Document Automation 101


Document Automation 101

This is a complimentary overview of Legal Document Automation, from Knackly!  We’ve been helping law firms automate for a long time! The options can be confusing and selecting the right software is important, so we’ve written this to help lawyers make sense of it all. Of course, you can always set up a time to chat with us online or to take a quick demo with one of our automation technicians. 

What is “document automation?” 

Also known as “document assembly,” document automation is the process of collecting information from your client and placing it into documents with as little duplication or repetition as possible. In the 1980s, lawyers were the first who seized upon the nascent technology and, today, law firms remain the largest customer base for the technology! Most systems were literally designed to meet law firms’ needs.  

In the past, users were required to purchase software and any major updates, and to maintain server-level updates, while ensuring any hardware in the office could run the new versions. On-site backups were risky and off-site storage, in the cloud, really wasn’t invented, yet. 

Still, the benefits were real. Lawyers were spending less time creating documents and doing it without any errors or proofreading. It became possible to reduce their time spent preparing documents from weeks to only minutes. Seriously.

As the years passed, solutions became easier to use, more effective, and cheaper to get. Today, most solutions are cloud-based and can be used on any device with an internet connection, including phones, tablets, and computers, regardless of the operating system. 

And, instead of purchasing software, modern solutions are subscription-based, which means expensive servers aren‘t necessary, users aren’t responsible for updating their software, and, yet, they will always have the current, safest version. Most vendors permit a monthly subscription so users can switch between plans, as needed, or even quit, if necessary, without penalties or fees. 

The point is to eliminate manual, repetitive work, like “find/replace” in a Word “template” that, often, still has the last client’s information in it. Instead, the system relies on true templates that automatically select clauses,  signature blocks, fill in variables, and assemble every document you require in seconds. 

As well, once templates are built, you can eliminate rounds of proofreading to … none! Document automation puts an end to proofing!

The most modern software solutions even permit your clients to enter the information themselves, via a secure link, compounding your saved time. And, some solutions can integrate directly with some case management solutions, meaning your client intake information can be automatically completed, without re-entering any of the data!  

What does it do? 

Document automation software creates (or assembles) single-draft, legal documents quickly and accurately. Their point is to reduce costs, time, human effort, and eliminate every single error in those documents. By doing away with time-wasting repetition, contemporary software produces perfect documents without editing or proofing. 

With the most sophisticated versions of software, all your document styles, letterhead, numbering and text are saved and applied, as you like. The software ensures that you file perfect documentation in every case you take. 

Do I need it? 

If you don’t use it already, you’re spending a lot more money than you need to. And, considering how commonplace document automation is, your competitors are probably already using it to provide swift, smart, affordable service to their clients, which can put your firm at a disadvantage. 

Consumer and basic business software, like Word and Google Docs, wasn’t built for lawyering and your heavy-lifting needs. Sorting through multiple clauses, ensuring gender pronouns, creating signature blocks and lists-within-lists can quickly overwhelm business software. Consequently, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to make simple, rule-based documents work.

How does it work? 

You’ll send your client a link to a questionnaire. They’ll be taken through a smart interview where they can provide the details of the matter, including onboarding data. All that information will be automatically inserted into your templates. Only appropriate clauses will be included. (The inappropriate clauses are ignored, based on the answers your client provided!) Once documents are created, there’s no need to proof them. All the language has already been proofed! Not only that, if your systems integrate, you can upload details from the client interview directly to your case management solution, like Clio. (Not all solutions provide this.)

What will I need? What should I expect? 

That’s the beauty of cloud-based software! You don’t need servers, new hardware or an IT department to install and maintain it! Instead, all you need is a reliable internet connection and an attached device, even a phone.

Usually—depending on the role of the user—training is between two and eight hours to get up to speed. Meanwhile, you’ll also be “converting” your existing documents into your new system’s templating format. This can take between twelve and hundreds of hours, depending on which software you use, your document library’s size, and how complicated your documents are.

Once started, most firms can begin using the system, nominally,  within a week or two. Depending on the firm and its documents, installation can be completed in six weeks to six months.  Search for vendors with in-house conversion technicians that can help you move into the new system quickly and efficiently. Online and personal training should be available, as well. 

How do I get started or talk with someone about it? 

Click here to set up a demo time with a Knackly. 

Kim Mayberry

Kim is the CEO and Co-Founder of Knackly, a powerful tool that makes it easier than ever to automate critical processes in your business.

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