What to expect when working with us

Clients and potential clients often ask me what they should expect when working with us, whether we are your

  • Time Matters consultants
  • PCLaw consultants
  • HotDocs consultants
  • Integration consultants

First and foremost we have to manage the project. As we look back over our years of implementations, an issues that we have typically stem from communication gaps. Email is not an effective communication tool when it comes to managing projects. Many times, emails are partially read or information is split across multiple emails.

We implement an online project management system where we track:

  • Key Dates – called milestones
  • Tasks – who is assigned the task and the current status
  • Meeting notes
  • Documents – we will upload your quote and key documents

Here is an overview video of our project management system:

Time Matters Best Practices

The first hurdle in implementing Time Matters is proper matter naming. It may sound odd that I call it a hurdle but…it is. Although I have been a Time Matters consultant for years, I always start with the fundamentals.

Fundamental #1
You need to name your matters in a consistent manner preferable as;

Last Name, First Name – Descriptive Language
Company Name (or short form) – Descriptive Language

This way, you can open your Matter list and begin to type. QuickPic will take you directly to the proper matter immediately.

This may sound simple, but what if you are a long time PCLaw user and are adding Time Matters into the mix. You set up the link and bring over the matters into Time Matters. Be default, the MatterRef will be the Re line in PCLaw. Most firms will now have lists of : incorporation, Will, ats …   etc… this causes an issue in Time Matters that you have to address.  You can rename the matters which will write back to PCLaw, or you can unmatch the MatterRef field and rename the matters.  This is key to beginning your Time Matters implementation.

Some other best practices:

  • Use Matter and Client numbering. It just keeps things simple. You can use the Matter number for many things including auto-naming in the Document Management System.
  • Staff on the matter, you can use all of the staff that work on the matter. This way, everyone can have a concise list of the matters they are working on. (If you are using the PCLaw link, be careful as the staff field is linked to the Responsible Attorney in PCLaw. I suggest that you un-match this)
  • In Contacts – enter the RefName as you would refer to the person in a letter. Example . Matt Stone, Esq or Matt D. Stone, or Mr. Matt Stone.
  • Always use the last name field. I suggest you make it required. If it is a company contact, enter the company name in the last name field
  • Leave the default form fields alone, especially in contacts. Leave the phone numbers and email field where they are.
  • On an event, only assign it to the person that will attend that event. Multiple staff create multiple records
  • Save Email attachments outside of the database

There is a list to get you started… Strong fundamentals leads to long term success in Time Matters

Document Assembly with Time Matters – Automated Documents

Interestingly enough, not that many Time Matters firms I work with work toward document assembly or automation of their documents.

There are 3 options for document assembly with Time Matters:

  1. Formattable Clipboards
  2. Document Merges
  3. HotDocs

Formattable clipboards were created in Time Matters to allow greater access to the database. We can access almost all of the related records and use more than one record in a document. So you can merge documents with information from 1 or 10 or100 matters or clients. You can also dig further into the data and access the events, todos, UDR (people records) from each matter.  The downside is that the formatting options are limited – no full justify or tables are a few examples. There is also a size limitation to the produced documents.

Document Merges use the merge capabilities in your word processor. There is a limited amount of data that you can access in Time Matters but you use the formatting options in your word processor.

HotDocs is a document automation tool with an expansive set of features and tools. There is a HotDocs integration with Time Matters, but we find it too limiting and we have built a direct Time Matters database connection. The downside to HotDocs is it takes some time to prepare the database connection (although we have it built already) and it takes some time to built the initial interview. HotDocs can also assemble PDF forms.

What is a firm to do?
My advice is to look at the document assembly needs of your firm as a project. You need to understand:

  • What you want to automate
  • Why you want to automate
  • How many documents there are
  • Who is going to approve the content of the documents? If you have a motion, can the staff agree on the wording? If you have a standard contract, can you agree on the terms? Have these been reviewed lately?
  • The time it takes staff to produce these documents
  • The potential time saving
  • The time to automate
  • Are there pdf documents or forms

In general, if you are looking for short quick documents, many times you can get the correct language from a clipboard and then have users verify formatting once the data has been pasted into Word.
If you are looking to seriously automate documents that you use regularily and constantly and they are pleadings and/or agreements/contracts you should take a look at HotDocs. There is a cost that goes along with HotDocs but in the long run, the tool will work better for you and the firm. You will not run into limitations in creating documents (like the size limit in a formattable clipboard or the data that can be access in a Word Merge). I would also invest in 2 things:

  1. Someone to help you get going with the documents – have them set up the framework and the interviews
  2. Train some staff to modify and add documents in the future

Along side this advice is the acknowledgement that for some firms their document assembly and automated documents are key to their business.  Down time is not acceptable. This is mission critical.

When I trained Time Matters technical support, document merges were one of the highest call drivers. So users were having trouble. Along with that almost each of the last releases of Time Matters have had document merge issues. In some instances, firm’s documents were not able to assemble. There are some issues with Time Matters 10 as it initially shipped.

So for me, when document assembly is mission critical, I would handle it as its own project. Focus the appropriate resouces to the documents and create a strategy to handle your needs today and into the future.  Look  for something to get you started. We have solutions in:

  • Ontario Statutory Accident Benefits
  • Ontario Small Claims Court
  • Ontario Real Estate

We have products in developement for:

  • Personal Injury and Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Ontario Civil Court Forms
  • Wills and Estates
  • Business Transactions and Corporations

With each of packages in SpeedMatters, you can add forms and documents as you desire. We believe we have all of the key documents, but you can add as you see necessary.

Automated Ontario Small Claims Forms

As we all know the dollar amount for Small Claims Court in Ontario is going up.
How do you assemble the forms? Type in the pdf file? What about the next form that you have to create a form for that matter – re-type the information?
You have to now worry about mistakes when re-typing, do I have the current form?

SpeedMatters takes all of the hassle, issues and complications away for all of this. We have automated the forms and we keep them up to date. You complete an initial interview for each matter, (which almost any user can complete)…but then all subsequent documents are created almost instantly. Your documents are created correctly, in pdfs or in word as required, accurately and easily. Here is a quick video creating an affidavit of service.

Time Matters 10 – How to uninstall

If you have installed Time Matters 10 and had issues. Sometimes a complete uninstall will get you back on track. Click here for complete instructions:

When a user leaves what happens to their data?

I am sure that it has happened to us at one time or another. A user leaves the firm.  What happens to their data? As we should know:

  •  a user is a person that logs into Time Matters and
  • a staff is someone that owns records – has a calendar, saves emails

When someone leaves, you have to deal with both the staff and the user. In this post I am only talking about the user.

What to do?

  1. First you should disable the access for the user, you can just change the password if you want.
  2. Log in as the user and deal with the records that are user related. Messages in the messenger, phone records flagged to that user and hopefully NOT but if you are using TM email.. clean out the Inbox.
  3. I would then remove the user. Don’t fear, the records owned by the staff are still in place.
  4. Deal with the records that have been orphaned in the database

What is orphaned?

Above in 2, are listed the records that are visible in Time Matters for that user…there is data that is not visible though and it should be dealt with.  A partial list:

  • deleted messages
  • user preferences
  • user security
  • auto entry forms for that user
  • templates for that user
  • trigger for that user
  • autotxt codes for that user
  • inbox

Is this a big deal?

If you are a very small firm, perhaps not. If you have any volume of users (and a volume that are no longer with the firm) it can. Remember Time Matters has a data table that holds information for all users/staff. If you want to look at your messages, the application has to look through everyone’s messages.   Another example, is to have your user preferences (appearance of screens, user configurations) the application looks through all user settings — including the users that are no longer at the firm.

I regularly see firms that have crashing issues that are data issues. A strong integrity check can increase program reliability.

How do I deal with this?

You could run a series of SQL queries and look for issues, if you knew where and what they were.  It is much easier to look at Sharpshooter (here) written by Steve Stockstill at DataEquity. It is one of the standard data integrity checks. As disclosure I am more aggressive than Steve and I delete more from the database than Steve would. Here is a video of the orphan user test. I show at the end how to delete the data.

Convert to PCLaw SQL

New sales of PCLaw Pro now ship as a SQL version. In Ontario, most PCLaw Pro firms have been using the product for many years before the SQL version existed. As we receive new versions and new product keys, the option of SQL is there.

Should you use the SQL version?
An interesting question as usual. Moving to SQL does not mean a faster application in everyway. In theory the SQL data should be better protected and have better integrity. End users cannot navigate to the data folder and delete portions of the database.  To end, we have many Pro firms that use the non SQL version and have no issues and no added SQL expense, although you can use the free version of SQL.

Is it difficult?
No it is rather easy assuming you have SQL installed and have connectivity from the workstations. I upgraded my data and here is the video:

Cheque Fraud Protection system for PCLaw

If you take a look at the TD Commercial banking site -( http://www.tdcommercialbanking.com/cashmgmt/cheque_fraud_protection.jsp), you will see they offer a Cheque Fraud Protection program.

We have developed a system for PClaw to offer an integration with this system. We support the positive pay with payee match. It is an application called CFP Converter. In essence we take your cheque information, do the calculations and formatting and prepare the files for you to upload to your Bank.  We support TD in production at present with other options in the near future. Let us know if you have banking requirements beyond TD.

Deleting Time Matters Emails with attachments – attachments do not go to the recycle bin

Hopefully everyone knows that Time Matters has a recycle bin. Each time a record is deleted, it goes into the recycle bin, where it can easily be retrieved.  I know that it has saved many firms and my clients are advised to monitor the recycle bin.

When an email is saved from Outlook to Time Matters, it creates a Time Matters email ( in essence the contents from Outlook are copied into that record). If the email has attachments, you are prompted asking how to deal with the attachments. If you select – save as attachments. They are stored as attachments to that Time Matters email.

If a user deletes that email, the attachment is also deleted.  Not a problem. The email is in the recycle bin. You can retrieve that email easily.

The Problem – the attachment is not re-stored. It is lost.

If you were trained by me, you were instructed to never delete that Outlook email. We would have to go find that email and re-save it from Outlook.  This is a known issue in all version of Time Matters (at least after version 5 I believe)

Time Matters PCLaw link – Synchronization – The Intro

Having a healthy client base in Ontario and Toronto, I deal with the Time Matters PCLaw link on a daily basis. I was exposed to PCLaw for the first time in 1995, Time Matters 1999. The first good sized firm that I linked was in 2002..there was 30-40 users. That was tough…there was many things we had to monitor and keep straight. When I was contacted by management at Lexis (well before PCLaw was acquired) to discuss the acquisition and the potential value statement to the end user….I worked hard to stress how important the link was and would become. My words were wasted.

Today…it is a different story. The link was been re-worked, re-thought out and changed over time. With the release of version 10 of both Time Matters and PCLaw, I can say that I may start promoting time entry in Time Matters to be sent to PCLaw. Wait I am getting ahead of myself.

Do the progams link?

The link has a lot of history. Today, the philosophy is that the link is real time. This means the second a change is saved in one application it is sent to the other. This is great, but can be troublesome. See below.  There is no need to manually run a synchronization between the programs. We used to do this in Time Matters (File Synchronize).

Yes they link – it is a real time link

What is the scope of that link?

Contacts and Matters flow both ways between the programs
Billing entries can go from Time Matters to PCLaw (but changes do not come back)
PCLaw reports can be viewed in Time Matters

What does this mean?

You do not have to open a matter two times.  BUT you do have to enter the appropriate information in each application for it to function properly.  PCLaw needs to know the billing details, rates, bill templates, Responsible lawyer etc.. Time Matters needs to know the proper MatterRef, the staff working on the matter and the related records – People on the Matter, key dates etc..  This detail is not shared between the programs so you have to complete the matter opening in each application.

IF you are on the latest release of Time Matters 9 (SR-3b) you can send time from Time Matters to PCLaw. If you are on a previos version, I do not recommend entering time in Time Matters especially through the timesheet.

You can view various PCLaw reports from Time Matters. An example you can open a matter in Time Matters, click the billing tab and run a time listing report for that matter. This is necessary as any edits to billing entries made in PCLaw do not make their way back to Time Matters. The billing list in Time Matters may not be accurate.  These are watered down PCLaw reports as you do not have access to any of the options.

So there is a link – now what?

You have to take a look at your data and decide the best approach to the link. I will go into this in more depth in another post.   But you should look at :

  • Are there matters in Time Matters
  • Are there matters in PCLaw
  • Have you been prudent in closing matters in PCLaw?
  • Do you use client addresses or billing addresses or both?
  • Do you have duplicate clients in PCLaw?
  • What is your re:line? Is that an appropriate MatterRef in Time Matters

I understand my data, now what?

Now you have to configure then activate the link.  I will go into greater depth in another post but for now:

  1. Do NOT accept the shipping defaults for the link matching. Review each tab and template carefully.
  2. Make sure PCLaw and Time Matters is installed on every workstation that uses either program.  If you have a billing person that does not use Time Matters, but opens matters in PCLaw…they need Time Matters on their desktop (and a log on) so the link can open the matter in Time Matters.

Hopefully this is a start. This is an expansive area with many things to consider. More posts to come…