Powerful Document Merge

Document merging has been a staple of law firm operation since WordPerfect 5.1 was all the rage back in the early 1990s. It's a simple concept: You start with a document template that has all or most of the text already written, but with "blanks" left for pertinent pieces of information (mostly names, addresses, numbers and dates). The "merge" happens when you combine this document template with a secondary file that contains the information that fills in all those blanks with data from the current case.

Early case management systems (like the first version of Prevail in 1993) took this simple concept a step further by replacing the "secondary file" with data extracted directly from the current case record in the database, then automating the whole process so the person doing the merge didn't really have to know anything about the often confusing process of merging documents directly in the word processor.

Document merging power has increased dramatically in the last couple of decades, and Prevail has led the way. While other case management systems still rely on clunky word processor field codes, Prevail has replaced them with plain-text field names which can be inserted into your templates automatically, cut-and-pasted or simply typed in. Prevail can merge documents in your word processor or, if you have an appropriate version of Adobe Acrobat Pro, can merge directly into PDF files. This allows you to get just about any document from any source and turn it into a Prevail merge document in just a few minutes. Since most courts and governmental agencies keep their forms available online in either .DOC or .PDF format, this opens up a whole world of document assembly automation.

Even more impressive, Prevail's document merge can trigger other actions in the system to happen automatically. Unlike other systems, our merge function is integrated seamlessly throughout the system. Each time you merge a document, Prevail can simultaneously do each of the following:

  • Save the document to the appropriate client folder
  • Create a link on the History tab which not only shows who created the document and exactly when it was created, but allows any user to instantly retrieve it
  • Create an entry on the ledger tab to track the time spent creating the document (user-definable for each document)
  • Create a cost entry on the ledger tab for the postage or certified mail cost for mailing the document (user-definable for each document)
  • Create a task entry on the to-do list the appropriate staff member to follow up on the document (user-definable for each document)
  • Set tasks on the to-do lists of the appropriate users for the next actions that should be taken

One area where Prevail leaves the competition behind is in the SCOPE of document creation. Most case management systems will let you merge one document at a time, in one case. That's very useful, but Prevail turns that notion on its head with its industry-leading "Merge Across Query" feature, which lets you create and track documents HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS at a time. It allows you to define a set of extremely specific criteria, then find all cases that match that criteria and automatically send any given document to the appropriate person in each case that matches the criteria. If that's a hard concept to get your head around, here's an example: Let's say you do Personal Injury law and you want to send a letter to each client who has reached maximum medical improvement and for whom a demand has been sent, but for whom suit has not yet been filed. The purpose of the letter is to let them know what to expect during the negotiation process and remind them to contact you if they have any change in condition or medical treatment. If you do Personal Injury you probably already have a form letter to that effect. It's fairly important to give each client a heads-up when their case reaches a point where they might think nothing is going on. Letting them know otherwise is good customer service and makes for happier clients. Rather than forcing you to sort through your cases one at a time to find all for which such a letter might be applicable, then merge this letter one at a time, Prevail does the whole thing for you automatically. It finds all cases to which your search criteria apply, then merges that letter for EACH of them, so that each letter has all the appropriate case and contact information for that case. If it finds 100 matches, it will create 100 letters and can track each of them individually. Rather than spending all day searching through cases and merging individual letters, you can just let Prevail do the work for you.

Another powerful Prevail document feature is the "Merge Across Related" feature. This handy tool lets you send any given letter or form to multiple contacts within a single case. Let's say you have a disability client who has been treated by 20 different medical providers and you want to get medical records from ALL of them at the same time. All of those medical providers will already be attached to your case, so the simple act of checking the "Merge Across Related" box when you merge your medical records request letter will tell Prevail to create one document for each provider. Or, maybe you've got a class-action case with hundreds of plaintiffs who need to be notified of a specific development. Prevail can automatically send the same letter to ALL of them.

When people see Prevail's merge capabilities in action for the first time, they tend to be overwhelmed by the amount of of work product that can be produced in just a few mouse clicks. Prevail is much better at cranking out paperwork than even the most adept employee using a word processor. Embracing and capitalizing on that reality is part of the paradigm shift that we keep talking about. Generating and tracking documents is one of those things that a well-implemented Prevail system can do far better than any person, or even a whole slew of people. That begs the question: If you're going to have Prevail cranking out all those documents automatically, what are you going to have your people doing? If you're smart, you'll realize that letting Prevail crank out mundane paperwork means your people are now free to do all those things a computer can't do -- like communicate with your clients. Let them know what's going on in their cases. Build satisfaction. Build relationships. Cultivate referrals. You want happy clients and less stress? Give your people a tool that frees them up to do the things only people can do. Prevail is that tool.

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