April 27, 2011

FYI: Document Assembly

The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide explains that document assembly software automates the creation of legal documents that are used repeatedly, including such documents as wills, leases, contracts, and letters. You can think of document assembly as templates that can be used over and over. This shortens the time for document preparation and increases the efficiency of your practice."
The results of The 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report indicate an increase in the use of document assembly software with 34% of respondents reporting the use of document assembly software, up from 30% in the 2008 survey. The top three brand names listed by respondents were Hot Docs (53%), ProLaw (10%), and ProDoc (8%).
In the article Document Assembly, Seth G. Rowland and Rose Rowland of legal technology consultancy Basha Systems, LLC summarize that "document assembly software comes in two flavors: buy or build." Purchasing an off the shelf solution may get you up and running quickly but can limit your ability to incorporate your own work product. Customizable solutions like HotDocs and DealBuilder allow for the standardization of more complex documents. Additionally, DirectLaw by Epoq allows you to integrate form building applications into your existing law firm website. This enables a practice to earn money by providing the electronic forms that many "do-it-yourselfers" complete and file without hiring an attorney.
The advantage that document assembly applications have over cutting & pasting is document consistency for all staff members. You can be confident that the same documents are being used by everyone. When changes to the law are made, all relevant documents are updated accordingly and made available to all staff members so everyone is using the most current and relevant documents.
All document assembly software has a learning curve. Time and resources will have to be invested to identify, review and create documents for the system. Dedication to staff training will help insure a return on investment.
Specific staff should be responsible for revising the documents in the event of changes to the relevant law, removing dated forms from the system and communicating updates and maintenance to the rest of the staff. Use of the system ensures that all staff members are using the most current and compliant documents and can minimize the risk of using outdated or inaccurate materials.
Document Assembly Software Applications
  • AIA Contract Documents by the American Institute of Architects features a suite of contractual documents that address design and construction projects which might be relevant to a Construction Law Practice
  • Blumberg Excelsior provides a full forms management system with secure, unlimited use of all 275+ Blumberg Forms Online with one annual subscription. The system will also allow conversion of your own Word or WordPerfect forms to PDF format to be managed in the Blumberg Intranet.
  • Contract Express is a web-based, software-as-a-service document assembly system, based on Business Integrity's DealBuilder technology.
  • D3- Dynamic Document Drafting by Microsystems is a web based document assembly solution for a number of practice areas including but not limited to Real Estate, Trust and Estates, litigation and business documents.
  • DealBuilder by Business Integrity is a document assembly solution designed to address complex documents. It utilizes Microsoft Word to create templates through collaboration of both internal and external users, with administrative tools to monitor risk and compliance, through the completion of an online questionnaire.
  • DirectLaw is a virtual law office service that uses Rapidocs technology for online document assembly.
  • DL Drafting Libraries document assembly - are state-specific Wills and Trusts, Real Estate and Corporate programs available for every state (except Louisiana) and the District of Columbia.
  • Exari is web-based document assembly for larger enterprises.
  • HotDocs is a LexisNexis product and comes in several variations. The Standard Edition enables you to turn your word processor documents into interactive and automates templates. Through a series of survey type questions, the application gathers the data needed to generate documents for a variety of practice areas. HotDocs, was developed by its founders as a tool to create standardized documents to support the delivery of legal services. Information on the history of HotDocs can be found here.
  • Ixio Legal QShift - enables you to develop templates for your own work product. This application runs in a Microsoft browser on the Windows platform.
  • Pathagoras is an add-in to, and runs in tandem with, Microsoft Word. It uses your current collection of documents to present a list of forms or clauses on a designated topic. From that list you would select an appropriate form, group of forms, or a subset of clauses to be assembled.
  • ProDoc is a Thomson Reuters business with Document Assembly products for the states of California, Florida and Texas.
  • ProLaw by Elite, a Thomson Reuters business, is an integrated software suite that combines case and matter management as well as time entry, billing and accounting capabilities. ProLaw Document Assembly integrates with HotDocs, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, and Corel Word Perfect.
  • Rapiddocs is web-based document assembly software, which can be used independently or in DirectLaw virtual law offices.
  • XpressDox is web-based document assembly software.
  • Trust and Estates Document Assembly Software
  • The Cowles Estates Practice System by West, a Thomson Reuters business provides a checklist to compile the necessary documents to complete a personalized Estate Organizer binder then automates the production of those estate documents.
  • Fore! Trust Software - provides state specific templates for the drafting and assembly of Living Trusts, Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, and Trust Administration.
  • InterActive LegalSuite - providers of the following Drafting & Planning Software systems: Wealth Transfer Planning (comprehensive estate and tax planning system), Elder Law & Special Needs Planning (elder law, special needs and Medicaid planning), and Essential Estate Planning (basic estate planning for non-taxable estates).
  • Lawgic produces complex trusts & estates products for the states of California, Florida, New York, Georgia and Maryland.
  • WealthDocs™ is drafting software to generate accurate and customized estate plans.
  • Books
  • The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide by Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek, and Michael C. Maschke for the American Bar Association Section of Law Practice Management.
  • Winning Alternatives To The Billable Hour: Strategies That Work by James A. Calloway and Mark A. Robertson for the American Bar Association Section of Law Practice Management See the following excerpts - Chapter One: The Search for the Meaning of Value and a case study: Alternative Billing in Estate Planning.
  • Articles
  • Document Assembly by Seth G. Rowland and Rose Rowland for GP Solo, June 2008.
  • An Updated Tour of Drafting Systems for Estate Planning Lawyers by Jason E. Havens for American Bar Association Probate & Property Magazine, September/October 2007.
  • Abracadabra: Document Creation You Can Really Use by Barron Henley and Blair Janis - Originally Presented at ABA TECHSHOW 2007.
  • Open Your Own Online Legal Services Store by Neil J. Squillante for the Technolawyer Blog March 12, 2008.
  • A Shorter Path to Document Automation by Neil J. Squillante for the Technolawyer Blog February 27, 2008.