Time Matters has a powerful feature – form styles. In essence when you add a record and give it a certain code – the data entry screens can change. It positioned Time Matters to be able to adapt to different practice areas in a firm which made Time Matters very saleable. If the firm could not standardize everything, each area could take their own piece of the application and do what they wanted.
Historically we used this feature to combat one of the short falls of Time Matters – the ability to relate and describe how people relate to a matter. You would customize a Matter form for litigation and would set fields to be :
You could add a Matter for an Estate and set fields to be:
Everything looks great, but as you implement Time Matters, you get the requests for more than 1 Plaintiff, Co-Defendant or many children or spouses. Another level of complexity gets added when someone wants to add:
You quickly realize there are not enough fields on the matter for all the permutations of the Matters. You then turn to the related tab. You add a relationship code for Lawyer and Expert. Now users can add as many as they want.
The next request you get from the users is:
- Which lawyer represents which party?
- Each expert – are they for us or against us? Not to mention, which issue are they testifying for or are they just a consulting expert?
Unfortunately…the shipping defaults of Time Matters, even when customized with the tools that you have do not hit the mark with what you need. The answer is simple (and should be part of the shipping defaults) you add a UDR – we call it people and that record defines the relationship of Contacts on a Matter or People. You can add as many people you want to a matter and describe them in anyway.
So…now you have different form styles for different areas of law and you out grew the feature – but I will say you only outgrew it in the way you implemented it. This is when each area of law starts to add many fields to compensate and the forms are no longer consistent. You have to train staff how to use each form based on the type and the logic is different for each type.
A little way into your implementation, you are asked to pull some reports (or perhaps automate some documents). You begin to create reports or quicktabs and you realize the fields you need across all matters are not in the same position on the forms…that means you cannot report across Matters.
Form styles are also used in many ways that hinder an implementation. Another example is the default Event form. It has fields for:
- With – presumably who the event is with (along with a full address)
- Client Phone
Users will fill these fields out then ask them to show on the calendar, the smart phone of the lawyer and in the matter as they have not completed the description completely. With data in some many fields….it cannot be shown in all those places especially on any phones. When you have a deposition, staff add for more fields : court reported, person being deposed etc etc etc
When you implement form styles for these different types of events, you have to train staff more, worry about data entry and deal with the partner that wants it all on their phone.
The answer is to simplify. Leverage the 2 main fields
- Description – Deposition of Expert Jesse James at NorthView Reporting services
- Memo – include the address. Include any notes like court reporter, whether they have been booked and when you confirmed
Form styles are a powerful portion of Time Matters that I leverage daily (see discovery tracking, delegation) but should be used only when necessary. When they can increase the office’s productivity and simplify the end user’s life. If you have many, many form styles and a form style for almost everything…you should step back and ensure you are gaining the true benefit of this feature.