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Managing and Automating Your Documents

Legal documents take many different forms. Some are very simple and others are massively complex. In either case, your documents reflect:

  • Your professionalism.
  • The consistency of your firm’s service.
  • The quality of your legal expertise.

 

It is important to examine the production of your documents from two distinct perspectives:

  1. The expertise that goes into drafting these documents is clearly very important. You have trained for years to differentiate yourself and the expertise that you express via these documents is what makes you a better attorney than your opposition.
  2. The efficiency with which you apply your expertise and the service that you give to your clients as a result of better efficiency.

 

The trick is to apply efficiency without compromising the quality of the final result. I can think of no other possible enabler for this “goal” than smart technology. Korbitec has been at the forefront of legal document automation for many years and we have applied this expertise to our Practice Management product, GhostPractice.

 

Why Automate?

 While it is not always possible to automate every document, there are certain principles that need to be observed with regards to automation of documents:

  1. You want the format; wording as well as the general look and feel of all your documents to be consistent. The documents you send out are part and parcel of your “corporate identity”. You do not want lower level staff sending out documents that do not accurately reflect your corporate values, expertise and professionalism.
  2. The more “manual” drafting that occurs, the easier it is to depart from your standard look and feel. So while in some cases a document needs to be drafted virtually from scratch, there is always a header; footer; logo or standard preamble which can frame the document and preserve the fonts; styles and general formatting.
  3. Where appropriate, you want to automate documents completely and know that they are produced efficiently, but in your format (this would apply to pleadings; rules and notices; standard letters and the like).

When we were designing and building GhostPractice, we noticed (on researching competitor products) that certain of the legacy products in the market, provided ready-to-go sets of documents for key functional areas. On closer inspection, we came to the conclusion that very few of the law firms using these legacy products actually used the “document sets”. In cases where firms were using the “document sets” we found that they usually only used a few of the documents and did the others themselves in Microsoft Word.

After much thought we elected to come up with a totally unique solution.[1] We would allow firms to take documents that they have perfected themselves over time and link them to GhostPractice. This would allow our customers to integrate the automation and management of all documents into the Practice Management system (GhostPractice). Anyone who has tried to run different software solutions for different needs in the business will understand the frustration in running such a disjointed solution in their business. For this reason, combining our Document and Automation with our GhostPractice Management System made perfect sense.

 

Document Management and Matter Centricity

There is also no point in automating documents if you cannot manage them effectively with a minimum of effort. It is important to eliminate duplication from this process as it is severely repetitive and everyone in the practice is constantly working with documents!

Instead of having to create client folders on your computer or your server and then having everyone remember to store documents and emails in the appropriate folder, we felt it would be far more sensible to link everything that happens to the appropriate matter. That way, if you look at a matter on your practice management system, you should be able to view and access (from one screen):

 

  • All emails; documents; faxes; scanned images.
  • All fees; notes.
  • All invoices; statements; receipts and payments

 

In short, everything that could possibly pertain to that matter! Nothing is difficult to find:

  • No searching through client folders.
    • Then having to search through your email inbox; sent items; archived items….
      • Then having to go through your accounts system
        • Then having to thumb through the physical file

 

  • Finally putting the whole picture together before you have found what you needed.

 

Imagine how easy your life will become, if anytime you looked at a particular matter, you could see everything to do with that matter!!

Now let’s go through a series of step-by-step “day in the life” scenarios of anyone using GhostPractice to Automate and Manage Documents:

 

Scenario One: Producing a Standard Letter

  1. You enter a matter number or select a matter on your Diary or search for it by name if it is not on your diary (and you don’t know the matter number).
  2. You realise that the next step is to send a letter to the client updating him/her of the latest progress and further requirements.
  3. From the diary screen you select “Letter to Client”.
  4. A standard letterhead document pops up in Microsoft Word and inserts the clients details into the appropriate “Fill Points” in the letter.
  5. You complete the letter and Save it.
  6. GhostPractice prompts you to bill for the letter based on how the matter was set up (so you will be asked for the time; folios or pages as the case may be).
  7. A copy of the letter has already been saved into the matter folder.

 

Scenario Two: Producing Collections Documents

  1. You receive 50 new instructions from one of your key clients.
  2. You import the instructions from the spreadsheet your client sent you.
  3. All 50 debtors are open on your diary in a matter of minutes, with all the information captured and updated from the spreadsheet…automatically!
  4. You select all 50 debtors and produce 50 letters of demand in one click! All fees are captured automatically against the respective debtors and clients.
  5. You select all 50 debtors and “Bulk Diarise” them for 14 days time.
  6. You move onto a debtor that has not responded to a letter of demand sent 14 days ago and choose Summons. A screen pops up asking you to fill in information that you have not yet been prompted to capture (Court; District etc).
  7. Click one button to generate the summons; the appropriate fee is automatically recorded (even the scale is automatic based on the capital).

 

Scenario Three: Client calls in to ask a series of questions

  1. You search for the matter by name and go to Transaction History.
  2. The client mentions that he sent you a mail sometime in January of this year and has lost his copy. He knows that you replied and cannot find that either.
  3. You change the filter to reflect transactions for January only.
  4. The two mails are reflected on the 14th and 17th January respectively. They are hyperlinked and attached to the matter.
  5. You click on the hyperlink’s and both mails pop up.
  6. You deal with the query and send copies of the mails to your client.
  7. GhostPractice prompts you to bill for the mails as you attach them from within Microsoft Outlook.

 

Scenario Four: You and two colleagues need to draft a complex document for a client

  1. Once you have the matter on your screen, you select “Custom Document”
  2. You choose the agreement/precedent that you have attached to GhostPractice as a “Master Template”.
  3. The agreement loads in Microsoft Word and fills in the basic details (parties names etc).
  4. You begin drafting for the next 30 minutes or so.
  5. You save the document, and GhostPractice stores it in the matter folder.
  6. You assign a task to one of the colleagues to please meet with the client to gather more information and draft the remainder of the document based on the discussions with the client.
  7. Your colleague picks up the document by looking in the matter folder under “Document Management”.
  8. Your colleague drafts the changes into the document and selects “Save As”.
  9. Both the new version of the document and all revision/audit trail information is stored in the matters Document Management folder.
  10. You come in a week later and review the changes that have been made.
  11. As anyone works on the agreement, so all fees are recorded as “Unbilled”.

 

Hopefully the above scenarios serve to illustrate just a few different perspectives of how automating and managing your documents can be truly integrated into your practice management system.

If you would like to work smarter and automate and manage your documents, feel free to book an obligation free demonstration with Matthew. You can contact him on matthews@korbitec.com

 

Yours in Law

Matthew Spagnoletti

 

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