A1-Law / WCFMS Case Management Newsletter March 2001

This month we will devote this newsletter to A1-Law. A separate newsletter will go out for WCFMS.

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CAAA Convention
Itís June 21-24 at the Monterey Hyatt Hotel. Iíll be exhibiting there as I have for the past 15 years. Hope to see you there.

In This Issue
Form Letters. We will merely scratch the surface of this HUGE topic and hopefully give you enough to get started.

What makes a GREAT case management system? Well, several things of course and form letters ranks right up at the top. Now, if you are talking Workers' Compensation, you had better be able to see all of the applicant's cases/injuries at one client card or everything else falls apart and fast. You would probably find yourself going between too many screens to figure out what is happening on the case before you could even begin to figure out who to address your letter to. You wouldn't be able to automatically merge all the WCAB numbers, Claim numbers, Dates of Injuries, etc. on the letter. You probably can't even figure out how many cases you have!

Viewing all the injuries on one screen truly captures the heart of the case and automatic form letter generation is just another natural progression and end result of the client card. Therefore, you should strongly consider placing all your applicant's injuries on one client card. Naturally, if they were injured some 10 years ago and now have a new case, you may decide to open a new client card just as you would a new physical file in your office.

A1-Law clearly and easily allows you to have as many injuries at one card as you like and you can also merge one, several or all the case information/injuries onto the form letter. If a client does come back years later and you choose to open a separate card, you can use the Relate option at the client card to link the two together for reference. You may also choose to utilize the Relate feature for civil cases.

A1-Law offers a lot more power in creating form letters than most offices realize and use. Several factors will determine your firm's potential and productivity. First and foremost is the power of the case management system you are using. Next, do you know how to utilize that power? You can easily crank out 20 or 200 letters in the same time frame. What determines whether you crank out 20 or 200 in the same period of time? Read on for the simple answer....

You can create and change your letterhead. You can have it automatically merge into all your form letters. You should be able to simply select a letter to print and A1-Law asks you to "fill in the blanks." That's it; it's that simple. You have your letter exactly the way you want it with all the case information merged in automatically. You only need to fill in things that change every time like fees, dates, etc. A1-Law can even do mathematical calculations (i.e.: mileage calculations).

We will start with some basics and we will then finish with an example of a simple but complete letter to a client.

Want to know more.....Read onÖ.

Introduction
A1-Law continues to receive "rave" reviews and version 4.00 will be even more powerful than the current version. Expected release dates for version 4.00 and WCFMS DOS is June/July 2001. DOS support will continue as it has. Only now, itís even better since I will offer additional support through this newsletter along with my website which is pending. The website is becoming a higher priority.

Backup
Not again! Yes, here's another backup tip. Seems like some consultants "push" the so called "Mirror Image Backup." It's supposed to "save" you in the event of a crash. Well, I have to say that the Mirror Image worked so well for a client last month that it backed up or "mirrored" the crashed data. This is common. Yes, it may work but it may also backup your bad data as well. So, once again, there's no substitute for backups out of the office.

Never Edit A Letter Again!
Once the letter is done, you should never have to ever edit it. All the case information should be inserted automatically and you just "fill in the blanks" for things that change every time like a fee. If the fee is stored in a user defined field, you don't even need to enter that. All mathematical calculations like mileage are computed automatically. That's the difference between cranking out 20 or 200 letters in the same period of time. The user should only have to "fill in the blanks." A1-Law even has capabilities to allow you to select clauses to insert into form letters from a "pick list." This is useful when processing the "transmittal letter." For example, "Enclosed for filing please find....." and then you have this list of paragraphs. A1-Law allows you to select the ones you want included in the letter. We'll save that for another newsletter. We will try and cover enough to get you started.

Form Letters
Should I say, "I don't know where to begin?" A1-Law has so much power in organizing, retrieving and generating form letters that it's difficult to know where to start in a newsletter. Let's start with the basics. There's nothing like PLANNING. Organize your letters. For example, maybe you want your letters to clients to be from 1-100. Letters to doctors to be from 100 - 200, etc. Or, maybe you like your Intake Letters to be together, Settlement Letters together, etc. Categorize your letters first, You can then place those categories in a list on the A1-Law Form Letters window.

We will illustrate some examples but first let's ask the question, "How can I quickly learn how to create my own form letters in A1-Law?" Click on Forms from the client card. Click the Edit Letters tab and select a form letter to create. Double click on the number of the letter you want to create and give it a title. Naturally, we will want A1-Law to automatically save and post every letter to the client's case activity. So, enter the title of the letter in the Post Info also. You can change the Style dropdown to Prompt if you want A1-Law to prompt you for additional information every time you print a letter. For example, maybe you want your notes to say something like Letter to Doctor Fee of $350 and not just Letter to Doctor.

Form Letters - The Basics
A1-Law has full integration with Microsoft Word and good integration with other word processors as well. This means that you can have A1-Law automatically insert anything from a case into a Word Document or pleading. For this newsletter, we are going to focus on the word processor in A1-Law which is similar to Word. We will also only focus on the "very" basics. This is a huge topic and we will barely scratch the surface but hopefully give you enough to get you started.

Back to A1-Law. After entering in the Post Info, click the Edit button to edit the letter. To start, you will probably want A1-Law to insert today's date automatically. Choose the font and style you want (i.e.: Times Roman, Bold, etc.). Now, we want to insert the date into the letter. We could use this command:

<<COMMAND = INPUT, Please Enter In The Date>>

But, what a waste! Why should the user have to enter in today's date for every letter. Let's do this instead.....

<<COMMAND = DATE>>

that's it. You've just completed your first merge command. Suppose you want A1-Law to display the date in Spanish? Should we use the INPUT command? No. Every time the staff member has to type something it takes longer to generate the letter. Insert this command:

<<COMMAND = DATE,SPANISH>>

Great! Now, you want the client's name and address inserted into the letter. Insert this command:

<<COMMAND = CLIENT>>

Wow! Here's the best part of all. While you are creating a form letter, you will see a button in the lower right corner that has a question mark. Click that button and you will have access to a long list of commands that you can just double click on and they will automatically be inserted into the letter. That's only the beginning. You will see a HELP button on that window and you can click on that to go to the Help File. Just click Merge Commands from there and you will see all of them.

What About My Letterhead? 
No problem.... You can create it and you can change it. You can use the font styles, bold and the centering buttons to create it. You may also find the use of columns VERY convenient when you have to align names on the left side of the letterhead and phone numbers on the right. We call these Tables in Word. The A1-Law word processor supports this feature through the use of the O button (Other features).

Okay, suppose you have 40 letters to clients and you have your letterhead as say form letter 1000....Do you cut and paste form letter 1000 into all 40 letters? Well, the problem with that is if your letterhead changes you will have to change all 40 letters. I would not want to spend my Saturday afternoon doing that. So, we have a simple command. Just insert this at the top of your letters if your letterhead is form letter 1000 (for example):

<<COMMAND = COMMENT Letterhead That I Can Change>>
<<COMMAND = MERGE 1000>>

It just merges in form letter 1000 right where you want. Now, you can really take your creation and management of all 40 form letters to lightening speed if you do the following: Create a letter and call it HEADER LETTER TO CLIENT. Let's say it's form letter 1005. You will then do a <<command = merge 1005>> in all your client letters and form letter 1005 contains the Date, Client, Caption and Salutation commands. You can then create these "pieces" of puzzles to create all your letters. The simple pieces would include the following:

Letterhead
Header Letters (i.e.: to the client, the defendant, etc)

Body of the letter

Footer Letters (could be one in Spanish also)

Another VERY important command to explore is the GetParty command. It allows you to select one or several parties to address a letter to. You can use it to address a letter to the defendant, schedule a client to see a doctor or select several names to cc the letter to. Let's look at this command:

<<command = getparty,ask Select The Person To Send This Letter To>>

This is definitely a command you will want to explore in more detail.

A Complete Letter

Okay, let's try it. Let's try a letter to a client. First, in our example, we will assume the following:

Form Letter 1 Letter To Client, Closing Letter
Form Letter 1000 Your Letterhead you have created 
Form Letter 1010 Client Header Letter (example below)
Form Letter 1020 Client Footer Letter (example below)

The idea being that ALL letters with letterhead will want to MERGE letter 1000. All client letters can MERGE letter 1010 and 1020 (except Spanish letters; you will probably want to create separate headers for those as well).

We will also illustrate how to ask the user for input through the INPUT command. We will do this in the client letter by asking the user to enter the settlement amount.

================================ Client Header Form Letter 1010
<<command = merge 1000>>
<<command = merge 1010>>

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in connection
with your claim for worker's compensation benefits.


I hope you are satisfied with the results which we obtained. You should have
already received your check in the amount of $<<command = input,Enter the amount>>.

If you should require any legal services in the future, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
I am enclosing some of my business cards for future reference.

Thank you again for your cooperation.

<<command = merge 1020>>


================================ Client Header Form Letter 1010
<<command = date>>

<<command = client>>

<<command = caption>>

<<command = salutation1>>
================================

================================ Client Footer Letter 1020
Sincerely Yours,


<<command = staff,attyh,long>>
<<command = staff,attyh>>:<<command = staff,thisuser,lower>>

<<command = comment
the first command in this footer will display the name
of the attorney handling this case. The second command
displays the initials of the attorney in upper case and the
initials of the person generating the letter in lower case.
For example: ABC:def
>> 
================================


Consolidating Letters
Last month I spoke to a client about form letters and I asked him how it was coming along and he said "they are awesome." I said, "great, how many have you created." He said, "all of them, I have about 30." I was puzzled at first because that did not seem like a lot. I asked him how that could be it and he explained how in his other case management program he had to have a lot more letters but A1-Law allowed him to consolidate many letters into one. For example, the GetParty command allows you to send a letter to anyone via a pick list. So, GetParty eliminates the need for a separate letter to the employer, carrier, attorney, etc. if the content is the same. You can consolidate all of those into just one letter.

Think about how many of your letters may be able to be consolidated into one. It's yet another way to manage and maintain your letters.

Click and You Shall See
Don't forget, when viewing the case activity you can click on the Documents button in the upper right corner of the window (or type Alt-V) to view the form letter, court form, Word document or any other attached file to that note.

Next Month

More Form Letters.

Until next time, have a great month.