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ABACUS 2010 Front Office Quick Re-View

Although the inclination when reviewing another practice management program is to compare its features and appearance to other programs in the genre, we’ve approached the review as someone first getting to know Abacus.


Initial observations:


  • A single centralized firm database, including contacts (called Names), Matters, Calendar (and billing) – records within the database have substantial “relatedness” between them, so you can access the related Names, Matters, Notes, Events, Documents and E-mails from any respective record.
  • Good contact management; user-friendly Intake sheets which will auto create clients, matters, and calendar entries. Good ability to customize.
  • All records are available for viewing and manipulation in list or form views.
  • Buttons, dialogs, and more generally navigation, are standardized throughout the application, making retention and use a breeze (i.e. Matters and Names all have “Standard”, “Notes”, “Linked (Names/Matters)”, “Linked Events”, “Linked Documents”, “Linked E-mails” tabs).
  • A convenient History button on the main toolbar shows recently “visited” records (!)
  • A great report writer, and
  • "Special Editions" (feature packages) for Family, EP, PI, Worker's Comp practice areas available. 

We’ll take a brief look at each area separately.




The Daily Calendar view is split into appointments, reminders, things to do and calls to make – however, they are essentially all events, and can be turned into any of the other record types, just by dragging them from any section to any other.  The essential elements of these items are also quickly and simply presented, with up front “Who”, “What”, “When” and “Where” fields to fill in. There are also weekly & monthly views, and a Free Time Calendar (like TM scheduler or OL Busy search).  A Staff toolbar button allows the user to see multiple selected staff calendars side-by-side.  The Event List highlights the entries for the current day.


From the Event form, there are buttons to view contact info, reschedule (keeps an audit trail right in the memo of the event), set dates, including recurring ones using a legal date calculator, bill from the event and assemble a form.  Events can have codes assigned, and document templates can be associated with those codes and generated using Word or HotDocs.


Data (Names, Events, ToDo’s) can be transferred and synchronized locally from/to Outlook and various pda-s (Blackberry, Palm, Handspring Visor, Cassiopeia or Palm, Windows Mobile, Pocket PC mobile operating system-based) calendars can be imported into Abacus, and calendars can be synchronized.


Names (contacts)


Names are displayed in a list with card view on the right.  The detail window also shows accounting setup and links, and Ctrl M opens google maps.  Within the Name form, there are tabs for notes, linked matters, events, docs, emails and linked names (this is where Abacus best demonstrates the strength and ability of its fully relational database). Buttons are clear and obvious for Add, Clone, Delete, Print and Actions (reports, label, envelope, mailmerge, email).




Matters are displayed (very similarly to Name) in a list view, with the detail view on the right.  The detail window also shows accounting setup and links.  Within the Matter form, there are tabs for linked names (contacts), events, docs, and e-mails. Again similar to Names, buttons for Print and Actions (reports, label, envelope, mailmerge, email) are clearly and directly accessible. One limitation is that only one Attorney/Staff can be linked to a matter.  While the Names and Matters lists are open, other commands or actions aren’t accessible.  The lists have to be closed first.


Document Management


Abacus embraces the "paperless" office concept, where documents can be “saved on file” or “just for the record”.  For convenience, an entire folder of documents can be dragged & dropped onto a matter or contact.  Documents can be searched by code(s).


Document Assembly


Abacus has very streamlined template creation – use the form option or form generation options from multiple dialogs and or record sets, choose "create/edit forms", open the sample file, and insert Abacus fields.  Save results as desired. 


  • Documents are assembled from the forms, and can be automated and scheduled to be produced on a certain date.
  • The Abacus forms library includes complete pdf forms. 
  • The forms designer can be used to download and save a pdf and then turn it into a merge template with Abacus fields. 
  • You can create lists of favorites and "groups" folders (to merge several forms in a group).




There is a single interface for workflow, rules, and trigger events. From the linked events tab on the matter, select the "Add events from a rule" menu item.  If the date of one of the events in the middle of the sequence changes, the others are automatically recalculated, either one-by-one or "yes to all".  Pre-made rules can be purchased from Abacus, and then modified to build rules using lists of pre-made events.


E-mail management


There is a “Link to Abacus” button in Outlook for associating an e-mail to a contact or case.  You can also generate Emails from an e-mail field, from an event record, or tagged list of names.  Abacus detects your existing e-mail program and will use it to send the e-mails. You can also create or use e-mail templates (QuickForms).


Abacus Intake forms


There are Intake Forms for new Divorce, Client Defendant, Client Plaintiff, and PI Matters. There is also an intake form for New Contacts (all Contacts entered here appear under contacts).  These Intake forms are also available in versions that can be posted on the web ("InForms"), which can then be downloaded and imported into Abacus, to allow clients or staff to enter data directly.


Other nice features


  • One master calendar recording all events for all attorneys during the week.
  • Quick “Malpractice Report” prints all cases that have nothing schedule for them in the future.
  • Messaging feature (“MessageSlips” that also functions as In/Out list.
  • Preview pane to view documents from within the program before opening them.
  • Automatically logs Event date changes in the Notes, so you always know the original, changes, and by whom.
  • Conflict checking is available for both partial and "sounds like" names, and provides the results to review, which can then be compiled into a report to create an official record.
  • Can send “E-Calendars” summarizing your day when out of the office.
  • Changes to Events can be sent by e-mail to Who (Attorney) or Linked Name (Client)


Overall Considerations


To us, Abacus visually and functionally presents an interface and features that tend towards the “simple” side.  Caution:  we do not subscribe to the first reaction many may be tempted to have to the word “simple”. Our concern here is not who is “impressed”. We know that this is a working tool: if it is easy to use and delivers substantial enough value, it is a great tool.


In the interest of candor, there will also be users who will feel there are some features missing. To some extent, this is a necessary consequence of the simplicity of the program.


Moreover, we think this simplicity of design will involve some consideration of “upper limits” for the types and sizes of firms this program is a good fit for. We think from solo firms to 10-15 attorneys firms is probably  an accurate real-world estimate of the size of firm this program will be good for. 


Abacus started in 1983 and quickly established itself as a leader in computer software for law practices. Today they have a user base of over 250,000 users. They have maintained their position for over twenty years by providing good customer support and a solid product.  To sum it up, they keep it simple.  Evolution Legal Technology Solutions is a Technology Partner for AbacusLaw.