. And you can either drag and drop that letter or that file over into this little blank area, and that will allow you to link it, or you can click this "Add" button here, and then click "Full path," and then just navigate to wherever that document lives and double-click on it. That just provides a link back to that document. For instance, this bill right here, all that does is provide a link back to where that document lives for easy access. So, this would be more for documents that have been completed, that you just want easy access to.
So hopefully that answered your question.
Okay, so the next question is from Brenda, and she says, "We use this for letters to our PC, not matters, can we use it with the PC information from names?"
Yeah, absolutely. So, you don't always have to reference a case. So, in other words, if you were just in the names database … and let's just say I just wanted to send the same letter to this person and this person. All I have to do is just click the check boxes next to their names, and I can do that here in the names database or I can also do it, if I'm inside of the matter, and I go into the matter and go to the "Link names" tab, if I just click the check boxes next to the names … And you'll notice, in each one of those screens, you have a little button on the bottom that says "Actions." I can just click "Actions" and actually do a mail merge. That will do basically the same form for multiple people.
We see this a lot in PI, so if you think about like a personal injury case, if it's a car accident, your client's probably seen a chiropractor, probably seen somebody get some sort of body scan, could potentially see five or six different doctors, right, including the original treating physician and specialist. So, that could potentially be the exact same letter, like a request for information, being sent to five different facilities, five different treating physicians. So if that's the case, just go into your matter, click that "Link names" tab, click all those doctors' names, and then just click "Actions," "Mail Merge," and that will allow you to choose the form that you want to run. It will do it for each one.
Okay, great. So, the next question is from Thomas, who says, "I use the Word form and template interchangeably, what is the template button for in Abacus?"
So, the template button is really for importing of your letters. And just visually for everybody to see here, what Thomas is referring to is the "Template" button here. So, this is just a way … if you have a bunch of difference forms, and you don't want to go through and manually enter in the fields in certain places, you can actually create a template. So it saves you a little bit of design time. Thomas, I actually have a little bit more information on that I can email over to you. I'll get your email address, but we also have that inside of our reference guide as well, that kind of defines it a little bit different. But you'd be using that template, you know, kind of in the beginning of your form-generation process, when you're adding your forms, just to make it a little bit more efficient rather than an actual filling of the form process.
The next question is from Ray, and he wants to know, "What the difference is in add between upload from local machine, and add?
So, you have "Add" and then you have "Add many," the only time you get that dropdown menu is when you select "Add many." So, you have court forms and then you have general forms. Court forms are going to be potentially our protected forms, you know, because they are from the court. And you can do that en masse, but they're usually in PDF format. General form files are going to be, usually like Word docs or WordPerfect documents, something with a .doc or .docx file extension. So, that's the difference there. So, you could do general forms or multiple forms, and this just lets you do it either by selecting a folder or by selecting each individual form at one time.
So, the next question is from Brookeand she wants to know, "If I need to send a letter with a date in it for deposition, for example, how do I pull that information from Abacus?"
Absolutely. So, what we want to do in that case is always target our matter at that point. Then what we can do is, since that matter has the event linked to it, at least it always should … If you're not doing that, make sure your calendar events are always linked to the matter. Okay, once you're inside … Let me choose one that actually has a depo, Doe v. Smith … Once you're inside of that matter, you can just select the events. Okay, that's what tells the program, that's the event I'm referencing in my letter. Okay, just by selecting that check box. Now, once that check box is selected, just go into your library, click on your letter, and click "Fill form." That should auto-fill your date, times, and really anything that has to do with that event assuming there's a field. So, if we're looking at the event … Let's pull one up real quick. Well, here's one here. You know, you can potentially fill out the location of the depo in the "Where" field. You obviously have the when, the time, the length of time. So, any of that information that's in the event, and is also a field inside of the letter, would get auto-filled for you.
Okay, it seems like our last question is from Daniel, and he wants to know, "How do I organize the form list, meaning move forms from one folder to another?"
So, you can always drag and drop. That's one way people can do it. You're able to just move these around. I don't know if you noticed that, but as I click on that and I drag my mouse, my mouse kind of forms like a little square. That's because I'm just kind of dragging that to a different location. The other way is, if you actually just go into your settings, there's all kinds of difference organizational setups you can do, whether general or court forms, on how you kind of nest your different letters. Also, if you just click on them, right click, you've got the ability to edit properties for all of your letters.
And when you edit the properties for your individual letters, you can set categories for each one. So, you can see here, I have all kinds of different folders for different practice areas, right, criminal defense, employment law, bankruptcy. That's what these relate to. So, as I import a form letter, I'm actually going to be presented with this screen. So, in other words, when you click that "Add" button to add one of your own letters, you're going to get this screen after you select that letter. And you want to tell Abacus what's the category of this letter. So, if you do PI and you do worker's comp and the letter you're importing is specifically for worker's comp, categorize that underneath your worker's comp category. If you don't see the appropriate nesting category in your list, just click the "Add" button. And you can add your own custom categories.