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Forms Generation in AbacusLaw

Free Training Friday, AbacusLaw

In AbacusLaw, learn to fill your court forms with the case and name data that already exists in your database. Eliminate the chance for typos and mistakes.

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Video Transcription

Okay, this is where you’d go to start entering any forms or any templates that you would want to use within Abacus. As you can see here after I click on the forms, I am able to see the forms library here from within, and specifically my Abacus, okay?

For the example what we’re going to do today, we’re simply going to go through my thank you letter, a MyFirm thank you letter. I’m going to show you how easily it is to insert, to create this particular form and designing it, okay? As simple as just making sure that the merge fields are properly inserted into the form that we’re gonna design and then with a few click on the buttons after that, you can go get the matter that you need and double click on the form and as simple as that, you would have your forms created, okay?

I’m gonna walk you through the process on how simple it is to do a form generation, okay?

After you’re set up within your forms, generation forms library, you’re simply gonna go into your add and this will try to go fish out anywhere within your tree directories out there, okay, the form that you need. So depending on the folder where you have the form that you’re going to try to design or edit with the right merge field, make sure you grab that. I want to go get it from my folder system and I am going to see that I cross it over into the … I would highlight my form. In this case it’s this one that I want, my thank you letter, and I’m simply then just going to click open, okay?

Once you do that it’s going to ask you if you want to copy it over into your forms library and the answer is yes. It tells you the location of where it originally is, and then it’s asking you if you want to copy or move it, and in this case I’m going to copy it, okay? When the … When you hit copy, you get this forms library popup that has a lot of the information obviously regarding that particular form, okay? Anywhere from the form ID, which if you have a thank you letter already in there in this case, I already have one, I’m obviously change the form which obviously you’re not repeating the names, just like a regular document would, and this case we’re just going to call this a U2, a thank you two, right?

After that you see on the folder system that is being set up. In my case, I have a general folder, a category, but you can see that at any given time you could have placed it in any one of your different practice areas that you might have within your firm, okay?

How you set that obviously is just a matter of filling in the rest of these fields that would be specific to the form you’re about to create. You can obviously choose the type of form that it’s going to be, so that every time that you link it to one of your matters or cases, it’ll be linked as this specific type, okay? You don’t have to every single time, maybe call it a different type of document that you’re making is always going to be the same. Just make it more structure when it comes to that.

The … You’re also going to have … You’re determining the merge field that you can use that are going to be continue control, that’s going to be under here, under the ALF file. For today’s example or demonstration, we just use the regular Abacus ALF, okay, and I’ll walk you through it to see the importance of the ALF file. Obviously that’s going to depend on the type of document that you, or the form that you are obviously trying to copy over to the library. Depending on the practice area.

If it’s a family law one, of course, you use the family.alf, and we’ll talk about what ALF is a little bit later on when we get to it, okay?

Simply put, after you get the popup here, just hit done and that will automatically insert the form into the location that you have, and in this case I have it on the general forms. It’s already highlighted for us, and it’s just a matter after that, it’s just a matter of designing it. You would have highlight it, and then you hit design.

When you hit design, it’s going to generate in your word, and for this particular example I have this section at the top here that has the MyFirm_Label1 information. I specifically wanted to show you this because I wanted to make sure that you’re identifying your firm in Abacus as obviously as my firm label. If you haven’t done that, I can walk you through later on how to do that. In my case, if I ever wanted to put our name, Abacus Data Systems, within anywhere in the contents of the form that you’re generating, the merge field that you would use would be MyFirm_Label1, okay?

Of course, a lot of people might already have a letterhead in place that they won’t need in this case, but I just needed to let you know as far as understanding how to identify your firm as the my firm, so that way you can actually insert it at the merge field into some of your future documents, okay?

If I go back into My Abacus, I’m going to walk you through how easy that would have been done. You simply need to make sure that you’re adding your firm’s name as a regular name, right, in the names database, just add a new name, enter the information, right, when you’re doing this you enter the information of your firm. After you complete doing that of course you would save it. Then you would go into your files, setup, My Firm, and you will designate or identify your firm name after you look for it. I have it already highlighted and then you would hit select. After you identify your firm’s name, now you can you use those merge fields when it comes to your forms.

Now, if I go back to my document that I was working on, every time you’re entering MyFirm_Label1 as a merge field, it will populate your firm’s information. Then of course the same thing goes for the label two, three, or four, which is part already of your address that you might be entering in that name record that you create, okay?

The next step in this particular case is I’m going to start, I’m going to show you how easily it is just to insert certain merge fields, okay? Let’s say in this case I wanted to take the date and instead of having this date obviously that is going back from December 20, 2015, I want to insert today’s date. In the top here, there’s the insert merge field icon. Just click on that and that will give you this popup window that has all the merge fields that can then get inserted in here.

For this one specifically is a today field, okay? As you can see, I just typed in “today” and it comes up. Your next question should be well, how do you know which merge field to use? Obviously you’re going to come to the conclusion of which one to use, and I’ll show you that later on, step by step on the ALF file, how to determine which one to use. In this case it’s going to be today, okay? You simply highlight it, hit insert, and you close it out. Now you just inserted a today tag for that field. Every time you pull up that form, this form is going to have today’s date on it.

Next up we have the actual address of the client, okay? If I were to identify this as an actual merge field to use, which one would it be, and I already have one in place and that’s going to start with a prefix of a client. The client’s information and it’s actually Client_1Address. Again I’m going to explain to you how I arrived on using specific, these specific merge fields later on when I go over the ALF file.

The one that gets really overlooked is the Client_1Dear field as a salutation. A lot of us when we’re entering our name records, we tend to neglect I would say, or overlook the Dear field with salutation. We fill everything else out, the information, the name, the address, the telephone number, the email, but for whatever reason this one went overlooked and obviously I just want to point out that as long as you don’t fill in the appropriate name, I mean the appropriate field within your name records, then obviously it won’t translate over to your form. You need to understand that whatever you’re inputing into those particular name records and those fields in those name records is what’s going to output into your forms. Clearly if there’s nothing in the field, there’s going to be a blank here in your form as well.

Next up we have the one for File.Matters. Normally when it starts with a prefix of a file, it’s referring to the name of the matter or case. In this case, File space Matter is referring to the name of the particular matter or case. If I were to use the attorney responsible for this particular name or case that I’m going to choose later on, or any particular matter, you would do File space Attorney. If you were to use a specific bar number, okay, it’ll be File space Attorney space Bar space and then number. You get the idea more or less as far as the prefix are working, and I’ll get a lot more deeper into that later on when we go over the ALF files again. Then of course upon conclusion.

Then when you get into the content of the body of the email, you can also use dates that are calendar in your, in as an event under your particular case or matter. In this case I want a specific date, right, so I can … it’s a date that’s already in a particular matter or case, I can select it from the calendar, sorry, from the event under the event cap under my matter or case. This one would be Event_When, okay? As simple as that, I’ve simply put together right away, I’ve inserted the merge field, and after you’re done with that, all you’re going to do is click on the save button to save this template.

The template is going to be saved, right, and now you would, if I could go back to your forms library, it will be right there marked form, the form MyFirmThankYouLetter2.

How simple is it now to go over and just grab a particular matter or actually click on the matter to set forth the information so that it can fill out the form, okay? Well, what you’re doing is, you’re opening up any particular matter that you want. Just go to your matters icon, grab on the matter, of the case or the matter that you need, double click on it, and it’ll open up the window. If you want to choose a specific date or event right, that you’ve used, just make sure you highlight the date of the event like I’m doing right now, and just say that this is something that I want to include within the body of that particular form that I have, which in this case I do want an event when, and I select the date that I want. Just make sure you can go back to your forms, okay, and just double click. You could just highlight it and then fill form, and it will fill out the form, or just double click on it and it’ll start generating the information.

When it comes out, this is your final product. You’ll see that it has all the information there. See how it has Abacus Data Systems at the top because that’s what I chose to show you as an example. You more thank likely will have your letterhead. It has today’s date, the client 1 address, obviously the Dear field, the name of the matter or case, and then of course the event that we chose from our calendar.

In a nutshell, you can then just take this right and just save it as … You see Microsoft Word add in which is going to be under your file, add in, and when you hit save and close, it’ll give you that prompt so it will link it specifically to the matter you’ve been working on already.

Normally, what normally happens in this case, it just goes through. Right now it’s not responding. Let me just rerun it really quickly and once I’ll rerun it, it’ll … I’ll just show you the end effect of that.

The idea is that these forms could be generated at any given point with any other matters that you choose, or cases. Again, a simple click of the button to come back in here, I have my matter open in the background. You can’t see it. I’m just going to double click on it again so it regenerates it, okay, then you go back again to your file. You go to the add in. Say close. The Microsoft this time, this is what should have happened originally is what … Now it’s obviously storing your document. Those are stored under your local, or in my case under my C drive Abacus docs, that’s because, I don’t know, but under user preferences you’re able to choose where you want to send your files and your templates and forms. Those of you that are in APC will more than likely put it in your X drives, right, when everybody else can then choose what drive they want to enter it in.

I have a naming convention where I’m choosing it to say the last first … I mean, the last name and then the first name of that actual case or matter, then I have the document number’s name within Abacus or the form, and then the date. When I save it, it will give me the prompt of how I’m linking it, or the full path of the document. If I was obviously linking it to the exactly the [inaudible 00:14:03] which happens to be the client that I used the form for, right. The full path of word is the short name, right, for that particular document which I can edit right now if I needed to. I could put thank you letter and then put [inaudible 00:14:20], and then of course it’s linking it to a specific name, is going to link it also as well to a specific matter or case.

You also have the ability to then choose so to change the type here. Remember we have the option to preset it so that you already know what type of document this would be, but if you didn’t you can always come in here as long as you have your list set up already where you’ve edited it and structured and lined out, simplify it as much as you can, you can then choose what type of form so that when it links it to your matter or case, you can find it a lot easier on your documents tab.

Let me close out of this, go back to my documents, and if I go and I sort by date here at the top, this is the letter that I just did right now. I double click on it, and it’s been linked to that particular matter.

That in a nutshell again is the process of how easy it is to generate the form and then link them to the appropriate matter or case.

The other thing that I wanted to make sure that I showed you was that, how did I determine, how did I come to the conclusion of using the appropriate ALF file? If I go, I have my matter open here, or your case open, use it as an example when you’re about to generate these particular forms, you can go to documents, go to setup ALF file. Under setup ALF file, you would notice also that there’s always these helpful messages that come to the top, okay. In this case, the ALF stands for AbacusLaw Format, and the files that control the records and fields output the form generation.

The most simple forms, in the case of what I’m using, should work fine with using abacus.alf, but you can also create a specific ALF file with a specific form. What do I mean by that? Once I clicked out of that, notice how I have my abacus.alf and then I have specific ones for all my different types of practice areas out there.

When … If some of you have purchased Practice Area Essentials, those Practice Area Essentials specifically will come with specific main screens, specific matter screens, intake forms, as well as their ALF document in this section. You can see why there’s one for bankruptcy, civil litigation, criminal, state planning, family, so forth and so on.

I’m going to show you an example as to why this is important, because obviously if you’re using a form that requires a specific law, let’s say family law, you would need a specific name types that are being linked to that particular matter so that I know what to look for an abductee for example, or I know what to look for someone who’s a spouse, or the opposing council of the spouse, okay? That’s why you would need to understand the difference of obviously which ALF file you’re using. For the purpose of the demonstration I did today, I’m simply going to click on the abacus.alf, okay, and I’m going to hit open.

When I hit open, this is the popup that comes up, okay? Actually before I do that, let me just show you something. I wanted to see you, you can see the link thing here. Go back to my setup. Okay. In this case I have as my primary matter of course, the one in the background here, the one I’m going to use as a test. In this example I have my abacus.alf, all the names being linked to the matter are going to be either adjusters, clients, defenders, opposing party, attorneys, plaintiffs, responders obviously, and petitioners, okay?

When I do this test, and I try to search to see what values are going to be populated, I simply, I’m going to get a lot of the ones that obviously are depending in this case with some of the link text that I already have here, okay? If I go down the line, oh man … There we go. Okay. Let’s run the test. When the run the test over, look at the … My browser is somewhat hiding here, sorry guys.

When I run the test, look how automatically some of my fields are being populated as far as the value’s concerned, I’m using this particular matter or case as my example as to have see which fields will be populated. In here the prefix of a client exists and I see the information already that’s being linked to the matter. In this case, Victor Ortiz. If I didn’t have, under my matter, certain linked names attached to the matter, then obviously this population would be empty. Notice how I have Victor Ortiz as a client in this matter, hence when I pull up the matter information, my client prefix and my information all has values already.

Same way when you choose the field, or sorry, when you choose the merge field that’s going to be one of these, it obviously, now it’s easier to determine because you see the client in front of it as the prefix.

If I scroll down the line okay, you will notice I don’t have any client 2 information, client 3, because I don’t have anyone linked as as a second client of a third client. I have this information for contact, I have information as courts, why within the field, within the matter there is Santa Monica court. If I eventually wanted to add a merge field I would say the court information on Santa Monica courthouse, I can insert either court on this court branch or I could have inserted whatever has the name again and again, see, Court_Name.

In essence, this can help you or aid you identify which merge fields to use so that you can insert it in the forms. The one that you want to use, again, going back to how did know to come to the conclusion that I was using today’s tags, I would simply start typing the word today and when that came up I noticed that today’s tags, the one I wanted was, in the format that I wanted, was May 5th, 2017, okay?

How about if I wanted to show the day, the actual day of the week, Friday, and then maybe a space dash space, and then the actual date as listed here. Well, I would have inserted my today date first as a merge field, then I would have space dash space, and then I would have inserted another merge field, today text. That way you would have the information you need.

When it came to the client information of putting the address, how did I come to the conclusion that it was Client_1Address, okay? In that instance, I noticed when I came in here and I took a look at all the information that was valued as far as each on of the merge fields, I noticed that there was one that actually had the information. The name of the client, the address right underneath it, and then of course the city, state, and zip. If this one didn’t exist, how would I have identified which merge field to use? Well, the information that I want, I could have used the Client_1Name, then I could have used the Client_1Label2. Then last but not least I would have chosen the Client_1CityStateZip. Instead of using the Client_1Address as I have in the form, I could have used these three to insert them as an option, okay?

Then again the difference between choosing someone on the general abacus.alf versus choosing, and I just want to show you this really quick, versus choosing maybe one that is not necessarily, that is more specific to, say, family law. If I go into my documents and I go to my setup ALF again, and this time I choose family as the open time of ALF that I want to use, notice the things that are going to be linked to the matter are going to be different. It’s not just your client, plaintiff, and defendant, right? It has more than that. It has the biological mom, the biological dad, the child, the employer, the judge, the respondent, the spouse. Clearly each specific practice would require one of these more specific ALFs that are going to give us the option of the merge field that can be controlled, and then of course contained within the forms that were created.

That concludes our training.

Q & A

Does AbacusLaw work with Word Perfect?

Yes it does!

Would you have to know what you have entered in each particular name on matter?

Of course. Normally speaking, whatever fields are within in the name records and in the matter records that we have, ultimately they can obviously turn and be created as a merge field to the form. Whatever you’re entering in those name records in field or matters, within the field of the matters and name, can then eventually obviously be put into a form through a merge field that already exists.

How do we add merge fields when the specific field that we are looking for is not on the list, such as social security number and date of birth?

As long as they’ve been created in the database structure and then inserted into the matter fields or the matter’s database or name’s database, then they can be pulled in into the form as well.

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