The Complete Abacus Legal Software Guide

Why I Created This Guide

With over 34 years of history, Abacus Law has been the legal software of choice for over 250,000 attorneys. As a result, I wanted to provide an exhaustive, detailed guide for the Abacus Legal Software.

Many Abacus clients have been using older variations of the software without having gone through an update for years.

Also other clients tend to find comfort in a few key features and forget that Abacus can handle a lot more of their automation needs.

So I figured it’s become necessary to keep current and potential customers aware of what the latest features and capabilities of Abacus Law are.

Who This Guide is For

If you’ve ever used, are currently using or are considering using Abacus Legal Software, than this guide is for you.

This will be an overview of the many functions of which the software is capable of. I’ll break each major area down and give a high level explanation of how it works along with illustrations.

For specific questions you’re always welcome to contact me directly.

What Programs Does Abacus Integrate With?

Abacus has a full integration with Microsoft Products including Outlook, Word and Excel. Below are the two most popular questions I get about Abacus integrating with other pieces of software;

Does Abacus Integrate with Quickbooks?

The software does not integrate with Quickbooks and there’s a good reason for it.

Along with the “front end” practice management solution, Abacus also offers Abacus Accounting as part of it’s Abacus Law Gold package.

The accounting program is a full fledged accounting application that replaces the need for Quickbooks and reduces a potential point of failure with the use of integration’s.

With this application, you can bill for emails, calendar events, notes, documents and create time tickets. It also has the capability to handle trust accounting and retainers.

Does Abacus Integrate with Google Calendars?

Another key application that Abacus does not integrate with is Google Calendar. Although I’m a personal fan of many Google products, when it comes to product integration’s you want to minimize the use of some cloud based applications.

These programs require API’s to connect to one another and when one does a system update, the other has to keep up. Although they try to minimize changes to an API, sometimes it’s required out of necessity. When these changes occur, there’s a possibility of the connection “breaking”.

Think of it as a previous iPhone charger that you used to charge your old phone, but can’t charge the newer ones due to the new power port.

The Complete Abacus Legal Software Guide – Contents

  1. Overview of Abacus Law
  2. Intake Forms
  3. Rules Based Calendaring System
  4. Practice Specific Matter Management
  5. Document Management
  6. Email Management
  7. Form Building / Creation
  8. Conflicts of Interest
  9. Global Search Functionality
  10. Call Manager
  11. Dashboard
  12. Customization Capability
  13. Integration with Other Software / Hardware
  14. Is Abacus Law For You?

Abacus Legal Software – Overview

With over 34 years of experience in the legal industry, the Abacus Law Software itself has truly become an accumulation of best practices collected by attorneys in different areas of law.

The Abacus Legal Software Suite allows you to;

  • Automate deadline management through the use of rules based calendars
  • Input and manage contacts and relationships specific to your area of law (Personal Injury, Criminal, Civil Litigation, and etc.)
  • Centralize documents, emails, and notes associated to matters and/or contacts
  • Handle form creation to produce signature ready forms from templates
  • Abacus Accounting (which I won’t talk about on this post) will also integrate for billing, time keeping and a full legal accounting system

Abacus is a name and matter-centric law firm practice management and automation solution. This means you can associate names to matters and vice versa.

What does this allow you to do? If you have one client that has multiple matters associated to them, it’ll allow you to bill for each matter separately.

It also allows you to use Abacus as a business intelligence and analytical tool. For example, you can view all correspondence that’s taken place between your firm and an opposing attorney on all case files in the system.

The Abacus Accounting program works seamlessly with Abacus Law. I will dedicate a separate post just for that platform.

What you do need to know is that you can capture a lot of time that you’ve been potentially letting slip away by having the Abacus Accounting integration.

Abacus Law Intake Forms

Intake forms are the quickest way to enter new client data into Abacus.

Think of it as the digital format of your traditional client questionnaire. If you can get you and your team to enter the client information directly into the intake form, you’re one step closer to going paperless.

Abacus-Law-Client-Intake-Form

Additionally intake forms can be converted to web intake forms and posted on your website. This will allow you collect client information from your website and plug it directly into Abacus Law. You’ll need the help of a web developer to do this, but for law firms that are very transactional, it’s well worth it.

Intake forms can be customized to show fields in the order you’d like them to appear, or to completely modify them by adding your own fields.

Civil-Lit-Intake-Form-Abacus-Legal-Software

Once the data has been populated, the system will create a matter record which I’ll show an example of a little bit further down this guide.

What Intake Forms are Good For; 

To summarize, here’s the quick breakdown on Intake Forms;

  • Quickly enter data into Abacus Law using a digital questionnaire
  • Use existing contacts or matters in your database to quickly populate fields
  • Link an Intake Form to a Web Form and use your website as a method of collecting data
  • Track the intake process for time so you can bill the client for it

Abacus Law Rules Based Calendaring System

The very first edition of Abacus Law in 1983 revolved around the rules based calendaring system.

Judd Kessler; the founder of Abacus had identified a need for an automated docketing and calendaring system that replaced the manual work and error prone method of managing case deadlines.

Calendar events can be added as a single event, or as a series of events in relation to a rule.

Rules themselves can be split into two categories;

  1. Internal Rules – Rules that have been defined by the law firm.
    Example: After getting a new client, you want a meeting scheduled one day later with the client and your paralegal. Two days later you want a follow up letter sent out and etc.
  2. Civil / Federal Rules – Rules that are based on Civil Procedure Codes for a specific state at the Local or Federal level.
    These rules will create the deadlines required by your jurisdictions civil code in your calendar as a series of individual events. These rules are kept up to date by a team of Paralegals working at Abacus.

Abacus Legal Software Calendaring System

Popular Questions About Rules Based Calendaring

Will the Abacus Calendar Sync with My Outlook Calendar and Phone?  The answer is yes. Having a Microsoft Exchange email account ensures the best experience and through that, you can setup the Abacus Legal Software to sync with your Outlook and your mobile device.
It is a two way synchronization which means that any changes you make on one calendar will also carry onto the other(s).

Abacus Law Calendar

Does Abacus have Rules for Every State? Abacus offers rules for most of the United States. We currently do not have rules outside of the U.S. but our Professional Services team has worked with folks in Canada and some European countries in helping establish the automated rules on their systems.

How Difficult is it to Modify or Add Rules? With a bit of patience, and a little practice, you can quickly sift through and add/remove or modify the rules in the Abacus system.

Abacus Law Practice Specific Matter Management

After you’ve used an intake form to input your new clients data, Abacus will plug that into the matter record for you.

The practice specific matter screens allow you to view everything you need to know about the case file with a quick glance.

What does the practice specific matter management refer to? 

The Abacus Legal Software was designed with our teams here understanding that different areas of law are looking to collect and manage different types of data. The information a Family Law Attorney is looking to collect is very different than a lawyer practicing Criminal Defense.

We took our knowledge of the industry, and the feedback of our clients to design what we call internally PALS (practice area legal solutions).

These PALS act as modules that get added onto your Abacus Legal Software. You can have one, or multiple PALS installed on your system.

For example a Family Law PALS will add practice area fields specific to family law onto your Abacus intake forms, name records, and matter records.

That would include data such as marriage information, divorce information, and details about custody.

I’ve included a series of screenshots for the most frequently requested customization’s below;

  • Personal Injury Law

    Personal-Injury-Law-Firm-Software
  • Civil Litigation Law

    Civil-Litigation-Law-Firm-Software
  • Immigration Law

    Immigration-Law-Firm-Software
  • Family Law

    Family-Law-Firm-Software
  • Probate and Estate Planning Law

    Estate-Planning-Law-Firm-Software
  • Criminal Law

    Criminal-Defense-Law-Firm-Software
  • Workers Compensation Law

    Workers-Compensation-Law-Firm-Software
  • Real Estate Law

    Law-Firm-Real-Estate-Software
  • Business Law

    Business-Law-Firm-Software

Can you further customize the Abacus Legal Software beyond the PALS? 

Yes. I often have larger law firms that want to incorporate additional fields, and customization’s in addition to what we have available. The more you can tailor Abacus Law to meet the needs of your firm, the more likely the people working there will use them.

Abacus Law Document Management System

Abacus has a different approach to the classic document management system. It helps you organize client files by each matter or contact.

The software does not create a copy of the document in the Abacus database. Instead it points to where the document, folder or image is located at on your network.

This is helpful because;

  • It centralizes client documentation and prevents multiple copies of a document from floating around the law office.
  • Gives you search capabilities to search within a document or PDF (as long as it was converted into a PDF using an OCR system).
  • Allows you to reference a physical document that may be stored in a banker box or a storage facility.
  • Organizes documentation for everyone that needs access to it to see.

Document Management programs gained popularity in the mid 2000’s when more law firms were moving to a digital format and the number of digital records they were creating dramatically increased.

Minus a few specific scenarios, odds are that you will no longer need a separate document management system and here’s why;

As Microsoft continued to enhance both Windows and their Office Suite, tools like shadow copying and advanced searches through Windows and the Microsoft SharePoint application allow the user to do just about everything a traditional document management system was able to do prior.

Many law firms still use them because it’s what they’ve been doing for a long time, not because there aren’t better solutions in achieving the same goal.

Abacus Law E-Mail Management System

Most Law Firms use Microsoft Outlook as their application of choice for retrieving emails. Keep in mind that Outlook is not an email system, it’s just an application used to collect your emails from which ever email provider you’re using.

The typical email management structure I see most firms using is to create a sub-folder for each of their clients in their Outlook Inbox. This requires you to create rules and/or drag and drop each email to that client’s folder.

Furthermore, the same parties aren’t always involved in every correspondence that takes place . This means that there could be blanks in your communication because you weren’t copied on every email that was sent to the customer.

Abacus allows you to;

  • Link emails to matters right out of Outlook
  • Save attachments that were included in the email to the matters document tab right out of Outlook
  • Bill the client for an email.

Law-Firm-Email-Management

Creating Forms in Abacus Law

Within Abacus, you can quickly use data that you’ve already collected to create the forms you need.

These can be;

  1. Templates of emails or documents you’ve created internally
  2. Legal court forms like Immigration Forms, or Family Law Forms for your jurisdiction

These forms can be in PDF, Word, Word Perfect or Excel format.

To create a new form, you would use a design utility that allows you to create merge fields between your document and Abacus Law.
From there, all you would have to do is double click on the form you’d like to have populated using the information from the matter you have open in front of you.

Law-Firm-Form-Generation-software

Why is it Good to Automate Form Creation?

  • Reduces and prevents errors by automating the form creation process
  • Removes redundant and manual data entry
  • Save time by filling out more forms quickly
  • Organizes your forms so you can easily find them
  • Compatible with all e-filing providers

What Abacus Form Creation Can’t Do

Estate Planning and Probate Attorney’s frequently put together documents using an assembly process. For assembling forms, I recommend a software that’s designed specifically for document assembly and the one I hear about the most is HotDocs.

Additional Popular Tools in Abacus

There are a few more capabilities within the Abacus Legal Software Suite that I’d like to cover, but didn’t want to spend too much time on.

  1. Conflicts of Interest Checking Tool – You can quickly check for any conflicts of interest using the built in Conflicts Check tool within Abacus. You can search up to 200 phrases per search and the search tool will sift through your entire database.
  2. Global Search Tool – Using this tool, you can look for phrases through your entire database, including notes, emails and documents. If you created your PDF in a text readable format (using OCR), you’ll be able to search through PDF files as well.
  3. Call Manager – In my mind this tool should be renamed to Time Keeper because there’s a time tracking tool built right into it. If you quickly want to enter in notes for a customer; this tool will accomplish that for you. It’s common to use the Call Manager tool when fielding inbound phone calls and wanting to track them for time. You can have multiple call manager screens open and multiple time trackers working at the same time.
  4. Dashboard – The dashboard gives you the ability to see what’s going on in your firm in real time. It’s essentially pulling multiple reports and displaying them onto your screen as charts and lists for you to review. The dashboard can be customized and you can choose what reports you’d like to view. If you’d like a widget for your firm that isn’t available out of the box, our Professional Services team can typically create one for you.
    Abacus-Dashboard-Reporting

Customizing The Abacus Law Software

Each law firm has it’s own way of doing things and goes about their business differently. Because Abacus Law is a software based system (as opposed to a cloud solution accessed through a web portal), your ability to customize the software is quite incredible.

A few popular customization’s that firms make are;

  • Adding fields to the matter screen
  • Creating new databases
  • Using queries to create new reports
  • Intake forms
  • Visual preferences

Further customization’s can be made to really brand the software to meet the needs of a law firm or organization. It’s something we do often for some of the mid to larger organization’s that we’ve worked with.

Users can themselves do many of the customization’s, but to be frank; they’re not always easy to do.

For complex customization’s I always recommend contacting the professional services team for assistance.

Integrating The Abacus Legal Software for Further Efficiencies

Abacus alone is a very powerful tool. But combining it with other partners allows us to really automate your practice.

Here are the partners we currently partner with for the Abacus Law Software, and how that partnership effects the user.

LawPay

LawPay is the largest payment processing provider created exclusively for attorneys. The integration of LawPay and Abacus allows you to collect payment from your clients through check or credit card, and have it posted right into Abacus Accounting without any further steps.

Fonality

The phone system we currently use at the Abacus HQ is provided by Fonality. They’re a popular business phone provider that has an easy to use interface. With this integration, when a client calls you through your phone system, if the phone number is documented in Abacus, their name record will pop-up as soon as the call comes in. We’ve been able to provide this feature to other phone systems that use a TAPI system, but it’s easiest and quickest with Fonality.

Salesforce

Abacus Law can integrate with Salesforce to be used as a contact relationship management (CRM) system. The workings of this are still in process so more details will follow as I have them.

Microsoft

As I had mentioned above, Abacus has a module that gets installed into Microsoft Outlook that allows you to quickly link emails to a matter record or name, and will let you download attachments and link them to the documents tab.

There’s also a module that gets installed onto your Word and Excel which allows you to save and link right into Abacus Law from those programs as well.

Is Abacus Law For You?

After working with hundreds of attorney’s, paralegals and their support staff; I know that each law firm has unique needs.

To truly maximize on the potential of a law firm practice automation solution, you really need to have you and your team commit to it. You’re not going to capture more billing time, reduce redundancies, and automate your calendaring process by going into it halfheartedly.

This is true for any solution, not just the Abacus Legal Software Suite.

The best thing you can do for your firm is to identify the things that you absolutely must have, the things that you’d like to have, and speak to someone knowledgeable about the solution you’re inquiring about.

To me, the best clients are the ones who can find value in the system. Anything else will be a short lived relationship that usually doesn’t have a happy outcome.

If you’d like to learn more about whether or not Abacus is for you, you can contact me by clicking here.