March/April 2020

Tech From the Trenches

Document Assembly: What It Is and How to Evaluate Competing Programs

Barron K. Henley

Document assembly (DA) has had a huge impact on the legal world, and it is one of the most disruptive technologies of the last 25 years. If you are in the business of producing complex documents, then it should definitely be on your radar. However, there are many competing platforms, and the options are difficult to compare against one another. This column will help you deal with that reality by providing a checklist of functional criteria to consider when evaluating DA platforms. Like most legal tech categories, there’s no single DA product that is the best option for every situation (vendor claims to the contrary notwithstanding).  If you are trying to figure this out for your practice, hopefully what follows will help.

Document Assembly Defined

On the most basic level, DA is the use of software to very quickly generate customized Microsoft Word documents. It allows you to capture the consistencies in your documents such as which paragraphs, sentences and words go where under any set of facts. It also allows you to capture the irregularities such as custom provisions. DA provides intelligent language building that can accurately consider many inputs to produce the correct phraseology every time. Instead of cut and paste, you  pick desired options from a list. Instead of manually replacing [Testator name] with your client’s name 25 times, you simply respond to on-screen prompts and let the computer do the clerical work. Users must only answer questions in an interview/questionnaire to produce letter-perfect, completely customized documents. Neither word processing nor computer skills are required to use such a system once it is built.   

The Players

I’m not comparing them against one another, but the following is a short list of prominent options in this area: ActiveDocs, Aurora, Bighand Create, Contract Express, Docassemble, Docmosis, Doxserá, Draftonce, Formstack Documents, Forte, HotDocs, Innova, Lawyaw, Leaflet, Pathagoras, Rapidocs, Templafy, Woodpecker, XpressDox and ZumeForms. I apologize for any omissions.  

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