Issues and Topics
One of MasterFile’s best kept secrets
One of MasterFile’s best kept secrets
Now you’re probably wondering what’s so special about linking information to issues — after all linking is quite a common feature. What’s not, however, is being able to instantly review what’s linked to an issue or topic at a glance — especially with two mouse clicks. As a client of our’s said:
Issues and Topics, a feature MasterFile offers but should more aggressively highlight, has been invaluable — John J. Mueller
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What are issues and topics?
MasterFile’s unique Issue Cross-Table — when issue outlines are insufficient
MasterFile’s Document Binder view — when you prefer a case binder
Incomplete, hidden and required issue/topics for special cases
Printing categorized issue/topic reports and pasting MasterFile’s views into Word or Excel
Global add/remove — bulk updates to issues and topics
Issue/Topic folders — rapid issue tagging with drag and drop
Creative uses for topics and introducing MasterFile’s unique structured folders
Issues and topics are categories you define that let you organize the documents, extracts, facts and players in a MasterFile database — much like an index. And, like an index, if you link an item to several issues or topics, it will appear under each. To help management, large collections of issues and topics can be organized into a hierarchical outline up to three levels deep — i.e. section, subsection and issue/topic.
Issues and topics are almost identical; they are defined the same way and appear in all the same views. However, only an issue can be assigned assessment of how it impacts your case — i.e. for you, against you, etc. and appears under a category heading with the word “Issues” in it as you can see in this small issue/topic outline:
In MasterFile, documents, extracts, facts, events, and players, etc. linked to the issue outline are always live — something that’s unique to it. There’s no need for frequent printed reports just to see what’s been marked relevant to what issues so far — one of the problems with CaseMap® for example, despite claiming it “makes it easy to … explore the facts, the cast of characters, and the issues in a case”. Having fresh paper reports next to you to work with issues in CaseMap is the norm. Here’s the live issue/topic view in MasterFile
and like any other view in MasterFile, you can double click on a document’s row to see it, or perform any other task on the view or a selection as you would expect.
Linking to issues and topics has several advantages over content search, for example
MasterFile’s “Issue/Topic cross-table” is new and designed specifically for situations when a set of issues applies to many entities. It eliminates the need to create and maintain duplicate sets of your issue outline for each topic, as shown below.
Because of the unique nature of MasterFile’s issue/topics, how you use the issue/topic view is limited only by your imagination. Besides creating an outline of issues and topics, you can use issue/topics to categorize, classify or group together documents, extracts, facts and players to mimic the divider tabs (such as those related to administrative matters) of your hard copy case binder — or even in unconventional ways such as a corporate records binder!
MasterFile does provides a specific “Document Binder” view that’s quite appropriate for the smaller case, mimicking the case binder by first listing documents by type and then listing the binder tab issue/topics you’ve created and used, like so:
Issue/topics also have three special features which dramatically enhance their functionality. These are:
Incomplete topics are similar to regular topics, but are completed when used. You define an incomplete topic by simply ending the topic with “??”. For example:
Locations\The Daily Chronicle
In the above example, two locations have been defined, but the third is incomplete. You might wish to do this if you know most of your information will be about the two locations relevant to the case, but you might also get some information about some place. When you link a document or fact to “Locations\??” you’ll be prompted for the location’s name.
Below, a category “Player Info” is used to collect additional relevant information about players.
Player Info\Smoker — ??
Player Info\Children — ??
Player Info\Spouse …. ??
When these topics are linked to players, the value you enter replaces the “??” and allows players to be categorized by these additional characteristics as shown below.
The beauty of this is you don’t have to understand the database design to make new views for such ad hoc information. MasterFile’s views automatically categorize and present it like any other.
If a topic contains “….” (4 periods) it becomes a “hidden topic” and will not appear in any “by Issue/Topic” view. For example, “Spouse …. ??” below
can be used to record a spouse’s name, but would not appear in views. It stays in the list of linked issues and topics within the player’s form together with other such hidden topics.
I began to see that MasterFile is as fully customizable as were the earlier database products I have used. And, all without having to know technical programming languages! — Ed Faunce
You’ll find incomplete and/or hidden topics useful when you need a few “custom” text fields to record additional information. Although not the same as custom database programming, with just a “??” you can quickly and easily capture a few bits of additional information and have them automatically categorize the database — without programming.
The benefits of linking information by issues or topics are obvious; however, if they’re not used consistently their value is lost and so sometime, you need to force use to prevent mistakes.
For example, if you are dealing with case involving accidents at several locations, you would naturally want to be able to locate all information related any one. In this case, it would be helpful to specify the “Locations” topic category as a “required topic”, so the location is always added. Once a topic category has been made “required”, new documents, extracts, facts or profiles (or any combination you choose) must be linked to a topic in the category before they can be saved.
Printing a report from MasterFile is as simple as printing a view! Below, the “everything: by Issue/Topic” view has been printed. You can control what’s shown in the printed report by simply expanding or collapsing sections in the view.
Alternatively, you can just select specific rows (with or without section headings) and just those rows will be printed. You can print any of MasterFile’s 60 views in this fashion, including
Instead of just printing, you can also copy the selection as a table, within MasterFile, and paste that into Word or Excel to insert a table of that view into an existing or new document . That’s actually what the screenshot above is — with cell borders turned off — and can be formatted as needed.
A digest is another type of report which prints more detailed information taken from selected or all profiles in the view.
You can also use Grab n Go Briefs to quickly produce polished Word or PDF reports.
Making bulk changes to issues and topics, such as linking or un-linking batches of documents to issues or topics, creating and adding new topics or issues to batches of extracts or facts, etc., are all easily done with MasterFile’s “Global add/remove” function. (If you need to rename an issue or topic, use the “Revise database to new value” button on the Issue/Topic form).
Tagging documents, extracts and facts with issues and topics can be a time consuming task, so MasterFile provides tools that help make the process quick and easy. Global add/remove we wrote about above. The two others are Issue/Topic Folders and Issue/Topic Revision.
Issue/Topic Folders let you simply drag and drop any document, extract or fact profile into folders that have names that match an issue and topic. Teams, even mobile members, can now rapidly review and collect documents into the issue folders they are responsive to. You then select folders to process and the corresponding issues/topics are applied. The process can be repeated as needed whenever new documents are received.
Views, topics, incomplete topics and hidden topics along with “Global add/remove” let you collect and organize documents, extracts, facts and players in many useful ways that may not be immediately obvious. Here are some ways topics are used to categorize or group information:
Folders in MasterFile are unique and exceptionally powerful. Unlike the folders you’re used to in Windows which are simply tables listing a folder’s contents, MasterFile’s folders mimic the structure of MasterFile’s views — i.e. they look and feel like views. If you create a folder to hold documents, extracts, facts and players using the “everything: by Issue/Topic” view as the folder’s template, the contents of the folder will be displayed in the same format as the “everything: by Issue/Topic” view. There are over 60 view designs to choose from and of course you can print a folder like any view.
The difference between a folder that mimics a view and an actual view, is that folders hold static collections of documents you’ve dragged and dropped there, whereas views are live and update as new material is added to the case database. Folders are therefore perfect for temporary collections, such as preparing a witness kit from extracts and facts, selecting documents for a “Global add/remove” bulk update or amassing documents for production. In these cases, they’re more appropriate and quicker to use than topics and issues. Note that when you drag documents, extracts and facts into folders, they are not removed from views or other folders — they are retained in those locations and what you see in folders are actually pointers to the actual documents so you aren’t making copies to keep track of. That’s why you remove items from folders, not delete them.
MasterFile makes a collaborative case analysis and evidence management platform for lawyers and litigators. Everything that matters is right at your fingertips in an intelligent system built for simple document management or complex litigation that transforms your practice.