Document Assembly – Work Smarter Instead of Harder

Repetitive documents are most cost-effectively produced using document assembly software.  I recall reading that approximately 80% of legal documents are mostly repetitive; using boilerplate language.  They provide opportunity to gain efficiency in production by working smart.

Document assembly software provides a user with the ability to create an “interview” or “standard information” form.  It then merges the information into a document.  While one can actually create quite intelligent merges using the native capabilities of Word or WordPerfect, it requires extensive training and skill to actually go beyond a simple merge, e.g. to include if/then logic in the merge.  Using document assembly makes it easier to do advanced work with less training.

Document assembly also makes it easier to ensure consistent collection of data through use of the interview form.  Think of it as your checklist to make sure all the essential information required to produce the document is collected each time.  Use of the interview form also allows for clients to input information directly, with the resulting document draft being delivered to the attorney for review and any additional required customization.

HotDocs is one of the first real document assembly programs to be introduced to the legal community.  According to the HotDocs website, their software is “the platform of choice for 35% of the US document-generation legal market.”  That’s impressive, given that there are some excellent competitors out there, such as DealBuilder, Ghostfill, Pathagoras, and one of my favorites, The FormTool, to name but a few.

HotDocs continues to retain its lead over other programs because most early adopters have continued to use it over the years, in order to preserve the investment of their intellectual capital.  Those who adopted document assembly later, were more inclined to use some of the other, newer programs.  Many are deemed easier to use, based on the feedback I receive from lawyers.  However, it should be said that HotDocs is still a solid program.  For firms which have been users, they will be glad to know that HotDocs now offers cloud-based document generation.  Pricing has yet to be announced.

If you routinely produce documents which lend themselves to automation, such as  wills, loans, interrogatories, leases, and so forth, you would be wise to investigate the excellent choices of software available, which are designed specifically for law firm use.  Remember, you can’t work harder.  You need to work smarter.  Document assembly software is all about helping you work smarter.


  • By Ted Palmer, October 31, 2014 @ 4:08 am

    I have been writing custom computer software in Microsoft Visual Basic and MS-Word that did document management as described in this blog post since 1993. My first one was as a consultant for EDS Electronic Data Systems (Ross Perot’s old company) for Bankers and Shippers Insurance of Burlington, NC. I now have a computer program that I wrote called AutoSubrogate that makes very heavy use of document management to generate 40 different documents. The area of practice is subrogation of property and casualty insurance claims. I also have an Outlook macro that goes with it that saves a copy of any e-mail message you select with the documents of a case file. So you don’t have to look back and forth between your case file documents and e-mail inbox to find e-mails that are associated with a particular case. I can customize the software to include other areas of practice. Go to my website to learn more about it.

  • By Ellen, December 2, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

    Thanks for responding, Ted. I do remember EDS. What you are calling document management is what I call document assembly. Most people associate document management with tools like Worldox.

    Note, folks, that I have not checked out the link provided to determine whether or not it is good or malicious. Use your internet virus protection to pre-scan the link or site to be safe.

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