There is often a confusion in most users mind between a “merge” and an “assembly”. A merge is a very simple assembly that involves a data source and a template. The data source could be Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce.com, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, or any of a dozen other Client Relations Management or Practice Management tools. They PUSH document assembly by saying, you create the forms, and then allow you a tool to “drag and drop” fields from their database into your document.
This is a MAJOR IMPROVEMENT … over doing nothing. At the very least it requires you to standardize on certain form documents and reuse them in your business. And it does let you quickly assemble a document. But please think for a minute. How does one handle slight variations in the form.
Say you have a Durable Power of Attorney, one with a Springing Power, and the other Without. The solution for ProLaw, Time Matters and other mailmerge is well – TWO FORMS. Add another option, such as the grant of the power to a Investment Advisor company vs. a relative, and you now have four (4) forms (2 factorial). Add a 3rd option, and you are up to nine (9) forms (3 factorial). Then add some state specific variations (say you practice in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and you are up to twenty-seven (3 factorial * 3) forms. And that is just for a 1-2 page document. Each form must be created, styled, and have fields applied. And if there are changes in the boilerplate, it requires changes in all 27 documents.
Now compare this to document assembly. Instead of 27 merge documents, you have a SINGLE TEMPLATE. This template can have as few as 4 questions: (1) corporate vs. individual, (2) springing power vs. none, (3) limited vs. unlimited, and (4) choice of state. HotDocs also lets you, through its database connection, pull any other data from Time Matters, Outlook or an ODBC/ADO data source. Changes to that template are quick, and affect all of the 27 previous forms. And further, you can now add additional questions and nuances without proliferating even more forms
Lessons Learned (or not learned)
Merge template systems are great. They are a start that can save dozens of hours of work. They mean that a law firm has already identified its key documents and the key issues in these documents. They have also already built a data-based driven data gathering schema. The benefit of such a start should not be underestimated. But it is only a start. Now the real value of automation arises, that of building logic and flexibility into the forms to anticipate combinations that were not built into the original form structures.
Expertise in Working on Migrations from MergeText Systems
Basha Systems has expertise in Word and WordPerfect MergeText. We also have expertise in understanding the file-formatting structures of both Word and WordPerfect down to their minute details. As we are staffed by trained lawyers and paralegals, we also have expertise working with law firms to consolidate their multiple forms into easilly maintainable templates. There is no merge text automation system that cannot be made better with document assembly, and nothing that we cannot expose, document, and reverse engineer in a new document automation platform. That is what we do at Basha Systems.
We ASSUME that legacy systems have value. When engaged, the first thing we do is document the structures, content, and rules of existing automation. We do not throw out the baby with the bath water. We build a roadmap that documents the existing rules and uses them as a basis for going forward. We take your existing system, identify the good and remove the bad.
Our approach can save you hundreds of hours on an automation project. We build a core interview for the form set, and then work with the staff and attorneys to consolidate the forms into easilly manageable templates. We then teach the staff how to update and maintain these systems themselves.