Master the Case Creation Workflow in AbacusLaw
Learn to utilize the Intake forms inside AbacusLaw to make your new case creation quick and easy. Maximize efficiency and optimize billables with the tips from this webinar.
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Today we're going to be talking about case creation via the intake process.
The Abacus Law intake process really is designed to do two things, two very, very important things. The first is to get your records created. When I say records, I obviously mean your matter record, but then I also mean contact records, name records that go along with the case, like the respondent or whoever it may be, the plaintiff, the defendant, the opposing counsel, the insurance adjuster, things like that.
All of those records are supposed to get created, or at least some of them should get created right at the initial intake process. Also the second thing is to get calendar items setup. This is actually a part of the intake process that a lot of people don't realize can be done.
I always like to show them this on our training sessions. You can attach calendar tools to your intake forms. That's a huge feature. If you have X amount of things that you always have to do whenever you take on a new case, like run a conflict check, and file certain forms, or setup these statute of limitations reminders, and things like that. Those are calendar events that the system can automatically create for you during that intake form process.
Those are the two things I want you to keep in mind, and I'll do my best to cover as much as possible, in the short amount of time that we have. First thing's first, let's jump into our intake form menu, if you've never looked and seen that menu before.
You just click the little intake button on the toolbar. That will show you a whole list of different intake forms. Obviously my list is going to be way more detailed than yours, because I have a bunch of our legal solutions installed inside of my program, so I've got everything from real estate, to civil, to criminal defense, and all that good stuff.
If you're wanting to get customized intake forms for your practice area, please just note that you can actually purchase those directly from us, and we can get those setup for you. Give me just one second, I'll pull one of these open.
As you can see here, I'm going to use the new case client plaintiff intake form. What this is, is just a form that we're utilizing here the fill in as much information as we have, right out of the gate.
We don't have to put in every piece of information that we're going to have, but we definitely want to put in at least enough information to get our records created. For this particular intake form, I have a section here specific for case info. This is basic case info. As you scroll down, you can see that I also have sections here for contact information, like my client's info. As we scroll down farther, we have contact information for our defense party. We also have contact information for opposing counsel, and then a section here for background on the case.
Now, depending upon the intake form that you utilize, this information that it's asking you for may vary. This was a civil litigation case. If I close out of that, and I go back to my intake form menu. Let's say we do a personal injury case, maybe like a vehicle accident or something like that. This intake form is going to look different because this is catered towards the personal injury area.
I'm going to have stuff in here like make and model of vehicle, and insurance policy information, passenger information, all of that good stuff. First thing you want to do is definitely make sure you become familiar with the intake forms that you have in your program. That's step one.
Then as you're looking over these intake forms, decide how you would tweak these intake forms to better suit your practice. Now I'm going to do a very basic intake form here. I'll do new case client plaintiff. This is a generic intake form that comes with all of the Abacus programs, just so you know.
I'll go ahead and I'll fill in this info, and I want you to watch me as I do this, as I work through this form. I'm not going to fill in every field just for times purposes, but I'll fill in a decent amount. I want you to watch what happens when I get done.
Okay. As you can see there, what I did was I just filled in basic information. Now, one thing you should know about these intake forms, if you editor in a name, first and last name, that already exists in your system, the program will actually catch that, and it will alert you to it.
It will say, "Hey. You know, Johnny Doe already exists as a contact. Do you want to add a person with the same name?" At that point, you can check to see if Johnny is a duplicate. Maybe you represented him in the past, or maybe they just coincidentally have the same name.
If you ever want to check that, you can always click to button right here that says "Use existing name" and that will run a check. What you can see is it actually found one that was pretty close. It saw the word Doe, and this was actually John Doe instead of Johnny Doe. This is our opportunity to look at this and say, "Are these the same people? Maybe he just goes by Johnny now." We can look at that personal information and make that decision. Just keep that in mind.
As we're filling out this information, you're going to fill in as much as you have, and then in the bottom right, when you click that button that says "Create records and close", what the system's going to do is it's going to work through your form. It's going to check for required fields.
Then it's going to pull up this window here that says, "Creating events from a rule." Now the rule that I have attached to this intake form is called the New Case rule. What my New Case rule entails are things like running conflict checks, creating the fee agreement, sending that fee agreement out, checking on the response to the fee agreement, setting up my general ledger, different things like that.
This is what I mean by calendar events that can be assigned to an intake form. That way when you fill the intake form out, not only is the system creating all the records, but it's also scheduling those priority new case events that have to be scheduled.
At this point I would say in response to, "Do you want the case events scheduled?" I would say, "Yes. I do." There we go. There are my one, two, three, four, five, six events that are going to get calendared. Notice the dates here that the system is going to put those on, just based off of my rule, and we'll talk about that in a sec.
I'm meeting with my client. I'm opening my billing account. I'm writing my conflict check. I'm sending my confirmation letter. I'm drafting my fee contract. These are six events that I don't need to worry about going to my calendar and creating. The program's going to automatically do that for me. That's why this is such a great feature.
When I click done here, not only have I setup my cases in Abacus Law, but I've also calendared the initial calendar event. And now, I'm actually able to enter in some default accounting information if you're utilizing our accounting program.
When I say accounting information I mean things like minimum retainer, that's operating minimum trust retainer, any prior balances. And then importantly here, the billing frequency and the billing mode. Is this an hourly case? Is this a flat fee case? Is this a contingency case? I get to choose all that.
Once I click done, that creates my case records and calendars my event, and sets my case up in accounting. My end result that I'm left with here is in my matters database, there's my case. Doe v Gates. If I open that up, what do I have here? I have a matter, that has basic information about the case.
Then if I go to my linked names tab, I have my contacts linked. Notice I have my client record created and linked, who also happens to be the billing party, the person picking up the bill. And then I've got my defendant linked as well. The name record for Mr. Gates here, is created as well. These are actual names records.
If I double click on Mr. Gates' record name here, that's going to actually open up that person's name record. It does all those records for me. Also, on our events tab, look at all of our events. We didn't have to go to the calendar and calendar any of those. The system did it for us.
I guess the moral of the intake story is, it's much easier to start your case using an intake form, than it is to go into each database and click the add button, and create your matter, and then go into the names database and click add and create all the names, and then have to remember to link them all together. You don't have to do that. That's the old way.
The new way is using the intake form so that the program does the work for you. Now if you want to tweak these intake forms, remember I said these are just templates that come with the program, or templates that come with your specialty versions.
If you want to tweak these, you can do that by going into your form manager. You get to your intake form manager by just going to file, setup, intake form manager. This is going to show you a list of all of your intake forms. You just need to choose the intake form that you're looking for. I'll do new contact form just for training purposes. You would just highlight it, click edit, and then inside of the wizard, you would just edit your fields and edit your records and things like that.
We actually do conduct training on customizing intake forms, so if you're interested in learning more on how to customize your intake forms, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can set that up for you.
But just so you know, that's how you get to the intake form manager. File, setup, intake form manager. About three quarters of the way down there. Now, the second part of that intake process that I said was very important, was the rules process. The scheduling of the rule.
It's important for you to know your rules anyway, whether you're utilizing them in the intake process, or you're just utilizing them on the calendar. If you need to access your rules and become familiar with the ones that you have, you want to go to file, setup, rules. This is your library of rules.
Everybody's rules list may be a little bit different. Again, it's going to depend on whether or not you've purchased local, federal, state rules from us, or if you've purchased any specialty versions like criminal defense, or PI, or family law. Everything varies depending upon the package that you have.
But what I would recommend, if you want to become familiar with your rules, just look for some of the new case rules, because these are the rules that are automatically assigned to your intake forms. For instance, that intake form that I showed you guys, that's the new case rule, right here that it utilizes, conveniently titled new case. If I want to edit this, or I want to see what this rule entails, just highlight it and click edit.
Here are all of your events associated with the rule. You can delete events out of this rule. You can add events to the rule. You can set up the appropriate intervals.
On day zero, when you meet with your client, if you always do an email follow-up with the client, 48 hours later, just to say, "Hey thanks for meeting with me." You can create an event in the rule that calendars that for you.
If you think about an SOL, if you look at one of these SOL rules, we don't want to find out about the expiration of the SOL on the day it expires. That would be pretty disastrous. What we want to have, is we want to have a rule setup for our SOLs, that have reminders leading up to that expiration date.
If you look here, we've got six month reminders, three month reminders, one month, seven days, one day. All leading up to that expiration date. These are all examples of the different rules that you can actually attach to those intake records.
I will leave you with this, before we get into your questions. Step one, you have to become familiar with the intake forms that you have, and you have to decide how would I edit these intake forms to be better suited to my practice? You got to do that by looking at the ones that you have, and then just making note of what fields would I add? What fields would I remove?
If you want to try that on your own, and we do have steps to do it inside of the reference guide. Check that. But you just go into file, setup, intake form manager, and that's where you edit your intake forms. For rules, got to become familiar with those too.
You just go to file, setup, rules, and that will show you all of the rules that you have with your program. You can add your own rules, or you can edit existing rules, and add things to them, or remove things that aren't needed. You got to become familiar with what you have installed in your program. Once you do that, and you have a good feel for what you're working with, now it's time to decide how would you tweak it to better suit your practice.
We can definitely train you on how to do that. Again, just shoot us an email email@example.com. We will get that scheduled for you. I'll go ahead and turn it over to Amanda. She's going to read off your questions. I'll do my best to answer as many as possible.
Thank you so much Scott. Our first question is from Sheri. She wants to know do you have staff or attorneys enter the intake form, or do clients enter their information?
The good news about that is that intake forms can be both internal and external. Every intake form that you see inside of your list can actually be turned into a web intake form. Here's my rule of thumb on that, I think you guys will all agree, if we're going to be putting the intake form on our website, in other words if we're going to be empowering the client, the potential client, to go to our website and fill in this information, we really need to try and keep it as simple as possible, because again, I think you'll agree, the more questions and legal-focused things that we put on that web form, the more confused the client ends up.
If you're looking to just get the client's contact information into your system, that's a great example of a new contact form that I would put on my website. But I wouldn't recommend putting a personal injury vehicle accident intake form, or at least not this one that has 300 fields on it. I wouldn't recommend putting this on my website and having the client fill it out, unless you're going to do it with them.
This would be more of one of those forms that you could potentially print out and maybe sit with the client, and do the intake form with them. Or print it, have them fill in as much information as possible, and then you can always go back later and fill in the information that you need.
The answer is really both. They can strictly internal, and also they can also be web-based. If you want more training on how to make them web-based, please let us know. We can show you how to do it. It's very easy.
Thank you Scott. Our next question is can you only implement rules from the intake form?
Absolutely not. That is just more of an efficiency feature for those new case rules that you're, like I said, those 10 things you always do when you take on a new case like running that conflict check, and drafting that fee agreement. Maybe even if it's a potential case, sending that non-rep letter.
When you are in your calendar, if you have your calendar open, you can always kick off a rule from your calendar, which is very common when we get trial dates, when the judge says, "Okay. First trial date is this day." What happens every time we get a trial date? We've got 100 things that we got to do before that. We got 50 things we got to do after.
Think about your civil procedure rules and stuff like that and your superior court rules. Those kind of things get kicked off directly from the calendar. You would just go to the kickoff date, whatever it may be, like the trial date, you can actually just right-click on your calendar and select add event from a rule.
That opens up that same rule menu that I showed you before. Civil litigation response, or civil trial date, I could use that rule right now and just go to the date that that civil trial is scheduled for. The system would calendar everything associated with that rule. Again, if you want to see those things just highlight the rule and click edit and it shows you.
I think the general rule though is, and this will make sense for anybody out there who has our rule packages, like our local rules and our civil procedure rules, you don't really want to edit those rules unless you're just adding additional reminders, because we do get those rules from the courts. Just keep that in mind.
But yeah, you can always kick a rule off directly from your calendar. It doesn't have to be from an intake.
Our next question is from Lani. She wants to know when I prepare an Abacus form, all of the information added in the intake form should automatically be inputted on the form. What if the case number does not appear even after entering it in the intake form?
If the case number, let's say we run through an intake form. There's different scenarios that that could occur in. It really depends on whether or not you manually enter your case numbers, or if you allow Abacus to auto generate your case numbers. You can see on my form, I don't have a field for case number, because I actually allow Abacus to auto generate my case numbers.
Which is, either way is fine. There's no wrong answer to that. But I will tell you this, if you have a field on your intake form for case number, and you're typing something in, and you are creating those records using that button on the bottom right. Then when you open up that matter record, you don't see a case number. That's a problem. That tells me that you don't have either case number or file number on that screen. That's a red flag to me.
I would double check that. If that is in fact the case, if you do not have a field on there that says file number or case number, please let us know. You can contact our support team and we will take a look at that and find out why. Perhaps somebody edited your screens, and removed that field, which I never recommend doing. We'd have to take a closer look at that.
But in theory, yeah, when you use an intake form, whether you're manually typing in the case number or even if the system's auto generating, that field should always show on the matter record once it's created.
Great. Our next question from Rochella is once a rule associated with an intake form is added to the calendar of the assigned attorney, how can we add it to additional firm member's calendars?
The cool thing is, is you can actually do that in the rule. Now, in that scenario, usually what ends up happening is, you know the primary person who's associated with the case, but you don't know what additional staff is going to work the case. We see this with medium to larger firms.
You know who the attorney is because that's what they always do. They always do real estate law, but you don't know who’s the support staff's going to be. If that's the case, what you can do is once the events are created, you can always go right into that matter and on that events tab, you have to option of just opening these events and adding additional people.
If I wanted to say like opening the billing account event, I could come in here and I can just adding the initials of additional people. Now, does that add some extra clicks for you? Certainly. If you know, let's say Sally the attorney always has these three staff members that work on her cases with her, then you could actually create a rule that has that built in.
Inside of my rules, I'm just going to choose a random one here and click edit, you will notice under the event details, there is a who button, a who field. In this who field, you can choose which who codes are always going to be associated with that step in the event.
For instance, if we look at this event right here. Let's say mail notice of deposition to client. Let's say there's only one person in our office that always mails out the depo. Then we can actually go into this step, click edit, go to our event details window or tab, and we can put that persons who code right here, right in there.
Now the system automatically assigns that event to that person, or maybe even to multiple people. You can choose multiple people. That's two ways you could do it. You'll really just have to find which way is more efficient for your internal workflow.
Great. Thank you. Scott we have time for one more quick question. Sheryl would like to know, does the Abacus calendar sync with MS Outlook?
Yeah, absolutely. We're compatible with, I believe it's all the way back to 2010 Outlook. As long as you have 2010 or newer, there should be no problem syncing whatsoever, including the new Office 365. If you're curious about setting that up, you're welcome to do so. We'll help you with that.
If you need us to set it up for you, we can do that. But the way you can check to see if yours is setup to sync, is by going to file, setup, user preferences. You'll notice in the user preferences window, there's a little tab that says, "Printing/Email." In the bottom right, there's a section that says, "Email program."
Now, I know it says "Email program", and you're asking about the calendar, but Outlook is primarily an email program, so that's why it says that. But you would basically just use MS Outlook, and then click setup. Then you'll notice a checkbox there that says "Enable Outlook Sync".
Now obviously for this to happen, you have to have Outlook installed on your computer, so that Abacus can interact with it. You have the ability to sync at different intervals. Five minutes is about as close to real time as we can get you. That's still very, very quick.
You can utilize that feature to set that up so that it syncs back and forth. Here's my general rule, my tip that I tell everybody during training, you purchased Abacus to be a case management tool. That includes your calendar. We're in the legal industry. We live and die by our calendar. You should always make, even if you are syncing to Outlook, you should always make the Abacus calendar your primary point of data entry as much as possible.
Now I understand there are going to be times when you're out of office and maybe you don't have our Abacus private cloud, so you can't access the program from anywhere, and you have to enter it may be on your phone or directly in your Outlook. That's okay. It's not the end of the world.
But you just want to remember don't then get back to your office and enter it into Abacus, because you're going to end up with a duplicate. So always try and make Abacus your primary point of data entry, and then have it sync over to Outlook.
The short answer to your question is yes. We're totally compatible with Microsoft Outlook.