Time For A Data Cleanup?

It’s been a long cold winter and now that the weather is starting to change many people are getting ready for their annual tradition of a big spring clean-up.  A time to put in a bigger effort than normal and get into all the places where gunk and junk build up over time and to get all the dust and cobwebs swept out.  A clean house is a happy house. Everything just feels and works better.

The same principle applies to your technology.  Imagine you’re meeting with counsel and every time you go to their office their entire desk as well as the floor, the windowsill, and every other flat surface is absolutely covered with various old papers.  That’s how some of us in IT see the people who have their entire windows desktop covered in icons. Or your Documents share on the server has hundreds of extra folders and files strewn all over.  How can you find anything?  Why do you have 5 folders here all called “new folder” and ten documents named “test letter”?

Tidying up your desk (or desktop) is pretty easy and shouldn’t require any help for most people.  When its time to clean your HVAC (or IT), though, you should probably get the help of a professional.  Here are just a few of the things a consultant can do to help you get your IT infrastructure into tip-top shape:

  • We can show you the best ways to clean out all those duplicate and partial contacts left over from the time someone synchronized their phone with your Case Management contact list.  

  • We can run reports and queries looking for data that can be tidied up en masse.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to delay an upgrade of PCLaw and Amicus for a few hours because the accounting department has been diligent about closing matters in PCLaw, but most of the files are still open and active in Amicus.

  • Through customization and training we can show you the features of Amicus and Time Matters that can help you work most efficiently.  For example, you can filter your lists to only show you the matters and documents you are actively working on and the people you are actively working with and reduce the clutter.

  • Perhaps when you started out there were only a few of you in the firm; everyone knew how and where the documents were organized and everything usually went into the proper folders.  Unfortunately, now you’ve grown to the size where you really should be considering proper Document Management.  Let us show you the options you have.

  • Most importantly, we can help you hunt down all those old backups and other big files that are hogging all the space on your server.  We can also check to see if any of your big data files can be reduced in size by cleaning up the log files or by purging old data you don’t need any more.  You never want to be low on space on the server’s hard drives.  It makes them run less efficiently and if you completely run out of space it will almost certainly lead to a crash.

Just like putting off spring cleaning, if you’ve been putting off doing data cleanup, things just keep building up over time and the job keeps getting bigger.  Maybe now is the time to tackle your IT cleanup. We can help.  Give us a call and let us see how we can get your firm running cleaner and better.


PCLaw Invoices .... In Word???

Are you one of the firms that spend countless hours fixing your invoices from PCLaw after bringing them into Word?

Wouldn't it be wonderful to generate your invoices directly from PCLaw the way you want them.  Send the invoice straight to the client without having to fuss or mess with it in Word once it has been converted with those bothersome tables?

PCLaw makes it easy to design a template specifically for your firm. This can include your firm logo and even a signature graphic so that sending invoices through email is a snap.

With the help of a certified consultant you can perfect your billing templates and they can be generated directly from PCLaw - without having to wrestle with it in Word!


eBilling Woes

Does your firm submit invoices through a 3rd party invoicing system, such as TyMetrix 360? Sometimes you just cannot seem to get the invoices to submit!  You are not the only one…..

There are many issues that firms run into when submitting a LEDES (Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard) invoice.  Maybe the line sum does not equal the amount billed, or you get an invalid_date error, or the timekeeper rate does not match, etc, etc, etc.

Recently, we were engaged by a firm that was unable submit their flat fee billings successfully. After many hours of corrections and submissions I was able to get the invoice to submit. I felt like I had conquered the world! Sometimes, it is not the way the dockets have been entered, it may be the way the template is generating the invoice. Not all vendors have perfected the e-billing template. In fact, most haven't; they still need a little guidance since every firm bills differently.

After figuring out how the LEDES template should be, we were able to submit every invoice that was outstanding.

Every firm is different. They might be billing flat fee, hourly or contingency and using e-billing should not be a barrier. When you run into difficulties, why not ask a certified consultant for assistance?


Practice Management Software Troubleshooting

As we all know, a firm’s day to day operation is extremely dependent on their practice management software. When the software stops working as expected, this can be very frustrating. We have no desire to add to your frustration, but we will always start the troubleshooting with a few basic questions. It might seem trivial, but we need to be certain we understand the situation before we press ahead. So, here’s what we will usually ask you:

  1. An example of the problem - a screenshot of any error message(s), or a video, if it’s a process - shows us the specifics of what the user is experiencing.
  2. If we’re dealing with an imbalance or mistake in a report, we’ll need copies of the report(s), and copies of earlier “normal” reports are also beneficial to us.
  3. Is this affecting everyone, or is it specific to the user reporting the problem?

Frequently, the reason for a Practice Management software glitch is an external component or system.

For example in, a Windows 7 or a Windows Server 2008 environment, just having the UAC (User Account Control)  at the wrong level will cause problems, ranging from not being able to log into the software to preventing the execution of particular processes of the Practice Management software.

Another common problem is a change to the firm’s antivirus or firewall software, which can exhibit the same results as the first example.

When troubleshooting PCLaw reports, things can get complicated quickly: There are over 60 standard reports available from the program, and users are also able to create their own custom reports as well. So, we need to start each investigation of reporting issues by looking at previous (presumably accurate) versions of the report in question. Once we know the exact nature of the problem, and when it started, we can assist the firm in determining the root cause of the discrepancy.

These general troubleshooting procedures can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to identify the problem, and get it fixed.

So, while these questions might seem frustrating, rest assured that they are absolutely necessary to get you back to productive work as quickly as possible.

ellwood Associates can always help with speedy resolutions. Please feel free to engage our Practice Management Specialists to assist.



Where Should I Record My Time Entries?

Over many years we have implemented and consulted for firms that have had a combination of an accounting and billing software like LexisNexis’ PCLaw with a practice management solution such as Gavel & Gown’s Amicus Attorney or LexisNexis’ Time Matters. With both types of programs having the ability to record time entries or dockets, some firms are asking the question, where should I record my time?

For scenarios where the practice areas bill their clients on an hourly basis, deciding where to put your time requires a few considerations.

  1. Docketing or entering time only in PCLaw. The overall experience of entering time entries or creating dockets directly in PCLaw is considered simple and intuitive by most. The electronic timesheet allows quick maneuverability with the use of keyboard tabbing and selecting shortcut keys. Entering multiple time entries for yourself and others with or without running timers is easy to accomplish. If you are required to enter time on behalf of others, the timesheet in PClaw is usually the place of choice. Furthermore, the time entered and posted directly into PCLaw is immediately ready to be reviewed on a pre-bill or included on an invoice to the client.
  2. Docketing or entering time entries in Time Matters or Amicus Attorney. Beyond simple time docketing there are multiple components and benefits that these programs provide so it is not hard to see why this is where most staff in each firm perform and record their daily activity. With the management of contacts, clients, matters, projects, documents, communications, calendaring, and other in types of records; workflow time tracking becomes an enticing and viable option. Whether you are generating a document, researching online, adding an appointment, sending an email or recording notes from a phone call,one click of a button will create a time entry or a docket to be added to the matter. As you work throughout your day and populate your matter brad with related information accompanied by time entries it, managing the entire matter becomes a dream. Everything is in one place and at your fingertips. In Time Matters and Amicus Attorney you also have the ability at any point to see all the activity for which there is no time entry or docket.

Additional features like combining time entries added to the same matter is a popular request that is available. Applying restrictive permissions to time entries so that they are only visible by matter or by staff or other criteria is sometimes easier to manipulate within Time Matters or Amicus Attorney. In certain cases, having either of these programs may save money by reducing the need for getting PCLaw licenses for everyone in the firm. It should be noted though that all time entries created will still need, at some point, to be transferred or sent to PCLaw, the accounting and billing program.

With all the different dynamics within the law firm, deciding where to enter time entries in some cases becomes a tricky decision. The best practice is to enter time dockets as you go through the day. Various methods to do so are available in both types of programs. The decision on which type of program should be used to enter your time entries will be different for each firm therefore we recommend meeting with your certified consultant to discuss and decide which method will add the greatest value for your firm.

- Brendon Cowans