Document Automation 101


Explore a free overview of Legal Document Automation by Knackly! With our extensive experience in assisting law firms with automation, we understand that the myriad options can be overwhelming. This guide aims to help lawyers navigate the complexities of selecting the right software. If you prefer, you can schedule an online chat or a brief demo with one of our automation technicians at your convenience.

What is “document automation?” 

Referred to as “document assembly,” document automation involves gathering information from clients and incorporating it into documents with minimal duplication or repetition. In the 1980s, lawyers were early adopters of this emerging technology, and today, law firms continue to constitute the largest customer base for such technology. Many systems were specifically crafted to cater to the unique needs of law firms.

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.

Nevertheless, the advantages were tangible. Lawyers experienced a significant reduction in the time required for document creation, accomplishing it with precision and eliminating the need for extensive proofreading. The transformation enabled a remarkable shift from spending weeks on document preparation to completing the same task in just a matter of minutes. Truly remarkable.

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 latest software solutions go a step further by allowing clients to input information directly through a secure link, further maximizing time savings. Additionally, certain solutions seamlessly integrate with case management systems, eliminating the need for redundant data entry and automating the completion of client intake information.

What does it do? 

Document automation software swiftly and precisely generates or assembles single-draft legal documents. The primary goal is to minimize costs, time, and human effort while eliminating any errors in the documents. Through the elimination of repetitive tasks, modern software efficiently produces flawless documents without the need for extensive editing or proofreading.

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 haven’t adopted it yet, you’re likely incurring unnecessary expenses. Given the widespread use of document automation, your competitors are likely leveraging it to deliver prompt, intelligent, and cost-effective services to their clients. This could potentially place 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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