I have just returned from the Amicus 2010 Consultants conference in Banff. They were kind enough to invite me to speak on document assembly to their consultants and to demonstrate how Amicus Attorney can support and facilitate complex document assembly workflow. The setting, high in the Canadian Rockies, was nothing short of spectacular. Some days were sunny and warm (I wore T-shirt and shorts) and other days it snowed. But what was real exciting was the transformation from Amicus Attorney from the “warm familiar” attorney practice management system that “anyone” can use into a powerful, fully customizable, extensible workflow powerhouse.
I took several days to prepare for my session, evaluating just how far and how easily Amicus could be modified to support complex workflow. The answer was that “within constraints” there was no limit to how far it could be customized. Customization is permitted on Contacts and Files in the form of “Custom Pages”. Each custom page can be designed. All field types are supported. You can layout the prompts and the data entry boxes in any fashion you want. You can (and are recommended) to use the same fields across multiple file types. However, you can apply them in a different order, in a different grouping, and on different pages across multiple file types. You also have “custom records” which can be used on files and contacts, with no restriction on the number and type of custom records.
This is all done without substantially altering the familiar look and feel of Amicus. But in the process, it truly transforms the product. Gone are the limit of 50 custom fields for Files and 20 custom fields for contacts (assuming of course you are using Premium Edition). In preparation for the session I prepared 3 custom pages with a total of 100 custom fields of various types including dates, picklists, checkboxes, text, and memo fields. I also added custom pages for contacts on the file. And I created two new record types. It was all done rapidly. I was able to define the field names, the prompts, the size of the text boxes, the location on the page, and even use alignment fields to make everything “pretty”. I was also able to add text label boxes to provide further clarification.
The fun begins
This would have been enough, but the focus of my presentation was document assembly. Amicus lets you access all the fields, including custom fields, in both “merge templates” and through HotDocs. The merge template builder gives you access to the custom data on the file with fields grouped by file type. If you are “rigorous” on your field naming, your field lists can self organize by subject area.
As for HotDocs, Amicus takes full advantage of the HotDocs API. You can use a default “map file” which will automatically create a HotDocs component file will all the data on the file (with the exception of custom records at the present time). This include all matter data, including custom fields, all data on the “primary client” including custom fields, basic information on people on file (in a repeat) and special fields for data on events, tasks, notes, calls etc. It creates a CMP file and will generate the requisite answer file without any mapping required. That doesn’t prevent you from creating your own custom maps to an existing set of HotDocs templates. Nor does it prevent an advanced HotDocs developer from creating his or her own master component file and using an INSERT command to bring the interview into the template.
Even more exciting is the ability made possible by SQL Server that ships with Premium Edition. You can create a database component in HotDocs and “query” the database for any data that is not coming over automatically. You can use the Short Filename in your query to go back and grab more related data. Or, you can build your own dynamic reporting system.
As you can see, it was a busy few days. I learned a lot about Amicus and met a lot of great new consultants and made some new friends. In my standing room only presentation, it is my hope that I have excited them as much about document assembly and its possibilities, as I am now excited about Amicus.