Software can do many things to help improve organization and streamline repetitive processes. But what separates good software from great software is the ability to be flexible and adaptable to a variety of different business use cases. One common way that software can be customized is by creating custom fields to capture the specific data points that your business needs in order to function. In this post, we’ll show you the power of Lexicata custom fields by highlighting 7 different ways that you can use them to track data and automate processes for your law firm.
The Power of Lexicata Custom Fields
Before we jump into the specifics of how you can use custom fields in your law practice, let’s make sure we are all on the same page and have a basic understanding of what custom fields are in the first place.
A field is a place to store data. The easiest way to conceptualize it would be to think of a spreadsheet of contacts. The vertical columns have the field labels listed across the top, such as name, phone number, email, and address. The horizontal rows have the individual contact records in them, and each individual cell in a row is a field.
A custom field simply means one that you created for your own purposes, as opposed to the default fields provided by the software. In Lexicata, custom field consist of three things:
- A field label, such as “Date of Birth”
- A field type, meaning the type of input it accepts, such as “Date” or “Text”
- A value, or the actual data stored in the field, such as “3/15/1955”
Now that you understand what a custom field is, let’s get into 7 powerful ways that you can use custom fields in Lexicata for organization and process automation.
1. Organizing Important Data
A lot of detailed information is required in order to represent a client, regardless of the area of law. Custom fields are a perfect way to store this information because they are neatly organized.
Custom fields create structure for your data, making it easier to use the data in other parts of your workflow. When data is structured, it can be easily looked up via search, or exported and used in other software programs.
The best thing about custom fields is the fact that they are custom, meaning you can create your own database inputs that are specific to your needs.
For example, if you’re a DUI lawyer, you may need to have information about every client such as their BAC or whether they’ve had any previous DUI offenses. But if you are a divorce lawyer, that info is unlikely to be necessary. Instead, you would want to know things like whether the person has children and the date they were married.
That example illustrates the power of custom fields when it comes to organizing data. Each user has the ability to create their own fields, and use them for a wide variety of purposes. This gives you complete control of your data and enables you to structure it however it is most useful in your practice.
You can see two examples of some custom fields for a DUI and divorce attorney below.
2. Enriching Contact Information
Just about every contact database from your iPhone to your Outlook account to the most powerful CRM software comes with a set of standardized contact fields like name, phone number, address, and email.
But you may want to enrich the information you store about your contacts beyond those simple data points, and custom fields are a perfect way to do this.
You can create custom fields to collect other important information, even if it’s not relevant to someone’s legal matter, but just to keep a more robust contact database. For example, you could capture each person’s date of birth, marital status, preferred method of contact (phone/text/email), their religion, their favorite sports team, etc.
This data will help you build a richer network of contacts and help you establish strong relationships with each and every person in your network. As you may know, the size of your network is one of the keys to a thriving law practice.
3. Capturing Inputs from Intake Forms
Many law firms use intake forms to collect all the information required to assess a client’s legal situation. This is a great method for collecting data, particularly if you have staff members doing the intake, because it helps ensure that you’re capturing the right information, and that no important details are being overlooked.
But as mentioned above, if your data just lives in this intake form forever, it isn’t easily accessible for other purposes without having to do manual data entry to get it into another database. This is where Lexicata custom fields come into play.
Our system as the ability to automatically capture the data submitted via an online intake form and save it into your custom fields, eliminating the need for manual data entry. In other words, you can offload the data entry onto your clients by having them fill out an intake form which is capable of auto-populating your database fields when the form is submitted.
Below is an example of the questions on an auto accident intake form, and the resulting data saved to the client’s matter in Lexicata after they fill out the form.
4. Automatically Populating Legal Forms
Legal work requires a lot of form filling. It’s tedious and unrewarding labor, but it’s part of the job description, so the more you can automate it the better.
One of the best features of Lexicata custom fields is that they are capable of being plugged directly into a PDF form which can be saved as a template. When the time comes to prepare one of these forms for a client, the data from your custom fields can automatically populate the fields in the PDF template with a few clicks of a mouse.
This automation can save hours of time, increasing not only efficiency, but also profitability, in the process of rendering legal services for a client.
Below is what a legal form looks like before and after the custom field data is merged in.
5. Instantly Drafting Fee Agreements
Drafting fee agreements is another tedious, yet necessary process that you’ll have to do for every single client. And since it happens prior to retention, the time spent on this task normally cannot be billed to the client.
Luckily, just like filling out PDF legal forms, the process can be automated using data stored in Lexicata custom fields.
You can merge in all the client’s contact information, plus things like the fee amount, scope of service, or any other specific details relevant to the representation. The entire process takes only seconds from start to finish, and then you can even send out the agreement and have it e-signed using our HelloSign integration.
The other nice thing about our document automation tool is that it has a built in text editor so that you can make any necessary changes to the document manually as well, in case any modifications from the standard template are required for a particular client.
Here’s an example of what a text editor fee agreement template looks like before and after the automation occurs.
6. Looking Up Information via Universal Search
As mentioned above, one of the biggest reasons for organizing your data into fields in a database, as opposed to an unstructured format like notes, is that structured data is easily searchable.
Lexicata provides a universal search feature which is capable of searching through any data stored in your custom fields. This makes it extremely easy to look up information in an instant, and it can be used for a variety of different purposes.
Perhaps you don’t remember the name of a potential client who you spoke to on the phone last week, but you do remember that the person had an interesting job working as a zookeeper. If you had an “Occupation” custom field and you had input their job during the phone call, you could instantly access their contact record by simply typing “zookeeper” into the search box.
This example is shown below, but there are countless other ways to utilize our universal search feature to look up data in your custom fields.
7. Producing Key Business Metrics
To grow a business, you must constantly strive to find ways to improve your processes, reduce costs, and increase revenues. But it’s really difficult to know if you’re actually improving in those areas unless you are tracking key business metrics and watching how they change over time.
In order to generate these metrics, you need a systematic approach for capturing the data points. Once again, custom fields are a perfect solution.
For example, you could create a custom field to track whether a potential client scheduled a consultation or not, or the number of follow up emails until the person converted, or the number of days it took from initial contact until the retainer was signed, etc.
These kinds of data points would be extremely useful in assessing the effectiveness of your marketing funnel. But the possibilities are endless.
Once you have a good system to track the data in your custom fields, you can generate reports and use Excel to crunch the numbers and start evaluating your progress on a monthly basis. Examples of these types of custom fields are shown below.
As you can see, there are really no limits to the ways you can utilize custom fields in your practice. By structuring your data into a database which you can customize for your own needs, you’ll gain a multitude of benefits, including better organization and a more streamlined workflow.
If you are not a current Lexicata user and you’d like to learn more, don’t hesitate to schedule a free product demo and we’ll show you exactly how our custom fields features can help you in your law practice!