electronic office document management
Example of Matter database
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System database

The System database stores the following information and performs the following functions:
1. The creation and editing of Matter and client details
2. User/staff details
3. Keywords used in various forms
4. User profile containing the name of the registered owner and system variables.
5. Cost estimates and the revision thereof
6. Agents that:
(a) Distribute client and matter updates to the firm's accounting package;
(b) Archive closed matters to the database specified in the User Profile document ;
(c) Notify the appropriate users of recalls and (matter based) appointments

There is only one system db. If an office has branches, there is a replica of the System Database at each branch. Changes in one are replicated to the other, through the head office system db.

The System db intefaces with Operational databases based on the Matters template (Matter db) to provide information on the client and and matter stored in an Matter db.

The most effective way to use this database is to integrate it with your accounting package. By its nature this process must be customised.

Matter and Client details
For the client, there is only one form in one database, namely the System database. When a client's details are updated, script in the "Client details" form updates:
1. All matters for that client if the Client Name (i.e the first field that carries the client's name) has changed .
The client name must be updated immediately to ensure that all matters are related to the client by name. Even though the client's numeric code is stored in every matter details document, there is a view to search for all matters by the client name. The view must be categorised by name, otherwise the user could not search by name.

2. A text file is generated to update the accounting package.

NB: When a client is created, the only update is to the accounting package. This is because, when a new client is first created there cannot be any matters for that client.

A large legal firm will no doubt require multiple Matter dbs. Usually they are broken down by client or the type of work being done; eg one db for litigation, another for conveyancing, corporations etc, and there will be multiple servers.

In order to accomodate this structure, a subset of the matter details document is stored in the relevant Matter db. The name of the Matter db and the server for that database are specified in the Matter Record when it is created. Upon creation the Matter record is copied to the specified Matter db.

The main reason for copying the matter detail document to the Matter db is to assist in the structure and clarity of the Matter db. Specifically, it enables the name and description of the matter to be displayed at the beginning of each matter.
Matter details can only be edited in the System db. If a user tries to edit matter details in an OP db, the matter details document in the System db is opened.

When a matter's details are updated, script in the "Matter details" form:

1. Updates the matter details in the Matter db.

3. creates a text file of the updates used to update the accounting package.

New clients and matters
Only certain people (see System Groups) can create new matters and clients. Clients cannot be created at branches. Anyone creating a new client without the requisite authority creates a request for a new client that is mailed to the "Merges" database at head office. The person to be notified of requests is specified in the User Profile document.

The request is considered by the accounts department. Upon acceptance, the new client or matter is allocated a number. If a new matter is created, a copy of the matter details is copied to the Matter db specified under the Administration section for the new matter.

The client will be replicated in due course to all branch replicas. Almost always a new matter will be also be requested and accepted at the same time, but after the client. You cannot have a matter if the client does not have a client details document.

This system spreads the load in creating new clients and matters, but reserves control in the authorised personnel to:
  • ensure that only one client document is created for a client.
  • carry out the necessary conflict and credit checks before accepting the new client or matter

Updates to an existing client or matter can be peformed by most users at both head office and at branches. The only built in limitation is with the Client name (ie the first field for the client name that is used for searching). This field can only be updated at head office, and then only by persons authorised to create matters.

The reasons for limiting changes to the client name are as follows:
  • When the client name is changed, it is essential that the change is made in all matters for the client. This requires an update not just to the System db, but to all Matter dbs that hold a matter for the client concerned. A client may have a number of matters, only some of which reside at a particular branch. It is only at head office that you can guarantee that all matters in the OP dbs will be updated. The change for branches is effected by replication.
  • The client name is used to categorise and search for matters for a given client.

Upon being updated, script in the "Client details" form will search for and update all matters for that client, not only in the system db, but in each Matter db.

The only built in security on the client detais form is the section "Administration". It can only be seen and edited by members of the "Administrators" group.

Updates to branches are effected by:
1. Mailing the updates from HO to the branches or from the branches to HO; and
2. Scheduled agents that generate the appropriate text files from the mail in documents. These text files are read by the accounting package.

When a client is updated/modified
1. All matters for the client are updated both in the System db and all Matter dbs.
2. If the client has been modified at a branch, when it is received at HO, the mail activated agent sends the modification to all branches (other than the branch from which the update was received) to be imported into Latam for each user at the branch

For Matter details.
1. When a new matter is created, it is copied to the Matter db specified in the matter details form, and generates text file for use by the accounting package.
2. If the matter is for a branch, it will also mail a text file to the branch to update the accounting package.