What is AbacusLaw, and how does it work to improve your practice? How can it make your life easier? We know that you have a lot on your plate, and we want to answer your questions now. So we have Tomas Suros, our Chief Solutions Architect, here to introduce AbacusLaw.
Hi, everyone! Welcome to the AbacusLaw and Accounting overview, one of our Free Training Friday webinars. I appreciate everyone being here today. This session will be recorded and made available to you later, and we have about a half hour ahead of us today to cover core functionality, the feature set, workflow automation, all within AbacusLaw and Abacus Accounting.
In the next 20 minutes, I'll do a high-level overview of the core features. The program was designed to give a lot of control over your data and access to a nice, organized case file. You will also be able to have control and organization of your data from the beginning of the case, including how you can create it, assemble it, and you can manage it through the entire lifecycle. It can also help you anticipate and manage all the ups and downs you or your clients might encounter while always providing access to controls within the system, understanding that roles and responsibilities within the firm can vary AbacusLaw can be configured to match your needs with an overall view of capturing information for each case in a pertinent way, with proactive reminders and expenses, including CDs and costs, and things like that. Generating an invoice when- and as-needed becomes a nice, intuitive process.
But getting back to it: We'll do that for about 20 minutes and then I'll have a Q&A at then end. The Q&A in your webinar control is the section that you can enter questions and those will go directly to me, and I will take those as they arrive.
Just to introduce myself, my name is Tomas. I am the Chief Solutions Architect for practice automation here at Abacus. I've been with the company for over ten years and I'm familiar with all the AbacusLaw program and accounting, but the capabilities it has to be customized for the need of specific firms. With that said, I'll get started.
We're now looking on screen at the AbacusLaw case management system. You'll notice we use the tag, 'practice automation.' What this really means to me is helping firms automate the administrative steps that are necessary to capture the right information in the right format. Then have that information at your fingertips and then be able to use that information. Whether it's populating a document or creating a report, that shows you the specific activity that you, based on your role at the firm need to perform that day. All the while being able to capture your time while performing those steps
The time capture capability is important because that information is stored in the accounting side of AbacusLaw and available to you to generate invoices in the least amount of time. With the program, you can get invoices out in a nice professional way, so you can start tracking incoming payments and really manage both the financial component of the firm, as well as the day-to-day information management and time management components.
The first thing I'll touch on in the concept of practice automation is the intake process. Intake forms can be designed for any type of law. You'll notice that my list here in this demo environment has a lot of different types of law. These are, in many ways, connected to the practice area legal solutions that AbacusLaw offers. The advantage being a firm can start with AbacusLaw and then select the pals that match.
Let’s use an example: In my list, I could select an intake form for litigation case. I select that intake form and it presents to me a series of fields. These fields go into AbacusLaw in a very specific way:
The goal of the intake form is to help you start at the top and enter your information in a consistent way. Both case information about the matter itself and important dates, so you can start to establish this case's chronology. As you work your way down, I'm now entering information about a contact record.
I can be on the phone, I can be across the desk, I can actually include these in a web page, but the goal being that I capture information in a logical flow, and it makes sense to me. In reality, it's more than just data entry. Data capture clearly is important, and the form and layout helps me ensure that happens. But the next layer is both notification and assignment of next steps.
Where do we do that? We build in a calendar rule. Ill touch on that in a little more detail, but if we're on the intake form the concept is during the data entry process, I can automatically (or as needed) assign both this case to an attorney in staff as well as next steps on the calendar. That becomes an automated and efficient process. I can simply select the individuals who will receive the notification and maybe task assignments, I click done, and I continue with the data capture.
What I've done is presented a scenario where those individuals will receive a notification of this brand-new case and what they need to do today, tomorrow and any deadlines that may be projected months or even a year in advance. That becomes an automated way to keep track of dates and tasks, assign them to the right individuals, and have that be part of the case assembly process. As I mentioned, what the number of contact records you might add to an intake form, the type of information you capture, is a flexible process. They're designed to work in the system, with the real goal being to create an intake process that matches your needs and apply it consistently across the case or organization.
Notice there's a timer here. This is your ability to capture time for the case assembly process. Whether it's for productivity tracking or potentially to create that as a billable activity, it could become a line item in the fee section of an invoice generated for this brand new client. The real goal being that you select an intake form that matches that type of case. You complete it either with the client or on the phone, or as you assemble the information you need, track your time, and when you're ready you click “create records” and close. Then AbacusLaw gets to work creating the case file, the contact records for all those necessary parties, and associating them in a meaningful way. You know who the client is and that they're a plaintiff, you know who opposing council, and you know the experts and the cast of characters that you may need. The intake helps facilitate that
I click that button then I know calendar activities are initiated, deadlines are being tracked instantly and the right information goes into the system in the right format. That's case assembly in a nutshell. You select the intake form that matches and it then populates your AbacusLaw system with information specific to that new case.
The next thing I'll touch on quick on the calendar button. It's a core function of the program, not only because it helps you view your calendar a week or a month or anyone else's calendar that you may need to view, either because your helping them manage that or you're working, collaborating with them, looking for meeting times and things like that.
The calendar also breaks out your timed appointments across all the cases and activities you may be doing today, including deadlines, reminders, and tasks. The AbacusLaw calendar, it does synchronize behind the scenes with Outlook. Both contacts and calendar can be synchronized so you have a lot of different ways of kind of making sure that you're seeing your calendar information in real time. Also, a core differentiator of the calendar in AbacusLaw is the ability to not just add a single event for yourself, but add events from a rule. Rule-based calendaring is important in AbacusLaw.
I touched on this with the intake, but the rules in AbacusLaw are your ability to use a standard set of steps and create a workflow. You create that process and then you apply it when needed and as needed on a case-by-case basis. Rules give you the ability to add court deadlines and the discovery deadlines, if necessary.
For a single case or multiple cases, you can track incoming and outgoing discovery based on standardized events. Whether they are activities, reminders, tasks, deadlines, or anything else, you can track all of the events in a single step.
Let's take a look at an example of a rule. The rule can have any number of steps within it, including:
I like these shortcuts because you can have a workflow. Let’s say we’re looking at something with 18 steps. I know from Step 1 to Step 18 will be the period.
However, people need to reschedule meetings when the unexpected occurs. If a reschedule happens, and there's a trigger event, I can go to it, reschedule that trigger event, and because of the established relative connections, Abacus will automatically reschedule the corresponding events. Whether they're reminders before hand let's say, or follow up steps after. That kind of subset of events that are interrelated will automatically be managed in the AbacusLaw calendar because of those relative connections
There's a way for you to standardize the sequence of steps and then apply them consistently on the the calendar and then individually in the firm. Of course, I can extract reports to show upcoming deadlines, and/or reminders for important tasks that need to happen, or appointments that need to be attended, all the different things that a firm needs to manage on a regular basis.
That's rules-based calendaring. That's an important core component of the AbacusLaw calendar. Your rules are just that: they are rules that match court activities and deadlines or procedures within your jurisdiction. You can get those from Abacus, including updates as those rules may be updated. Then at any time within AbacusLaw, you can also create intrafirm rules, your processes and procedures, your best practices that your familiar with.
You have the tools in AbacusLaw to create rules, build them into the calendar, use them when needed, and design them into your intake forms. The real goal being to automate the steps that you know need to happen on a regular and specific time frame, then apply those consistently. There are efficiencies to be gained and there's that peace of mind knowing that deadlines won't sneak up on you. Any modifications that need to happen will not only go on the calendar, but notifications and updates will be available to everybody who's responsible for performing the steps within a rule, and all the actives that might be updated with that rule
That's rules-based calendaring, that's a core-based feature of the Abacus program. It ties in nicely with the kind of data intake process with the intake form, and of course I can pull up my organizer and see it in Abacus, make the changes I need, make sure I have real time access to my calendar information and then share that with others or with myself via the synchronization tool with outlook.
The next thing I'll take a look at is the matters. I click on matters button up here. This is a list of all the cases that are being handled by the firm. I have keyword searching within them. I can quickly sort, the real goal being to have quick access to any of the files, or any of the cases that are open and ongoing.
Let’s look at a litigation file. Because it's a litigation case, I can control how the information is displayed on the screen. I call that out because on a case-by-case basis there's so many variances between what information is pertinent and what information I need to access. Within the same system I can move to a case of a very different type, case happens to be a family law divorce or dissolution of marriage case. You'll notice that fields are presented on my screen, and in which order, and how they're organized can vary. The real goal of AbacusLaw is to help a firm manage any type of case. Period.
We're building on the concept of starting with the right information, moving to an interface that shows you that information, and then in a nice, organized, and accessible way having notes and linked names, which are the cast of characters pertinent to this type of case available to me.
If I click on events here, the calendar events we are tracking are on everyone's calendar in the same system. I go to the case file, and the events tab shows me just the events for this case. Maybe this a nice location to point out the billing button here, which is the integrated billing, and the dollar sign column, which gives you visual references of which types of events specifically have been billed, or maybe which ones have not yet been billed.
Pulling up a case file gives you the ability to check on a status of what has been done, what needs to be done, and what I need to do next. This is the case file giving you a status update on this case without needing to track down individuals and ask them where this or that is, that case all becomes that case assembled with all the information that's pertinent to it and updates, what's next, what’s happening, who did what when, and who billed for it.
I think document controls becomes important because hundreds of documents can be collected and organized for a case. Being able to do a keyword search by topic or name helps you find the document you're looking for, I can drag and drop documents on here, I can use the forms library in Abacus to automatically generate Word, Word Perfect, Excel, and PDFs of the court forms.
By “assemble” I mean we can take information that's captured in AbacusLaw and insert it into a document template that then can be stored, organized, and accessed via the Docs Tab for the case in question. It's a nice way of consolidating and getting access to all the different documents that you'll capture and store.
Also, let’s touch on email management.
My inbox in Outlook has my messages and my colleagues has their messages. We are collaborating on the same cases but I don't necessarily have access to your email messages. That's a concern of a lot of our clients. Emails in AbacusLaw can be brought in and consolidated with the case file.
You can also capture time and the content of the email in the same place. I can double click on a previously stored message to pull up not only the content but also view its formatting. Then, I can reply or forward it to another party. The advantage begins that I have access to both the information contained within it and going forward I can act on it. It's not just read only access, but I can reply or forward even if I want the original recipient.
I will quickly show you in outlook kind of a corresponding to our buttons. Via the outlook adds in I can take incommoding messages and their attachments and very quickly link them to the appropriate case and client in Abacus. That means that my inbox is no longer just my information, instead the pertinent messages stored in my inbox but then quickly become records stored with the case file and available to anyone in the firm
That's the overall concepts. To review:
That said, that's kind of a high level quick overview of how you capture case information, how you access it, how it's nicely organized and how the information on your case files is not only accessible to everybody in the firm who needs access to it and have the permissions to do so, but also available to kind of output. If you're automating calendar reminders and activities, you're also automating potentially how that information is then used as you assemble and create documents going forward.
You'll also notice, and this is kind of a quick shift over the billing and accounting component of AbacusLaw. If I click on billing I quickly have a new set of controls.
The matters list is consistent. We saw this on the case management side of things. You're not updating the same records in two different systems, which a lot of firms are doing now. Instead, AbacusLaw offers an integrated system, where your case files are also available to you on the accounting side.
Where that client's preference for receiving the invoice, and the format, how the firm wants that invoice to appear, what information is contained, your time keeper hierarchy, and even kind of the billing mode, is it hourly, flat fee or combination, or on a schedule, or is it contingency. The Abacus accounting system is flexible. So on a case-by-case basis, the client's needs and billing is nicely organized.
You can set up your matters once, you certainty can accept credit card information as for payments as a lot of our clients are benefiting from the quick turnaround time that our accounts receivable agent is alleviated in many ways, or improved being able to accept ECH payments and all major credits.
In accounting, your billing, your ability to create your pre bills as a batch process, and then validate, verify them, make the changes, add anything that's missing. You then create your actual bills. If you're thinking pre bills, actual bills, you establish the criteria for billing run, you then add those matching cases to that run and then on a client's preference or a case type, kind of setting, your invoices are generated in an efficient way
They're emailed out automatically, they're sent to the printer, in many ways you can get to the point where the staff is very close to the case file, performing the steps they need to do, tracking their time and billing for it.
Now on the “back office” component of AbacusLaw, the accounting side is keeping track of it, making sure that your bills are sent out on time and in a consistent and efficient process. And once that post is done, I know my cash flow and I know my aging report. I can very quickly identify clients or invoices that are either overdue or at risk. It's a nice way to make sure within one system I have visibility, both into the financials of the firm, short term, and long term, as well as on the front office side of things
My staff knows how to find the information they need, how to provide client services, how to make the right kind of communication, and receive notifications within the program of all the things that need to happen during the life cycle of the case with variances understood and expected and kind of supported. Where one case and it's life cycle, whether long or short, is managed in the same system where cases of multiple types can reside side by side.
Trust accounting is another important aspect. If billing is the first component, trust accounting is the second component. Where one or more trust accounts can be created and managed within Abacus, you certainty can add your deposits as retainers come in, you can write checks against trust accounts and you can rest easy knowing that AbacusLaw as a system has tools built in to help you reconcile those trust accounts. Making sure money is going the correct way, making sure they're handled in the correct way. Even online banking, so you could take your online banking transaction if they were trust accounts, bring that down, have Abacus kind of match entry, show you any entries that are orphaned or mismatched and then the reconciliation process. Making sure your trust accounts are accurate to the penny in balance becomes an intuitive way with tools built into Abacus to help you do that.
Then of course trust reports, like many of the other components of Abacus, because it's an integrated system, you have the ability to pull up reports and generate or have access to that information in a meaningful way. Your billing, your trust accounting, and your accounts payable. You're able to pay your bills to vendors and pass those expenses onto specific cases as needed. Your general ledger truly gives you the accounting aspect, where you don't need an accounting program that was written or that has tools for all businesses. Instead within AbacusLaw, with it's accounting you have a law firm specific general ledger base accounting system. Your ability to reconcile all of your accounts, and enter journal entries, and create reports with journal activity, and have access to your balance sheet and your cash flow reports, and your profit and loss, and income and expense statement. That's exactly how the AbacusLaw accounting program gives you those tools in the same system that you would use to track productivity and know where individual time keepers are, versus budget
It give you all of that kind of granular financial information, understanding that you have access to it because AbacusLaw on the front office side of things tracks who does what when, and on the back office side knows who has billed for what, which clients have paid, and you have a firm understanding of exactly where the firm is from a financial standpoint in seconds. I can preview a balance sheet and very quickly have that report at my fingertips. I can pay other things. These reports can be customized. The real goal is to make sure that at your fingertips you have the information you need to manage the firms financials as well as on a day to day basis what needs to happen on a client and case basis.
A few minutes over time here, but I'm gonna move to the questions section and I appreciate that there are quite a few questions that have come up.
Q: The question from Steven, "Where are the documents actually stored and can they be accessed through Windows Explorer"?
A: It's a great question, and the answer is yes, absolutely because what we do in AbacusLaw is we create a symbolic link from a case file or the client records let's say to that electronic file, where it resides on your system. There are controls and kind of configurations within AbacusLaw to help these standardize that.
You do want a centralized location for all your documents that's helpful for backup purposed and just for consistency. The documents are stored where you have stored them in your system. Either through AbacusLaw or by placing them in a client folder, that's where the case folder and the correspondent sub folder. They reside there. The electronic file resides where you placed it. The symbolic link from the case file gives you quick access to it with a search capability across all of those linked documents
Q: Does the AbacusLaw software include a contact management similar to sales force?
A: That's a good question from Anthony. It does. The names database in AbacusLaw is exactly what you're asking about. This is kind the CRM component, where your clients and contact information can be entered. You have quick access to their information and the relational databases. A client record one can be linked to any number of matter records, or judge in the same game can be linked to any number of matter records. It's really not a one-to-one match. You have a contact from multiple cases and a case with multiple contacts attached. That relational aspect one, helps you organize the information but also means should you need to update an email address on a contact record. That update is then available to you regardless of which case you're on, that kind of reference is the contact.
Then you mentioned kind of sales force. AbacusLaw actually does have an integration with the sales force, if you're using that as kind of your lead or prospect management tool, but also built into it is a full CRM system. So that your client and the ability to maybe reach out via a newsletter, or send holiday greetings or something like that. I do have those CRM functions, where you're tracking maybe a referral, how clients are coming to the firm, or getting a profile, either demographics or understanding clients and how you might be able to generate or keep business, or even kind of refer business. There are tools but into AbacusLaw that helps you track information as needed just for contacts, but then can also kind of build up that functionality and capture additional data points on a contact by contact basis. Which then help you run reports or generate lists, so you can do some of the other contact management or CRM higher level functions. Good question
Then the follow up with Anthony, "Is there an additional fee?" No there's not an additional fee. The calendar, and the contacts, and the matters as well as the accounting back end and document and email management. Those are the core components of AbacusLaw and support for the software is all part of the fee that you pay to use that software. There are no hidden fees. That's a good question. We don't break out components of the software. You let us know what it is that you need and as part of the proposal for AbacusLaw we itemize and break down exactly what's included so you know. You have a piece of mind knowing I will have the tools I need within AbacusLaw to use it in the best way that will help me manage the firm. Okay?
Q: There is a question from Tyler, "Is the software available purchased out right and or is it only kind of a monthly subscription?"
A: Good question Tyler. We moved away from the widget model, where you would actually buy a license to the software and then the next time there was an update you would be forced to kind of make the decision do I re-up, do I buy my license again, that kind of thing. We moved away from that model. What we offer is a subscription to the software. We think that's a better model. One it helps you get up and running right away. You know exactly what kind of a monthly ... The monthly fee will be and go forward all updates and support and the components that really make your use of the software that much more viable, it's included. You know you'll always be using the latest version and you'll have access to enhancements as they come out.
Q: Debbie had a good question, "Can you run reports to show statute of limitation?"
A: The quick answer to that is yes. Think of it as a date field, either in the calendar or on the matter record itself. That date, let's say it's two years out in the future is the statute of limitation, because AbacusLaw knows records of this type have that date field, so we know that the actual date for our cases so you don't want to be time barred, you want to make sure that you have awareness of all cases that are even nearing a deadline date. Whether the settlement negotiations are ongoing, there's a number different factors, but clearly, you want to be aware of it. The short answer is you can create a report that basically shows you cases that have a value in the statute of limitations field. One of the ways that I've done it is, it is within three months. Or simply give me alerts when we're six months out and then three moths out, and then as we get closer maybe escalating alerts. Where maybe there'd be an email that I receive or a pop up on screen.
Q: Do you have a cloud version or do I host AbacusLaw onsite?
A: Great question. We do offer the Abacus Private Cloud (APC). In essence, all the core features and functionalities that we covered today are available to you in your firm's private cloud. That's only worth a further conversation into a little bit more depth, but the short answer is absolutely. You don't need to buy a brand new server for the firm, or replace your existing server or rely on an outside IT company to do day to day security and maintenance and updates and things like that
APC offers you AbacusLaw in a hosted environment. The advantage being, you don't need a server at the firm anymore. In fact, it becomes whatever device you prefer to use -- whether it's a laptop, a desktop, a mac, a windows machine -- you use to access your private cloud. I can be sitting at the next desk with someone at the firm. We are both using AbacusLaw on the private cloud, or my colleague there could be traveling in New York or in New Orleans, or even internationally, and they have the same access to the private cloud environment, then they have the same AbacusLaw software and we can communicate and collaborate in the same way
In some ways, it virtualizes your firm. The AbacusLaw system and the documents we store and the other programs we may use for their specific strength. Taking that and hosting it into an environment that I have 24/7 access to support through AbacusLaw as the vendor of both systems and the security peace of mind knowing the system is managed and maintained for me. The hardware aspect becomes no longer a capital expenditure, it's more of an operating expense which can help a lot of firms. Understand that future proofing your IT and your hardware -- and even the software you use going with that kind of paradigm or that model is a nice way to one -- helps you day to day. And you still have access to the powerful features of AbacusLaw, but in a hosted environment where you shift the IT burden -- and the security expertise and a lot of those components that are not at your core competency – to someone else so you can focus on practicing law.
Moving to a hosted environment like AbacusLaw private cloud give you that solution along with the software and one number to call so that you know that AbacusLaw agent is here 24/7 to support the software and the added user, and to support the storage capacity, and to answer any questions that you may have to make sure you're getting the most return on the investment of technology that is really being leveraged to help you manage and provide the best services to your clients.
Q: Will this software replace Amicus Attorney?
A: It's a good question. Amicus has it's core features and functionality and AbacusLaw has it's core features and functionalities. The advantage I think from our perspective is we offer both. As a user of the system, if you are looking at both, you are in advantageous position so you can select the one that makes the most sense for you based on it's core features and how you would use it. Does it replace amicus? Not necessarily.
In essence, you have more opportunity to select a flexible solution that matches your need. If you are using Amicus you certainly can continue. Or if you're selecting between the two you can pick the one that makes the most sense. Same thing. If you look at AbacusLaw and you see core features that make more sense for your firm today or Amicus in the same way, you let us know. We offer both programs, they're both available in the private cloud kind of hosted environment.
With that, I am going to wrap today up. Please come back, and reach out and let us know if there are any other questions that you have. We're here to answer those questions and make sure we give you information to help you make an informed decision, whether this is a robust solution that will help you out. I appreciate it. Let's talk soon. Thanks. Take care!