Managing Your Practice
What? Me Worry?
Finding the right case management software
By Dee Crocker
Are you having problems keeping appointments and deadlines? Do you spend hours reviewing files to determine their status? Would you like to be able to generate letters without having to look up addresses? Perhaps the answer you are looking for is case management software, also known as CMS or case management programs. CMS programs integrate your calendar, to do list, contact list, case/matter, documents, billing, phone calls and e-mail functions by eliminating the need to enter information more than once and increasing the speed of work done, while reducing costs. They can also significantly enhance the quality of your work. They contain built-in logic and expertise that assist the lawyer through the steps of a process, integrate facts and law into effective strategies, help to produce the necessary documents and keep track of deadlines. A case management program that is properly designed and well matched to the needs of a given law practice is a critical practice management tool.
A well-designed case management program should provide the following features:
- Complete data about the law firm's cases, including all contacts (clients, attorneys, witnesses, etc.), matters, courts, assignments to be completed, and calendar information in a single relational database that is easily accessible to everyone in the firm.
- A method for tracking work performed, time spent and costs incurred on each matter.
- Document assembly capabilities utilizing the available data.
- Checklists that enable lawyers to perform all steps necessary in the handling of a matter, including interviews, document production and document filing.
- Ability to monitor communications among lawyers and staff and allow sharing of documents and information.
- Reporting features that keep track of work to be done, work completed, case status and advice given.
These programs make it easier to manage a case because all relevant case information is in one place that is easy and fast to access.
LOOK AT TIMEMATTERS
Case management programs available for the legal market range from simple databases to custom-designed applications. One of today's most popular ready-made programs is TimeMatters, a product of DATA.TXT Corporation. TimeMatters has won the TechnoLawyer Readers' Choice '@' Award for favorite case management system (four years in a row), and Law Office Computing magazine's Reader's Choice Award for Case Management (three years in a row).
TimeMatters 3.0 is a 32 bit version and is designed to operate on computers that are using Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, or Windows 2000. The Enterprise Edition uses the Microsoft SQL Server 7 databases engine, which utilizes the latest client server technology. Installing the basic TimeMatters program on your computer makes no changes to the Windows Registry or other system files, including 'autoexec.bat,' 'config.sys,' or 'system.ini.' The Personal Edition links with the PalmPilot, Microsoft Word (versions 6, 7, 97 and 2000), and Corel WordPerfect (7, 8 and 9). The Professional Edition links with HotDocs (version 4.0a or later), PaperPort Deluxe (32 bit), PCLaw (release 3.20 or later), QuickBooks (version 5 or later) and Timeslips (versions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 10.5). A training mode is also installed which includes sample files that allow you to move around the program and enter sample data to see how the various features work.
TimeMatters allows you to view and access everyone's calendar in real time through the network (subject to security rights and audit tracking). You can create group calendars, including the whole firm or just your workgroup. Colors, format and which fields appear are customizable. The number of days displayed can also be customized by each user. You can create 3-day, 5-day, 7-day and 14-day views in addition to daily, weekly and monthly views. You can view the schedules of various staff, group or resource names, by simply clicking on the group. By selecting multiple entities, you can view all of their schedules collectively on one calendar. Since new tasks can be entered directly on the calendars, you can open a daily calendar and select two staff members and a conference room to display; then find a time that is available for both staff members and the conference room and schedule a meeting for this time. This ability to see so many calendars in one place can save tremendous amounts of time in scheduling.
To Dos that follow you until they are done, alarms that appear anywhere in Windows, reminders that can notify you by e-mail, and alerts that look for inactivity on matters are just a few of the tools TimeMatters utilizes to make sure you get your work done. The alerts and reminders screen can be set to automatically open each time you log in to TimeMatters. This screen can display any date-sensitive record for you or any other person or resource in the office. This screen displays records that are actually scheduled for the selected date, as well as any reminders that happen to fall on this date. Reminders can be created for many days before any scheduled event and are useful for warning you of upcoming tasks that may require special preparation. As tasks are completed, they can be marked 'done' directly on this list.
TimeMatters' date calculator automatically calculates dates and deadlines according to business, contractual, legal and statutory criteria. The date and deadline calculator will help you accurately calculate the number of days, weeks, months, quarters or years between two dates. The date calculator works in either direction, where two dates are known and you want to know how long it is between them, or where a start date is known and you want to know what date is a specific number or day, weeks or months away. The calculations can also be set to ignore or to count weekends and/or legal holidays. If the date lands on one of these special days, then the calculations can be moved to the prior, next or closer workday.
A routine series of events, to do's, phone calls, preparation of documents, etc. can be entered in a schedule template. Then the next time a similar routine occurs, you simply select the schedule template, enter the client or matter, and the entire series of requirements are scheduled automatically, creating a chain of tasks and activities. If any part of the schedule changes along the way, the remaining parts of the schedule can be updated automatically. Virtually all office activities can be included in a schedule template to prevent scheduling oversights.
Triggers are used to automate future tasks. A trigger is a flexible set of procedures ensuring that when one thing happens, something else will happen automatically. For example, when the 'Done' field gets checked, a message might be sent a to staff member to close the file. Another example would be when a contact becomes a client, a retainer agreement is automatically set to be prepared through TimeMatters' document automation features. Triggers can be created for any of the TimeMatters record types, and filters can be used to control which of the records are affected by the individual triggers.
AND CONTACT MANAGEMENT
See events, to dos, contacts (including related parties), matter/case/project information, custom data forms, notes, documents, phone calls, e-mail, mail, web research, billing and expense and even timeline (chrono file) information for each client in one place. You can simply click on any of the tabs along the top of the record to see the information. For example, if you click on the billing tab, you will see a display of all billing records for the contact. All of the contact records are stored in a list format that can be sorted, filtered, searched and processed. All tabs, field labels, filters, sorts, lists, etc. are completely customizable to your preferences and type of practice.
TimeMatters has a unique conflict checking system that allows you to search all records, calendars, to-dos, contacts, matters, phone calls, e-mail, notes, etc. at one time. In one easy search you can easily see if anyone has had any contact with a person. With new advanced options such as keyword indexing, sounds-like searches and a wizard-driven interface, a search quickly and thoroughly gives you notice of any potential conflict of interest. The search results screen displays results from all record types, both active and inactive, sorted by record type, and the full contents of any displayed records are instantly accessible by double-clicking on the record.
TimeMatters is the only e-mail system you need for office and Internet e-mail. The TimeMatters 'inbox' can send and receive its own TM mail, plus MAPI compliant e-mail, such as Outlook, GroupWise, Netscape, etc. and Internet mail. Incoming and outgoing e-mail can be listed under the client and/or matter records, instead of a folder in your 'inbox.'
TimeMatters includes a complete phone call tracking system. You can track the duration and content of incoming and outgoing calls. You can list these phone call records for the whole firm or under each client/contact or matter/case/project. The phone call tracking system comes complete with a timer that can directly generate a billing slip. If you have a modem or a TAPI dialer capable phone system, TimeMatters will dial the number directly from the record, start the timer and open a note to track your call.
FEATURES AND PRICING
Other features included in TimeMatters include spell checking, document automation, synchronization between your office computer and your laptop, alarms, backup and restore, keyword indexing, security by client/user/record/file and internal instant messaging. TimeMatters converts data from Amicus, Abacus, ACT!, Goldmine, Timeslips, PC Law and Outlook.
TimeMatters is available in four editions: Personal, Professional, Enterprise and World. The differences between the editions are the features that have been activated. The Personal Edition is for the lawyer who needs time, information, billing and communication management but doesn't need networking and links to other software. It is designed for single users only and costs $150. The Professional Edition includes all the features of the personal edition plus networking capabilities and links to billing, document automation, personal information management and Palm computing devices. It is designed for 2 to 200 users in peer-to-peer dedicated server environments and costs $350 for the first user and $150 for each additional user. The Enterprise Edition is designed for large networks or small networks with large databases and uses the Microsoft SQL Server Version 7 or 2000 database engine. It has all the same features as the Professional Edition, but is an ultra-fast program. Designed for 2 to 2,000 users, it costs $1,000 for the first user and $400 for each additional user. The World Edition, which will be available in July 2001, has all the same features as the Enterprise Edition, and includes special Internet capabilities, including a browser version of TimeMatters.
TimeMatters is not the only program of its type available for lawyers, but it is certainly one of the best. For more information about TimeMatters, contact DATA.TXT at (800) 496-3618, or visit their web site at www.timematters.com. +
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dee Crocker is a practice management advisor for the Professional Liability Fund. If you would like free and confidential assistance with your office systems, call the PLF at (800) 452-1639 or (503) 639-6911 .