Legal Practice Management Software for Attorneys
It’s time to talk about
The names in the above image object are are all fictitious. Any resemblance to real names or real case styles is a coincidence. The names were made up for illustration purposes only.
OK! Now that we have something to talk about — let’s talk. Every single matter or case in your law firm that is not closed is pending some event — every single one. No exceptions, and in some cases some or many cases are pending more than one event. Thus one of your biggest responsibilities as an attorney is to manage all the events for which you are responsible in a way such that the outcome of each and every event is favorable to your client. So how are you going to do that?
I’m not an attorney. So I can’t help you with those parts of the process that require the skill and knowledge of an attorney. But I do know more than a little bit about programming computers, and if you know anything about programming computers at all, then you know that a computer program is just one executable program statement after another. Each executable program statement is an event. So managing events is the heart and soul of my work too. So let’s talk about the image before us in the context of managing events.
Microsoft started all this “My” stuff a long time ago with “My Network Neighborhood”, “My Computer”, and “My Whatever”. So I am just continuing the pattern Microsoft started. In Windows version 8 “My Computer” became “This PC”. The title of the screen is “My Diary Items for . . . .”. Oh! I should have mentioned earlier that the insurance industry calls what everybody else calls “Calendaring” — “Diary”. It’s got a few less characters. So it’s not hurting anything. This corresponds to the “Assigned to Name” ComboBox selected value. The way the screen gets used is that the user selects the name in the drop-down ComboBox for whom they would like to see a list of Calendar items; They then select a “Due Date Range” for when the Calendar Items are due to be completed (If the date range is one day, make the “Begin Date” and “End Date the same date”); and a “Diary Items that are ” value. They then click the “Refresh” button to tell the software to update their list of Calendar Items.
After the list refreshes, They can select a Calendar/Diary Item by clicking on the row header — followed by clicking on the “Open Item” command button. A screen like the one bellow then appears.
Please remember that a Diary item is the same as a Calendar item. Once this screen opens, any field that is not disabled (indicated by being “grayed out”) can be changed by the user. This is how a user would normally show that the work represented by the Calendar item is complete. If the work is not complete because of some extenuating circumstances, the user can describe what the extenuating circumstances are in the “Narrative” text box; change the “Due Date”; and possibly reassign the Calendar item to a different user who has a higher level of expertise in dealing with the extenuating circumstances before Saving their changes.
Back on the Calendar Items Work List . . . . Please note the column titled “Action_cd”. These are the abbreviations that indicate what work action is needed to complete a specific calendar item as decided by the creator of the calendar item which could be yourself. There needs to be a way for you to define the action codes that are meaningful in the context of your law practice. Please observe the screen shot below . . . .
Please note the column title “Active”. It is inevitable that you will create some Calendar/Diary Action Codes that in retrospect were a mistake. Most Practice Management Software will not let you delete these kinds of mistakes because it would violate the relational integrity constraints imposed by the RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) that stores your data-data. So therefore to allow the RDBMS to have its way (A well designed RDBMS always gets its way. That keeps you from shooting yourself in the foot.) you can mark the “Action Code” inactive by unchecking the check box on the “Edit Diary Actions” screen. Doing this will remove that “Action Code” from the list of Action Codes that can be assigned to a Calendar/Diary item in the drop-down pick list on the Edit Diary Item screen.
Please note the column title “EWT” on the “Edit Diary Actions” screen. This is the “Estimated Work Time” entered on the “Edit Diary Actions” screen. Part of Work-Flow management is distributing the work load evenly among the team members who are performing the work. It should be obvious that if you overload one team member and under-load another team member that is not fair. It is also not good business management because it jeopardies the successful out come of the work process which is getting the work done on time. EWT is a means to balance work load because on the “My Diary Items for . . . .” Calendar Items Work List is shown “Total EWT” for that team member.
At large high production factory assembly lines industrial engineers perform highly accurate time studies on individual workers to determine “reasonable rates of expectancy”, and “cost of goods sold” among other metrics. With a cheap stop-watch you can do the same. The better your quality of judgement on these kinds of issues, the better your chances of having a successful law practice or a law practice that is highly successful. If you are going to cut corners getting started, do the Diary Action Codes that you know you will be using the most first. Do the ones that you will be using the least last because they will have less impact on overall accuracy. You are still going to have to make some kind of estimate as accurate as you can because you can’t leave “Estimated Work Time” blank or zero. You shouldn’t put them off forever, but if you are the same as most people, you probably will.
After your law firm has been using Practice Management Software for a while, each team member will be able to request their Calendar Items Work List for that day first thing when they arrive at work each morning. This will tell them in hours and minutes approximately how much time to budget for working on their Calendar Items Work List for that day. You should make special effort to get those EWTs as accurate as possible. The more accurate they are the better will be their effect on work flow management load balancing.
Lastly when you first get the software, and are busy configuring the Diary Action Codes that implement the business rules that you use to define your business model; don’t go crazy and create every Diary Action Code you can think of. Be conservative so that you don’t have to later mark inactive many Diary Action Codes you needlessly created. Don’t make mistakes today that you wouldn’t have made had you known what you are going to learn tomorrow. Doing so just makes the whole process more convoluted and difficult to manage effectively, and decreases your overall chances for success.
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Calendaring and Diary Functionality
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