How to Use Document Generation in AbacusLaw
Creating documents from scratch in Microsoft Word can be daunting, or at least repetitive. Learn how to maximize efficiency with the document generation features inside AbacusLaw from this free training webinar recap.
About Free Training Thursday: Since the start of 2017, we have been holding these free 20 minute trainings hosted by our industry-leading experts and innovators who will teach you about AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, ResultsCRM, OfficeTools, Abacus Private Cloud, and more. If you would like to request a topic, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's free training Thursday. We'll be taking you through how to use Document Generation in AbacusLaw today. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to type them into the sidebar, and we'll get to those at the end. Without further ado, I will turn it over to our senior training specialist, Ben Fu.
Hello everyone, thank you Amanda. Again, another session of free training Thursday and, as Amanda already mentioned, we are doing Document Generation in AbacusLaw. By show of hands, please, and there's a little bit of an icon there right next to your name. If you can see my screen right now and you can hear me clearly, just go ahead and start clicking on that hand icon.
I can see everyone is clicking on that, so I can see everything is working fine. Again, you'll be on mute for the entire training. However, you will have, at the end of the session, the ability to type in your questions with regards to what we've covered, so far.
So, what I'm going to get started is, of course, with the anticipation of learning how to use this document generation, I'm going to cover some very basic information, first, within how to generate these documents, and how everything is really just very matter eccentric when it comes to these forms.
As many of you might know already, we do have a forms library icon here at the top, and in here you can actually have all of these forms within Abacus. So, in the event that you have some of these out of the box that come with the system, you might have some deposition appointment letters, engagement letters, thank you letters that you might have created yourself …
This is the library where you want to have all those forms. What I mean by that is that eventually, you would want to create your own Microsoft Word documents and move them over into this forms library, so it can be easy access as to generating them from your cases and your cases and your matters.
So, having said that, I'd like to explain, also, the concept of what actually happens, or how the information is transferred from those matter fields, or matter screens, into the forms. So if I go into one of my regular matters, here, and I simply click on any given matter or case, as the information is filled out in any one of these fields, that ultimately can be in a form as well, or a document that you create, as long as it's being filled out in these fields. Right?
The same concept: Not only are you bringing over matter information, but any names that are being linked to that particular matter. And, as you can see: depending on the practice areas that you do, you might have different types of links associated with any given case or matter. Ultimately, the idea is that if you're linking up a particular name into the matter, in part of the form, or the document that you are creating requires a merge field that is saying, let's say a defendants address, you ultimately need to have that name that you're linking to the case, obviously as the defendants, because otherwise, it won't know where to fish up that particular information of who the defendant is that is associated with the particular case or matter.
So, having said that, that can set a precedent for how to then, obviously, make the proper linking, so that the proper linking is being done, and as long as the fields within those name-makers are being filled out properly, then it will be able to fill out the information in the forms of the Word Documents that you are creating through the right merge fields.
So let me give you a quick example: If I were to be working on a particular matter, and let's say it is 'Ortiz', the matter is Ortiz, and I double-click on that matter and I just simply have it open, then I can direct myself over into the forms library, and then try to fill in, let's say, a deposition appointment letter. As I click on this deposition appointment letter, which, again, is something that comes out of the box with AbacusLaw, and I just simply either highlight it, hit fill form, or I would just double-click it. If I double-click, I can then see that my form is getting filled in with the merge fields that already existed in this particular deposition letter that had been created.
Notice how some of them already have the information that's been already populated, and some of them require, maybe, for you to add on, specifically, merge fields that have not been there before. So you do have the ability, instead of having to come in here and actually type up the information yourself, you can actually create a merge field, if you wanted to, on this form that's already there, and it's just as simple as inserting a merge field and using the right merge field here to actually enter the date that might have been calendared, let's say, for example, within Abacus.
So, if I actually wanted to do some type of editing to, let's say, these types of … the documents that we already have forms … If I wanted to do something like that, before even saving it to any particular document, I can highlight that appointment, let's say deposition appointment letter, and I can go into my design button, and then start playing around with entering the merge fields in the appropriate places.
So right now, if I wanted to say I wanted to add entered date as a merge field in this section as opposed to having to type it up, I can then highlight the portion where I want to put the merge field on, and then go into my "Insert merge field" at the top. If this the depo that I've calendared or scheduled in my calendar, I can easily have that highlighted in my matter right before I hit "Fill Form", as long as I put the right merge field here first.
So, the merge field that is required for this, that you can have for the entire forms library, let's say that it's … this one, obviously, is going to be an event that you're picking up, and the event, in this case, will be the prefix and the event when will be the date. So I can insert my event when, just like that. I can put my little space there, and I can take away this bracket, and if I want the time of when the deposition is supposed to start, I can actually do that as well. I am going to take my information here, play a little bit with that, and then I'm going to go "Insert Merge field". Again, it's an event, and I can enter the merge field , and I'm going to then go down the line and get a …
Obviously, it's a time, so instead of when, it would be an event … event when is my date, and event time should be my other option. Where is it? Right here. Event time.
So now I close this this, and just like that I've made some edits as to inserting the merge field into this particular documented that I already had, but I still had to manually type these things in. But, if I finish my design now, and I hit "Save", notice how here at the top, you can also enter the date and time, but I'm going to do it within the content of the actual deposition letter, here. I'm going to save it, I'm going to go out, and now when I rerun this, I still have my matter here in the background, I will be able to then run it and then you'll see that it fills in whatever date I had setup by deposition if I had one to do. Why? Because I didn't setup a time in my deposition.
So, let me show you what I did wrong. If I go back into that one, I'm not going to save this. Let me show you, if I go back into my "Victor Ortiz" … I wanted to show you what you got first, initially, if I go into my deposition again … Let's say I choose a different matter, now, instead of the Ortiz one, because when I went into Ortiz, I didn't actually have a depo in there, and if I did, it took on the wrong date. It just took on one of the highlighted dates as opposed to the actual depo date. If I go back in here and I go into my "Event" tab, do I have a depo anywhere here], it doesn't look like it.
So it was just choosing the name that I had highlighted. So that's not the case that we want. In this case, we have a depo one for Michael Finley, let's say. And this one is a matter, let's jump into the matter here, Finley … So we have Finley, and we're going to have our events, and there is my depo. Date, right? 3-22. Now I'm going to go back into my forms, and I'm going to then double-click on my deposition letter, as opposed to, you could do the other option, highlight it and then click on fill form. Then, when I do that, now it should clearly have that date, which is today's date, and then 9 AM as the time.
So, you notice the address, how it's not done properly? Because even though I have it linked to Michael Finley, and the address, probably my name record, I didn't have all the information for that name record that is linked to the matter. So, in the end, you can have all the merge fields done properly, but if the information is not filled in in the name records that you're linking it to and there's no address there to begin with, then obviously, that information won't be able to translate over into our cases here, into that form that you just did.
So it's always imperative, not to only understand that merge fields work properly, but they will only work if you have the right information already filled out, and, again, also the proper linking being done. So, what this will prompt me to do, if I needed to fix something like this, would be to go to the "Michael Finley" matter. I would then go into my names that I had linked, and whoever my client is … I double click on my client, I did properly link them, however, I obviously didn't have any information that I entered in the address field. I would then fill out that information in the merge fields.
So, obviously you would make sure that you did put an address. So it's 123 Main St. Then you can put in a zip code here, and then everything should be working when you start generating the information. So, heads up, when you don't have any information filled out, obviously, you have to rerun the form. So, ideally, you should have all of them done on the first try. The proper names, always the right address, all the fields right. Ultimately if it's not in the name screens or it's not in the matter screens, it won't translate over into any particular document that you're generating or creating. It won't actually occur.
So, if I go back in here, notice how I put the 123 Main St. now, I redid it, Burbank, and now all of the information is there. The Dear field, I didn't have one, hence why there's no Dear field here either. If I had a Dear field, I didn't insert the merge field. Again, the same concept applies. This is from a document that existed. I should have inserted a merge field, I never did that. You can't do it from this section, you actually have to make sure that you are doing it from the design portion of it, so you still have it highlighted, and you still want it to include a dear field, now you can go back, now you can set … the dear field was there, so it's properly there.
However, I did not have that filled out in the actual person in the Michael Finley one, so if I go back into Michael Finley's portion again … and I am going to pull up the linked names again, if I go into that name record, see how I have everything, but I didn't have the dear field filled in. So, is it Mr. Finley? Now when I fill that in … I obviously did have the merge field in place, I was just double-checking that one time. What I didn't have was the actual dear field populated, and it won't give me anything.
So now I put Mr. Finley, I'm done here, I still have it open, I'm going to go back to my forms, then I'm going to, again, double-click on the deposition letter. Now everything should be filled in, and there it is: Michael Finley, Dear Mr. Finley, your date here, and your time. Again, if you don't pick a specific date when the depo is, it won't fill that information either. So you have to be accurate when highlighting what you need to make sure that you're picking up on. You have to make sure you highlight it in the event section in order for it to go through, again, going back, this is what I mean by that. If I go into my events, I have to make sure that I have this highlighted …
Oh, sorry. Go back. Okay, and it's at 9 AM, now I can double-click it and everything should be working just fine. There it is.
So clearly, there's different ways to go about obviously understanding how the merge fields work, what you're creating, either from scratch or from something that was already there, and then other merge fields that you want to include, and then be able to set them up.
Having said all of that, what if you had a document that you simply wanted to bring over from where they were in your Hard Drives. You have a word document that is a form that is not within the fold settings, and you just want to copy it over into the forms library here in Abacus. The way you do it is, you would go into "Add", you would then look for wherever it is in your share drives … Whatever given letter drive it is: F drive, whatever you guys are using. Make sure you go to the specific area where that form is, so let's say I'm going to fish around for mine, it's under user, then under Ben Fu, and then I simply want to bring over a thank you letter. So a thank you letter that I can work off of. I'm going to highlight that letter, and I'm going to hit "Open".
When I hit open, it's going to give me the option: "Do you want to move it from its location over into AbacusLaw?" And the answer is No. I simply just want to copy it. So, again, it's a word document that you already had, and it's a form that you want to use that is not necessarily what we have offered already, out of the box.
So when I click on Copy, it brings over, and you see how the form ID is already here at the top, I already have one that is called "My Thank You Letter", but if I wanted to change that, obviously you can change the name. You don't want to save it the same way, so let's call this one "MYFIRM THANK U1", and then I can place it in any one of the folders that I want. So you can structure these and create them by posting in the carrier. Right now, it's saying that I'm putting it in my general forms, so it'll fit in within my general forms folder. However, if I click on the look up arrow, here, at any given point, as you have all these folders created, or, I've created them obviously by just clicking on "add" and adding a new folder. You can also have the same thing, so every time you're bringing in a new form, or a new Word document, you can place it exactly where you would prefer.
So, obviously in this case, I'm going to put it in my general forms as opposed to any one of these other folders for my civil litigations criminal … Whatever the case may be. You hit "Form", and that will then setup my general forms, and when I hit "Done", it'll save it right under my general forms folder.
So, I bring it over, now it's time to design it. You've done nothing other than just put it in the forms library. If I need to design it, I then would highlight it, just like I did with the other one. Now you're going to design it and you're going to make some adjustments to where you need to insert tie right merge fields. So, if I wanted today's date to be showcased or reflect all the time, as opposed to December 28th, again, just go into "Insert", here, I'm going to start typing away on Today, as in today is the prefix to what the merge field should be.
Among all of these, I am choosing today "Text" as what I want to be on how I want my date to be reflected, and I'll talk about, shortly, how I identify to a text to be the one that I needed as opposed to Today Month, Today Number, Today Day. I'm going to hit Today Day on that, and now I'm going to grab onto the Jimmy Butler section here. Again, I'm going to go to insert merge field, and I'm simply going to go really quickly into my client prefix, and this one is called "CLIENT1 ADDRESS", the one that I wanted filled out. Once I hit "Insert" it fills in the CLIENT1 ADDRESS, as you can see I have "CLIENT1 DEAR", I have other ones called "FILE MATTER", and if you want something, again, within the realm of anything calendar.
So, as it says here, "upon conclusion and review of our meeting on December 23rd, 2016." You can actually highlight anything that you have scheduled on the calendar, and put "Event When", and it'll put that date in here as well. So I'm going to do that fairly quickly just so you see how we arrived at that. I go Event When, I'm going to go down the line and there's my Event When again. I'm going to put that in, close it, and just like that I've inserted a merge field.
Have I done anything yet? Obviously not. I have to make sure I save it, now it's saved under my forms library. All of that information, you can go back to choosing whatever matter you needed. Let's say this one again, the same matter. This one is in the background. I'm going to go into my days that I want to highlight, let's say I want to highlight this date. So you highlight and the date will then show up on that portion of the event when. And then, when you do that, go back to your forms. It'll know the last form you were working on. This is a Thank You Letter. All you have to do is either Fill Form, or double-click, and, just like that, you have all the information filled in in here.
So, now that that's been done, you can then see how the particular merge fields have been populated within the form. Then, if you want to save this, it's just a matter of using your Microsoft Word add-in, and it'll save it into your particular matter.
So I'm reading through some of these questions that have been written here. Okay.
It says "Even if info is missing for proper merge, can we manually insert the info into the document on the fly?"
The answer is yes. So, after you generate that particular invoice, like I mentioned before, if I was in that deposition one, right? Deposition letter? You could've easily entered the information … some of this was filled in, and you needed to put this information again, and again, you just have to put your cursor over it and just type it over, and then you can then save it, and it'll save it in the document. So, yes. The answer is yes to that one.
Okay, let's see.
"We use WordPerfect in our office, is it possible for WordPerfect to work with Abacus forms?"
The answer is yes as well. You just have to make sure that you preset the settings to be WordPerfect, but yes, they do work with WordPerfect as well. And then the settings, for that, that would be under your user preferences. So, let me show you really quick. If you're on your user preferences as an individual, and you go to Setup – User Preferences, there's going to be the Print/Email portion here, the executable, the word processor needs to be setup for, right now it's setup for Microsoft Word, it can be setup for WordPerfect here.
Okay, let's see what the next question is.
"When the forms are used, they only save in Abacus matters docs, and not in the actual client directory, correct?"
Yes. So, when you're saving it, they will only be saved. The form is here, but the actual document then will actually be linked to the specific matter or case. If you don't link it … And the way you would link it is, after you generate it, you would save it as a document, and then it'll be linked under the docs tab and it will reflect here. So let me show you fairly quickly how that would work.
Again, if I have, let's say, any one of these matters. If I'm in Stephan Bell and I simply want to grab, let's say an engagement letter, I would double-click on that engagement letter, it's here, all the information, now I need to save it. You're going to go to file, you're going to go to Add-ins, and you're going to save it. You can then, obviously, save it in any particular … wherever you want to save it under any one of your share drives or letter drives.
In the forms library, you can actually have it preset to go specifically to any given drive and have a folder system in place, and also a file-naming convention as well. Like in this one, I have always to show the date, the operator, and then the name of the actual document that I'm saving. I can save it, and then it will give you this pop-up window. Once it gives you this pop-up window, then it tells you exactly where it's saving it: On the client directory and letter drive, but then it tells you how it's going to save it under that particular matter.
So, if I wanted to even designate a particular type of document, let's say I wanted to call it "Admin", and then this was an engagement letter, so I can go into my second folder of my engagement letter, it's a client engagement letter. What it'll do is, it's already setting it up as a document type within Abacus, and the document is not necessarily in its location where it is. This is a quick way for me to then go back into my docs, pull out the one I did as an engagement, which obviously is this one, and you see how it's there. It's not the same way it's going to be saved within your client directory of your shared drive. This a just a view of how you want to see it within your Docs tab within that particular case or matter.
Let's see what else we got.
"How do you save the Firm label in Abacus?"
If I'm understanding that correctly, Richard, if you're thinking about maybe putting in some information of your firm within any particular document or form that you're creating from Word, you can do that. But you, first, would have to establish your firm as a designation, that we call as "My Firm". So you would have to go into your names record, add your name, put in your firms information here.
Let's say Rosenberg and … right? And then all that information, you would type up the rest of the information, you would save it if that's the name of your firm. I'm not going to save it right now, but once you do that, then you'll go back into your file setup, my firm designation, and then you would choose your firm, you see as I have Abacus designation as my firm, just highlight it and hit select.
After you do that, then you can use any one of those merge fields within your … like this, let me show you. My thank you letter, here. And you can search those My Firm particular merge fields, and then you can include them within any of your documents and it'll give you your firm information as the label, so you can have the entire thing. You see how it says "Label 1, Label 2, Label 3, Label 4", That's because that's specific information that you have within your name that you have to create and then label as "My Firm", so you can then create these merge fields.
Let's see what else we have.
"When inserting merge fields, how do we know which merge field to select? There are so many. Also, how can we create our own merge fields?"
So, when it comes ti these merge fields, that's an excellent question by the way, you do have the option of knowing where to grab these merge fields from. That's going to be under Documents, then Setup ALF files. So within this, this is going to be a quick rundown, or explanation, of what ALF files are. There's AbacusLaw Format files. They're to control the records in the fields to output for form generation, so exactly what you're referring to. This is where you will find all of those. When I head down here, I'm going to have different types. Those of you that actually have PALS, that you refer to as Practice Area Legal Solutions, you would have more than just a basic, which is your Abacus.ALF. If you've purchased your PAL for family law, or for immigration, these are the other ones that you want to use.
Obviously specific to those practice areas, right? So let me just show you. If I go to my Abacus.ALF, and I hit Open, I'm going to bring up a good records to output guide, so to speak. You have your primary matter, you have your names linked to the matter as. These are your basic when it comes to your general Abacus ALF has been created. Obviously if I were to look into maybe a PI, a Personal Injury type of PAL, then you would have like "2nd Defendant, 3rd Defendant, 4th Defendant, 5th Defendant" You name it, as your primary links.
So how do I know what merge fields to use? Because there are so many of them. I'm going to give you an example of just the AbacusLaw, the general one. Within that, I am going to, first … What you should normally do is have it open as a matter, and I want you to use the best matter that you have as far as information that's been filled in into that matter so you can use it as a testing, guidance device when it comes to then using all the right merge fields, because the more merge fields you have filled out, then they will have some value when I am testing it out.
So if I go in here again, and I go to my ALF, my general one, and I open it, and I go to my testing environment. Notice all my values of my merge fields here? Sorry. Notice all my merge fields names, and then the actual value, in other words, whether I filled them in or not within that particular case or matter.
So how did I arrive at using to-date text as my option? Well I started typing the word "Today", that's what you do. Then you get all of the prefixes for the word "Today". So when I saw this, I was like "Okay, this is exactly the one I want." I want the one that's going to give me the date of the actual month spelled out, the date comma, and then the date.
If you wanted to have, maybe, the day, and then space, and then March 22, 2018, then you would have to insert the merge field, today's day, put a space, and then insert the merge field today text. The same concept applies to, like, my client information. When I put client, I saw that client1 address had Victor Ortiz, the actual address, and the City, State, and Zip. So what I ended up doing was I ended up choosing this one as an option, but if you don't want to choose this one, and you want to put in three different merge fields, you can. I could have used the merge field "Client_1name" as my merge field at the top, then I would have used "Client_1label2" as my second merge field, and the third merge field, right underneath it "client1_CityStateZip".
So this would obviously give you that availability as far as merge fields are concerned, and then they'll be listed here, so you can go down the line and start determining all of these merge fields, obviously, have been created from the screens that are already in there in place. If you end up buying one of our PALS, our PALS then would come with those merge fields and be very specific to, let's say, the different ones we have. So if I were to put "PI" If I go, let me just show you …
If I go to, say, "Family Law" instead of "PI", and I hit Open, look at all these different types of link names and matters it can have. By the same token, when I hit "Test", I'm going to have … I don't know if you noticed before, but before it said "Number of Fields", and it was, like, 300 only. These have 1,023 fields. So again, more information obviously that is catered specific to family law types of PALS, so these PALS are already in the system.
That pretty much does it, it wraps up the amount of time that we had for today. I know there's a slew of other questions that have been asked. What we can do is get back to you on some of these questions when we get a chance to take a gander at these and then give you an answer for most of the questions that were in the pane here that we didn't get to.
Okay, thank you. Have a great rest of your day, and weekend, and Friday. Bye-bye.