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Wrapping it Up: Making Your Client Reports Better

Every present received is “better” when it is nicely wrapped, and the same goes for reporting packages to clients, particularly in commercial transactions. Here are some tips you might wish to consider for presenting your reporting packages/closing books to your clients:

1. Create a Report Index

Make a list of all the documents that were created or utilized in the particular transaction or matter.  If you already use a “Closing Agenda” in your transactions, it may be that such a document can form the basis of your Report Index, but you may want to supplement the Closing Agenda with things like a copy of your statement of account, a statement of funds received and disbursed, or copies of other searches, certificates or collateral documents related to he transaction or matter.  Number each of the items in the Report Index (starting with the Report Index as document 000) and pencil the number of the items on the physical document (I suggest you start with 001, just to be on the safe side). If the document already exists in electronic form, then simply create an electronic Closing Folder and put a copy of the document into that folder giving it a name which starts with the same number as the document has in the Report Index you have created.

2.  Make the Contents Digital

The same documents that you would include as attachments to your reporting letter or include in a closing book should at least be scanned and converted into digital images. Most digital copier/printers or MFPs (Multi-Function Printers) allow you to scan paper into digital .pdf images.  If you save the .pdf image into your Closing Folder with the same number as the document has in the Report Index you have created it will save you time later on in organizing and electronically indexing the contents.  Better still if you can also convert the scanned image into digital text using a software program like Omnipage or ABBYY or the character recognition element of Adobe Acrobat Pro or Nuance’s PDF Converter Professional.

3.  Bundle Your Digital Contents

If all the digital records are saved to a Closing Folder on your computer, and if they are all saved with “names” that start with the same number as your Report Index, simply copying all of those files to a CD, DVD or thumb drive is one way of delivering them to your client, but if you want to take it a level further, use either Adobe Acrobat Pro or Nuance’s PDF Converter Professional or a similar product to either consolidate those .pdf files into a single .pdf file, or into a .pdf collection. If you are concerned about someone subsequently changing the contents of your collection, you can secure it in a variety of ways to prevent someone from tampering with what you have prepared. If you are a litigator, you can even bundle recordings of interrogatories or transcripts into your report.

If you have named the individual documents in the manner previously indicated, the consolidation will automatically sort and index (with hyperlinks) the individual digital records for you.  If you then save the consolidation so that when the file is opened, the first thing the client sees is a screen showing the list of hyperlinks on the left and the actual digital document on the right. (In Acrobat Pro you do this by selecting — File/Properties/Initial View/Preferences/Initial View/Navigation Tab: Bookmarks Panel and Page).  Save the consolidation with a meaningful name and “burn” that file to a CD or DVD or simply save it to a thumb drive.

4.  Enhancing the Package

A CD with a handwritten note as to what its contents are does not present itself in the same way as a CD with a custom printed logo from your firm.  Your office supply source can provide you with labels that you can print and affix to the CD/DVD.  If you have a colour printer, even better.  Many of the CD/DVD drives have built-in “Lightscribe” technology, which allows you to “burn” a monochrome label onto the front face of special CDs/DVDs.

For an even more professional presentation, there are various inkjet printers that can directly print to special CDs/DVDs.  I recently purchased one for less than $80 that does an excellent job and even tho I hate the thought of what the replacement cartridges will cost later on, I can surely justify the expense from a marketing perspective in the impression that the professional appearance of the printed DVD will have on the client who receives it.  You can also buy thumbdrives with your firm’s name silkscreen printed onto them for very little cost.

For my part, I prefer the CD/DVD presentation simply because it fits neatly into a sleeve inside a Closing Book or attaches easily to a reporting letter. Many of my clients still prefer to have physical reporting packages, but increasingly they are preferring to receive my bundled .pdf report attached to an email.

5.  The Bonuses

Less Paper - Obviously digital reporting can save paper, especially when there are multiple parties wishing to receive copies of the information (client, accountant, partner, – etc.).

Best Evidence - To the extent they are “business records” they have evidentiary value and can be admitted in place of the original paper records from which they were scanned.

Reports that are disaster averse - Electronic copies of your report can be backed up and restored far more easily than paper closing packages

Fewer calls for lost copies - Because the client can save the digital report on its own computer or at the very least, can insert the CD and print off copies of any of the documents included in your reporting package, I find there to be far fewer calls for copies of documents months or years after completion of the matter.

Better recall - Save your digital report permanently on your firm’s network, then when the client calls looking for information, or is going to do another transaction involving the same matter – you are the instant magician with access to all of what went before, and are steps ahead without having to lift more than a finger on your mouse.

Wrapping up your client reports in digital “paper” is worth a try.

Late Breaking News

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Best of 2012 Issue of Law Practice