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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Law Office Systems Spring 2016 Newsletter

We're Going Local!

For those of you near Montclair NJ, we have exciting news!  For many years, Carol successfully ran User Groups for lawyers and their staff to improve their use of technology.  We are now in the planning stages of scheduling quarterly meetings in Montclair.  These meetings will provide you with an opportunity to meet other local attorneys as well as learn about best practices in using technology to improve your law practice.  The first meeting will be in late September. Email us to be added to our mailing list if you are interested in attending.  Please share this newsletter with any other local attorneys or firms that might also be interested in participating. 

Hot off the Press! Amicus – Abacus Law Merger

As we were doing final edits to our newsletter, we received a press release announcing the merger of Abacus and Amicus.  Both companies have been major providers of legal case management products aimed at solos and small law firms for decades.  In recent years, Abacus has invested heavily in a cloud infrastructure and received major venture capital funding.  Amicus has focused on practice management and added cloud support and billing in recent years.  Both products have had links to Timeslips, PCLaw and other billing programs, giving law firms the option to select the right combination of functions for their needs. According to the information we have heard, the Amicus community has been told not to expect any changes to their product or relationship in the short term. It is too early to predict how the combined forces will merge very different technologies.  Deep pockets will surely help but offering two options or combining them together could prove challenging.  A case in point is Lexis which owns both Time Matters and PCLaw and is only recently working out the kinks in the link between their products.  We will keep a close eye on developments so that we can assist our clients as new information becomes available.

Timeslips 2016 and 2017

This week, Sage announced the end of the BDE platform for its products.  In late June, Timeslips 2017 will be released. This will be based on Firebird SQL but be available for purchase as a perpetual license (in other words, you can purchase and own without any ongoing cost).  The Firebird platform means faster performance and the end to limits on number of slips and clients.  Pricing has not yet been announced.  It is anticipated that the annual versions will continue for some time but will lag behind the features available in the subscription version.  For example, version 2017 is expected to have redesigned Billing Assistant, Accounts Receivable and Budgets but will not include the Quick Bill feature available only in the subscription version.

Timeslips Premium, sold only by annual subscription, will continue to be enhanced through service releases. Service release 6 came out on May 13th, 2016.  Improvements include a Quick Bill feature that streamlines the process for simple bills that are paid in full as well as a redesigned Billing Assistant, Budget and Accounts Receivable functions.  For subscription customers, Sage is continuing to add features with more frequent service releases.  Adoption of the Premium version has been slow due to the pricing and licensing restrictions.  (If you do not pay the subscription, you lose the ability to enter data or create bills.) 

In early March, Timeslips released a service update for the Standard (BDE) version of Timeslips 2016. It’s a good idea once a service release has been out for a few months to install it so your firm runs on the latest service release. If you are unsure about how to check this or need our assistance with applying a service release, do not hesitate to call us. We are happy to help!

If you want to move to the subscription model for additional features, you will need to purchase an annual contract.  If, in the future, assuming it is still offered, you want to go back to a perpetual license, you will be able to do so although it will work best to do this transition at the time of renewal. 

If you are on an unsupported version and considering upgrading, please let us know so we can work with you to get the best price and make the right decision for your firm. 

Often, we find that firms have passed on billing procedures from one employee to another.  While this can save the firm money, we have frequently seen incorrect or inefficient procedures passed along to the new employee.  If you feel like your firm is doing things the long way or if it takes longer than it should to get time entered or bills out to clients, consider having us come in to do an evaluation.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance. 

Time Matters 15.1.1

LexisNexis recently released 15.1.1 which adds support for Windows 10, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Exchange Server 2016, Timeslips 2016 Standard (BDE version only) and Adobe DC.  15.1.1 resolves an issue in version 15 and 15.1 with linked Contact records displaying incorrectly on Event, Document, Email, Phone and User Defined Records although there are some display issues with Powerviews.  Version 15 also adds the option of storing your documents to Microsoft OneDrive.  With OneDrive integration enabled, only documents are one drive are accessible through Time Matters so it is recommended that you move all of your documents to your OneDrive account to use this feature. Several new features and utilities have been added to version 15.1.1:  A new Refresh button on lists and sublists lets you update information without having to close the list or record.  The Document Relocation utility lets you easily move documents from one matter to another.  Additional utilities are available to remove padded spaces that may have been added to custom date, time or memo fields.  For firms still using the Time Matters inbox, there is a utility that will clear the Inbox of any emails that have the Regarding field information but may not have been properly saved and cleared from the Inbox.

Version 15 which was released in November continued to chip away at eliminating known issues.  Among the biggest visual change in version 15 is the ability to see Time Matters lists and records in a larger font.  This will be a user level setting so it will stay with you when you log in on other workstations in your office.  With version 15, Lexis has introduced the LexisNexis Gateway ™.  The Gateway Connector is provided along with version 15 at no additional charge but must be installed separately.  The first Gateway Partner to link to TM 15 is Chrometa.  For firms using Billing Matters or Time Matters Basic Billing, this will expand the time tracking functions to your email and your phone, allowing you to capture more time.  Chrometa passively watches what you do and presents it to you to convert into time entries.  We can assist you with implementing Chrometa and integrating it with Time Matters Basic Billing or Billing Matters.  Expect to see more links and integration over the next few months.

System requirements were updated so you may want our assistance to review them before scheduling your upgrade.  Beginning with version 14, Lexis introduced in-place upgrades making future upgrades simpler and less time consuming.  While the upgrade will be easier, there are precautions you should take to ensure a smooth transition.  We recommend making sure you have turned off automatic updates (File/ Setup/ General/ Program Level – Check for new version should be set to Never) to prevent an unintended upgrade, especially since you cannot revert to a previous version without preparing and doing a backup of your data and program files.  We can assist with this process to ensure a smooth transition.

As with any new version, you will want to confirm that it is has been installed at other sites successfully before upgrading your office. Firms on older versions (prior to v14) should consider having us assist with the upgrade.  We have found it important, especially on older versions, to run special maintenance to remove incomplete records and change the shared file location so it doesn’t refer to a previous version.  We are here to help if you have questions about upgrading to version 15.

Lexis ended support for the Watchdox service on March 31, 2015. After April 30th you will be able to continue to access your documents through Time Matters, but will no longer be able to use the Watchdox service to share them securely with your clients. As an alternative we can recommend another secure option such as One Drive (part of Microsoft 365), Hightail (free or paid), or Citrix Sharefile which has special pricing for NJSBA members.   For more information, you may wish to read the Lexis press release.  If your firm needs assistance in selecting an alternative service, we would be happy to assist you. 

PCLaw 15

PCLaw 15 completes the migration to SQL from the earlier platform. SQL provides better performance and more stability.  Additionally, data is more accessible for external reports and third party integration.  Transitioning to the SQL version requires careful planning and coordination with your IT vendor and consultant.  Backup software also should be reviewed to ensure SQL data is backed up correctly.  Since this is a major shift to a new platform, Lexis has provided an installation toolkit as well as a pre-installation checklist on their Support Center.  We strongly suggest reviewing these as well as the system requirements before planning your upgrade.  For firms on older versions or linking PCLaw to Time Matters, be aware that some of these settings have changed in recent versions.  Consider having us assist you to ensure a smooth process. 

Tips

If you are not ready for Windows 10 and want to prevent Microsoft from doing an automatic upgrade, you can permanently turn off the notifications to upgrade.  Note that this may mean you no longer get a free upgrade but rumor has it that may not go away just yet.  There are several utilities that can assist or if you are more daring, you can uninstall the “update for Microsoft Windows (KB3035583) from the View Update History under Windows Update through the Control Panel.  See this article for more details. 

A new Move Document Location command has been added to Time Matters as part of service release 15.1.1.  This command allows you to move documents from one location on your server to another and from one matter to another in a single step.  This can be useful when a matter name changes or if you store documents for potential clients in a separate folder than for clients.  The options include letting you use autonaming or specifying specific folder locations.

Upcoming Events

Carol will be participating in a panel at the NJSBA for the ICLE on “Hanging Out Your Shingle: An Essential Guide to Successfully Launching Your Own Practice” from 9am-3pm at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick on Tuesday, June 21st. 2016. Carol will be focusing on how to select and implement the right technology for your practice.  Learn about latest trends and best practices while earning up to 5.4 CLE credits including 2.4 ethics credits.  Click here for registration or additional information. 

Thanks!

We truly value your business and are committed to continuing to provide you with the best advice, service and support to enable your firm to work at its best.  If you know a firm who would benefit from our services, please share our newsletter with them!



Law Office Systems, Inc. is based in Montclair, NJ and provides technology consulting and training to law offices in the tri-state area and beyond.



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