TM Outliner

Time Matters Outliner introduces true workflow management.

Diligent lawyers and staff can bog down in the myriad details of each client's matters. The innovative outliner features of Time Matters 6 have me excited about using a new set of tools to deal with heavy workloads. They extend the outlining metaphor beyond simply organizing and rearranging information. Time Matters outlines can automate the performance of actual work.

The power of outlining first struck me in the early 1980's. As the leader of small law department projects with big ambitions, I needed to keep an eye on on hundreds of details and on the big picture. ThinkTank, a product for the original IBM PC, created hierarchical outlines that could be collapsed and expanded. It could quickly reorder subtopics or move them from one branch to another. Now in my work with small law firms I use the same outline features in Microsoft Word to organize my writing and guide Time Matters projects.

Time Matters outlines have the standard features of other stand-alone products as well as the ability to export to Microsoft Word. The hierarchy of outline topics and subtopics is preserved in the Word document as headings. These features are important, but what excites me is how the outlines can create records for events, to-do's, documents, phone calls and more.

-- Automating Work with Outlines

A Time Matters outline can make a connection between elements of the outline and a variety of records and functions. An attorney can organize the potential steps for a particular legal matter in an outline template (called an "AutoEntry Form"). Outlines can flex and adapt to handle client work that does not fit into rigid sequences. Users can select and resequence the tasks, events, documents and other records to fit similar work for different clients.

Consider this outline for working with a prospective client:

Prospective Client Checklist
- 1. Telephone call with prospective client (Billing record - marketing)
     1.1 Schedule first meeting (Event record)
- 2. Prepare for first meeting
     2.1 Run initial conflicts check (ToDo record)
     2.2 Collect information on prospect (Note or Document record)
- 3. Prepare a retainer agreement (Document record with Merge)
+ 4. First meeting with prospect (Event record created by 1.1)

This outline could create all the records listed at once or, with a simple tagging process, could create just the first few. Before meeting with the prospect, the attorney could check the outline to see if anything needed to be done. For some clients, the Retainer Agreement would not be prepared until after the first meeting. The outline is flexible enough to handle differences in sequencing.

Outline templates (AutoEntry Forms) can be created for the broad spectrum of specialized practice areas, marketing projects, documents, the list goes on and on. Any template can be packaged and distributed to other Time Matters 6 users. Watch for useful new packages from indepedent consultants and others.

Some modern programs use the outline metaphor or support a form of text outlining. Time Matters breaks new ground by integrating outlining tightly and flexibly into its rich set of tools for managing and automating a practice.