01/01/12 – In this whitepaper, Seth Rowland goes over the case for Document Automation in general, how to assemble a document from a template and the best desktop and cloud apps for Document Assembly.
As Published in Probate & Property Magazine’s Jan-Feb 2014 issue — As Cloud Offerings become ever more diverse, law firms become more uncertain on how to decide when to move into the Cloud and how to do it. In this 2014 article from ABA Probate and Property, Seth Rowland tells the tale of two firms who took the plunge into the cloud. He details the processes he went through with these firms to determine which were the best Cloud options for them and how to create a Cloud transition process that would guarantee acceptance by their staff. Although the article is 6 years old, the advice is still fresh and relevant.
As Published In Probate and Property Magazine‘s May-June 2019 issue — Welcome to Diagon Alley! In this article, Seth weaves the story of a young associate named “Harry P” into a review of all the major document assembly products on the market.
Document assembly systems have been around for a LONG TIME. Some say, going back to the ancient Sumerians working with Cuneiform tablets. A carver would prepare form tablets, leaving a few blanks to add names and amounts, and sell them to itinerant businessmen. In medieval times to the present, Hebrew calligraphers would prepare elaborately scripted marital contracts (called Ketubah’s) and leave blanks for the names of the bride and groom, data of marriage, and witnesses.
More recently, with computers came the invention of “templates” and “stop codes” to allow a user to pick up a form, and fill in the blanks. When I was a young college student (ages ago), I connected via time-sharing to a Honeywell mainframe at Dartmouth College, to answer questions which would draft a “letter to Mom”. It was quicker than handwriting, and it included an optional request for money (ostensibly for food).
So document assembly is not a new concept. Over the past two decades a number of very creative software engineers have written and marketed powerful document assembly engines. A number have been successful in getting converts to invest in their software and build document automation systems. A lot of great stuff has been done. However, as time has passed, the developers of these platforms have abandoned them, either forcing their users to “upgrade” to new software or just simply closing their doors for lack of funds.
These OLD or LEGACY systems worked (and continue to work). But there are often few people around with knowledge to support them, or give them the ongoing refresh required to maintain a document assembly system to allow it to adapt to the ever changing legal and business environment. It is for this reason, the Basha Systems has invested time in understanding these legacy software systems, and provided an alternative. We do not seek to maintain users on these system. Rather, we work with them to extract the legal and textual content, business logic and know-how and migrate them to modern, well-capitalized software platforms like HotDocs, ContractExpress/DealBuilder and others.
If you have invested time in any of the automation systems below, we encourage you to explore these pages, and get a feel of what we might be able to do for you. Some of the systems are just “history”. Others are still viable, but leave many reasons to changes.
Legacy Automation Systems
There are a number of systems out there that just don’t cut it. These are systems that people use every day and work. The vendors of these systems either don’t support them anymore, as is the case for CAPS Author, HotDocs 4.2 and ThinkDOCS, or they are out of business, as in the case of PowerTXT. The systems are described below. Please click on the links to the left (or below) for more details about the benefits of converting these systems to HotDocs or DealBuilder. Other systems, loke IBM Displaywriter, SmartWords, Visual Workform, and Xyrite have long ago entered the dust heap. We can help with all these programs.
Check out the Top Five Essential Document Assembly Features in Practice Management Software in the White Paper for Amicus Attorney.
Document Assembly Systems work best when they are paired with a Practice Management Systems which can feed data in to the Document Assembly system and eliminate duplicate entry. Please view this slideshow which demonstrates how Amicus Attorney and HotDocs can work together seamlessly to make lawyers efficiency experts.
The amount of savings from a well-implemented document automation system could be as much as one or two FTE staff members. Properly implemented, document assembly will improve baseline work product; better forms mean better first drafts, period.
If you take your law practice seriously and plan to stay in the law business over the next decade, you should seriously look into document assembly, and more specifically HotDocs. It is a truly great product that can dramatically enhance your productivity and profitability. Buying the software, however, is only the first step. Like my membership at New York Health and Racket Club, merely paying dues doesn’t make you healthy and fit.
Below I explore DealBuilder, QShift, Exari, and Perfectus IPManager in detail, focusing on the strengths of each system. I also offer a peek at D3. Each of these solutions are incredibly sophisticated tools in their own right. Each tool would result in significant people multipliers from its use. Each tool empowers the author of templates to reach numerous end users and give them the tools to rapidly create sophisticated legal documents.
One of the chief virtues of a Web server-based document assembly system is the reduced cost of maintaining hundreds of workstations. By centralizing most of the processing onto the server, you eliminate the installation and maintenance cost of servicing hundreds of workstations. DealBuilder, Exari, and Perfectus are zero-footprint solutions and can be run in any Web browser. By contrast, QShift requires the installation of a local fat client and relies on integration with Microsoft Word. For a more detailed review, see below.
With the country going crazy about a boy wizard named Harry Potter (even my 7 year old has been read all five books and seen 2 movies dozens of times), I set to thinking about the role of the document assembly consultant in society of nonbelievers and came up with the idea of “Muggle Studies 102”. It started out as a workshop on project management and became … well you’ll see if you read on. Enjoy.
This slideshow lays out, step by step, the proper procedure for creating a document assembly system. From Techshow 2002.
In this Technopost, Seth Rowland explains the terms, document automation and document assembly.
During the height of the Harry Potter mania, Seth Rowland cleverly used the Wizarding World to explain the concepts of document assembly to Muggles.
This slideshow provides a comparison of the features of Ghostfill Document Assembly vs. HotDocs Document Assembly. From LawNet2001
An in depth analysis for programmers of the differences and similarities between the two document assembly programs, HotDocs and Ghostfill.
Document Assembly software can change the way you conduct your legal business and the way you bill your clients. But some lawyers still believe some myths about document assembly that keep them from taking the automation plunge. In this article, Seth Rowland debunks the top five myths about document assembly.
Check out this slide show that shows the creation of a document assembly system that will create a complex Stock Purchase Agreement.