Document Assembly Made Efficient

When you are looking at new legal practice management software, you should consider how it can support your firm with document assembly.

Do you often draft the same type of document for different clients? Do you try to use the same one as a base? Remember the last time you had to draft a document? What steps did you take?

  • Find one you did for another client
  • Review and clear out all information from prior client
  • Save as a new version
  • Look up information needed and plug into the new version
  • Reread to make sure you did not miss any fields
  • Reread for content and edit
  • Save

If you are careful, and maybe lucky, you didn’t accidentally leave information behind from the former client version. Not this time, at least. This manual process is time-consuming and it presents great potential for errors. There must be a better way – there is!

Automated document assembly makes this process easier, especially when it is integrated into your legal practice management software.

Your legal practice management software should contain all the information you need to populate the document. Most legal practice management software not only has predefined data fields, but also offers the ability to add custom fields that you can use to gather the information you will need for documents and handling of the matter. If you enter names, addresses and other case information, you have one central source to maintain. This leads to more accurate information as you eliminate the possibility of updating in one place and not another.

Document assembly starts with a template. Exactly how this is created depends on your legal practice management software, but in general it involves taking a word document and replacing all the client-specific fields with tokens. A token is a link to the field in your legal practice management software. For example, if you want “Dear Sue” for a client with a first name of Sue, your document template might contain “Dear {Client First Name}”. When you run the document assembly {Client First Name} will be replaced by the information in the Client First Name field from your legal practice management software.

Once you have a document with all the right fields created, the document is saved for ongoing access. This is your template. When you are ready to create your client document, no need to search for prior versions and remove fields. Choose the matter you wish to use as your source, choose your document template, and assemble. The software will fill in the fields and create the document. All you have to do is save and review.

When you are looking at new legal practice management software, you should consider how it can support your firm with document assembly. The first part is a review of the types of documents you use and the information needed for these. Then you should assess the software. This assessment should include the ability to create fields to gather the information you need for your forms, the ability to link pieces of information, like referral sources, and pull them into documents, and the difficulty in creating templates and assembling documents.

While document management and document assembly may not be the key factor in your software decision, it may quickly become your favorite feature for regular use because of its efficiency in improving productivity.

Written by CARET Legal partner, Caren Schwartz. Caren has been serving the technology needs of the legal industry for almost 30 years and leads the accounting services team at 3545 Consulting – Global. Caren’s key focus is back office services, analytics and best practices for law firms. Caren is the author of QuickBooks for Law Firms.

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