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This week practice management provider MyCase rolled out its Workflow tool to users. Workflows allow users to create a template of recurring tasks and calendar entries and apply them to matters with one click. The idea isn’t new. People have wanted to be able to create lists of repetitive tasks since the invention of the checkmark. With a convenient repetitive task feature, lawyers would be able to more easily use check lists to avoid malpractice, missed deadlines, lost clients, and so forth. As Dr. Gawande has been saying for years, the checklist can help everyone avoid small mistakes.
What Are Workflows?
Workflows are a template of tasks and calendar entries that can be applied to individual matters and tied to particular triggering events. The templates are shared across the firm, so one user can create a Workflow that everyone else can use. Users can create as many Workflows as they want. For example, we have created the following Workflows so far:
- Opening a New File
- Retained for a Preliminary Hearing
- Retained for the Court of Common Pleas
- Closing a File
- Appointed as a Guardian ad litem
When you create a Workflow you assign events that will trigger tasks and events and auto-populate deadlines. For example, when someone hires us to represent them at the trial court level, there are several things we do in every case. First we enter an appearance, then we contact the court for a copy of the criminal information, then we contact the District Attorney to see if there is an offer on the case. There are also several tasks due within a certain amount of time of the formal arraignment.
With Workflow we tell MyCase that the trigger events are the client hires us, and the formal arraignment. Then we can set up all the tasks I mentioned above, with due dates tied to the appropriate trigger event. The next time someone hires us for the trial court, I simply add the Workflow to that matter, and all the tasks are auto-populated. Of course I have to tell MyCase when the formal arraignment is, and when the client hires us. Unfortunately it can’t look into my calendar and just know those things. But then again, we don’t want our practice management software to be self-aware yet, do we?
Workflows also work with calendar items. So if you know that based on your trial start date, there will be various meetings and calendar items every time, you can create a new Workflow. Then you create Trial Start as your trigger event. When you add the Workflow to a matter, MyCase will populate your calendar with all of the events.
Confused? Check out their demo which walks you through the process.
Overall, I think the feature will make it very easy for small firms to use check lists to make sure they aren’t missing anything. Could you do this just as easily with a Word template in every file? Absolutely. But if you’re using case management software, why not keep everything in one place? Personally, I have a horrible memory. As such, I write down everything. And I do a better job when I have a list of things I need to do. If I try to remember it, I’m probably going to miss something. I’m hoping Workflows will kick me in the butt enough that my partner doesn’t always need to remind me to do pesky things like collect a payment from a new client.
The weakness to Workflows is in MyCase’s task management software. As a global platform, MyCase can’t be the best at everything. So users compromise convenience in having everything in one place, by sacrificing some functionality and bells and whistles. For example, there are no reminders of an overdue task. Not even a bubble indicating there is an overdue task. You cannot tag or categorize tasks either. Instead, the task list is simply that: a list of your tasks sortable by case, due date, or priority. But I do not think the flaws in MyCase’s task management software overshadow the Workflows feature. But users must be aware that by using Workflows, they are relying on a weaker base system.
Overall, Workflows are a great feature that will be particularly helpful to attorneys like myself who need to be reminded of things to perform mundane tasks consistently. It’s a feature I’ve waited for in task management systems for a long time, and I think it’s something every productivity suite should have.
(image: 3d illustration of check mark over white background via SHUTTERSTOCK