Posts Tagged ‘development’

Sharepoint and Infopath vs. Time Matters and HotDocs – When FREE is NOT FREE

FREE is not FREE.  We in the legal practice management community live in a “bubble”.  Because of our “unique needs” and “limited budgets” lawyers and professional service organizations, have been able to attract a unique set of software tools for drafting our documents and managing our business.  Among these tools are document assembly software packages like HotDocs, GhostFIll, DealBuilder and Exari.  And among the practice management tools are ones like Time Matters, Amicus Attorney and PracticeMaster.  These tools are well developed, with development histories of over a decade or two decades of use.  And these tools are “Rapid Development” platforms that enable developers and consultants to build powerful and highly customized solutions for their clients.

It is true there are OTHER tools that can be used for managing contact information and for automating forms.  These other tools are “free” since many of them are included with the licenses to products many already use.  InfoPath is included with the enterprise version of Microsoft Office; SharePoint Services is included with many versions of Windows Server. And because these tools are “free” and because larger organizations have dedicated programming staff to build solutions with these tools, there is a tendency outside of LEGAL, to use these tools instead. THIS is a mistake.

But Can’t We DO the SAME thing

I have spent time exploring SharePoint and InfoPath.  From my perspective, as a consultant, building solutions based on “free software” is a great sell.  I could build solutions with Merge Templates; or go beyond and set up InfoPath data entry forms to fee the merge templates.  I could offer these forms over a “free” SharePoint server.  I could take the document markup used by a document assembly product like HotDocs, and replace it with Bookmarks and XML objects with rules assigned to those objects.  This would be great for my business, until I asked the client to pay for the development bill.

The reason lawyers and professional service organizations choose a HotDocs for document assembly or a Time Matters for practice management is because the development costs for equivalent level of customization is a fraction of what they would be for building a custom system on SharePoint Service, InfoPath with Microsoft SQL Server.  These solutions are powerful and integrated out of the box.  I was asked by a prospective client how much time it would take to covert a set of 100 lending documents into a series of automated HotDocs templates.  When I replied a conservative 2-3 months, his response was, “That would replace our division of programs in _______ .” These tools are “staff multipliers” both in the efficiency such systems can achieve, and in the efficiency of these tools for software development.

A Well-Kept Secret

Big “IT” is keeping these tools secret.  It is always better to not have to requisition new software for solutions that “could have been built in-house”. The risk of bringing in such software lies both in the cost and the risk to existing staff who could have been tasked to build the solution in-house.  Besides, these systems they say, are just a bunch of data tables and merge fields; what could be so hard.

They say the “devil is in the details”.  In practice management and document assembly, that is true. The goal in document assembly is “RTP” or ready to print. And yet, there are thousands of potential nuances in any given document. The goal in practice management is in the multiple views of the data and the ability to search effectively across multiple tables to mine the data,and the ability to vary the data requirements across different practice groups and different purposes.

The real risk however for big IT is not document assembly software and practice management software (much of which was developed in North America), but rather outsourcing of entire divisions to India, China and Pakistan.  Big “IT” looks at “body count” and lines of code, rather than productivity, suitability of solutions to the requirements, or time from conception to delivery.

Easy Case Management & Technolawyer

A recent series of posts on Technolawyer, titled “Legal Software and Consultants” troubled me.  In this series, Mark Deal, Ay Uaxe, and Jason Havens spared on the role of legal consultants in implementing case management solutions. There was a touch of resentment on both sides.  On one side, the lawyers (of whom I count myself), look to their extensive education, their extensive domain knowledge and work experience as qualifiers in the world of software design and process.  It should be “easy”; it should be “cheap”; and anyone can do this stuff; it’s not rocket science.  Why don’t those vendors understand?  Why don’t they anticipate and design for my needs. On the other side are the legal technology consultants who have spent years studying the software tools, designing solutions with the software, and implementing and training. Many serve in defacto advisory capacity to software vendors, fielding feature requests and reporting on bugs.

Having spent the past 15 years on the frontlines, I have some thoughts.  I agree software should be easier, more intuitive, more flexible.  Some of the current products have legacy designs that date back over a decade and could use some freshening up.  Clio and RocketMatter are innovators in giving a fresh look at what is needed in a practice management solution.  But as they will admit, their products are not yet complete or as full featured as the current client-server applications.

The problem lies not in the software, but what lawyers expect to do with the software.  When I started law practice (25 years ago), I was given a big red leather bound book from the New York State Bar Association that had entries for my calendar and had a secretary who took dictation by hand and gave me finished documents.  Over the years, the role of the secretary has diminished.  In a large law firm, the ratio of attorneys to secretaries is now 3 to 1, that is 3 attorneys to one secretary, with the primary role of the secretary being telephone receptionist and occasional document editor.

As lawyers moved from “word generators” to “word processors”, lawyers got more involved with technology.  With this change, with the promotion of the computer from the secretary station to the lawyer’s desktop came a need to design software that would interact directly with the attorney.  However, several attorneys, remembering the reign of the personal secretary, expect the computer (and its software) to reflect the nuances and responsiveness of the personal secretary, the secretary who seems to know what you want, and who can change actions and processes on a dime.

In asking for easier software, many forget how much time it took to train a good secretary.  Some people would say, you don’t train a secretary, you just get lucky.  This training process, having gone through it was tedious and laborious; it would take months, and even then, there was constant scrutiny and checking and followup.  Some of that training would be done by the law firm’s other staff, and some by you.  And when you finally got it right, they would assign a second attorney to your secretary, reducing his or her availability;and the secretary would go home earlier.

And so now, we are in the world of the computer, the personal computer.  Getting a computer to be truly “personal” requires training.  Sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect software program that matches your exact workflow.  If you do, great, and go ride with it.  However, for the time you don’t, that is where I and my other technology consultants come in. We can “train” your PC to meet your workflow, reflect it, and enhance it.  And we can train you and your staff to make good and effective use of the tool, to meet some where in the middle.

For those efforts, we consultants are specialists. We take the time to read the manuals, go to the certification training, keep track on bugs, followup and monitor the discussion forums, and test the software in beta. For all this time and effort, we don’t charge our clients, they are a fixed overhead for running a consulting business. However, we do charge our clients a rate for our time commensurate with our expertise.  In that model, we are like lawyers; in fact, some of us, like me are lawyers.

A little note on ROI (return on investment).  At consulting rates ranging from $250 to $100 per hour, our rates are substantially less than your billing rate; and with our knowledge and ability in these programs, we can solve your issues in a fraction of the time.  We can tell you point blank whether you can or cannot achieve what you want with the software.  So cut us a little slack; give us a call.

Template vs. System Design

Over the years of working with HotDocs we have encountered many issues with the basic design of HotDocs, client requests and what not, that have required creative solutions.  And in so doing, we have changed our approach from one that centered around “documents” to one that centers around data and workflow.  In so doing, we have substantially changed the way that we code in HotDocs, using methods and approaches that arise from other coding languages and programming principals.  We have found HotDocs to be flexible and powerful enough to support, for example, the use of common elements across multiple templates, use of templates as reusable objects, using local and global variables, internal databases, and dynamic indexing and cross-references.  Such features are not required for basic template design.  However, there use leads to more user-friendly interviews, more dynamic data entry, and the ability to design templates and interviews that reflect and respond to the data input.

Nothing in the typical HotDocs training prepares a developer for this use of HotDocs.  HotDocs contains powerful tools, scripting language and capability to support advanced object oriented programming. The functions are documented, but some of the more powerful capabilities are only hinted at in the documentation.  Our approach starts with a recognition that documents are not the center of a template system, but merely the output of a system.  Documents are the output of carefully crafted data gathering processes that begin even before the document assembly interview.  A well designed system understands and mirrors the natural data gathering process, and then guides the user to the appropriate documents.

When confronted with a HotDocs project, many clients and some developers think only of the document in front of them.  Code the first document, then move onto the next. Just identify the fillpoints and create a variable. When developers code one document at a time, they focus on the relevance of data to the particular document at hand, failing to recognize that data in an answer file will be reused for multiple templates.

We have been called to rebuild several CAPS Author systems.  What is different about CAPS is that it truly was a platform to develop practice systems.  CAPS views templates as merely one of several element types that compose a CAPS practice system.  As such, a typical CAPS systems could have hundreds of document templates, but actually output under a dozen documents.  This model of design is one of the approaches we take at Basha Systems in designing our HotDocs systems for our clients.

The benefits of a modular and systemic approach are many. They include:

  1. Use of reusable components which can be edited once and used in multiple documents.
  2. Use of global scripts that simplify template markup, making templates more readable.
  3. Use of global style design to ensure consisent formatting and numbering.
  4. Use of common dialog design to ensure familiarity and ease of use in the interview.
  5. Use of consistent variable naming conventions and schemas across multiple dialogs, templates, and even practice systems.
  6. Use of party systems to collect data and dynamic lookup lists.
  7. Use of shell templates that either aggregate templates into a single resulting document or launch multiple documents without running redundant interviews.

Anyone can code a document.  Only a few can code a system. In looking at a document assembly project, if you begin from the systemic approach, you will be able to see the overall process and the individual reusable elements.  And maybe, you will begin to get better results.

Customer Service 101: Connecting in an Interconnected World

Rose Rowland, Developer and Trainer for Basha Systems adds her thoughts on customer service in an interconnected world.

For several years now, I have gone to a drycleaners that is farther from my house than at least five others.  This drycleaners is not particularly cheaper or even better in any appreciable way than the ones that are nearer to my house. And still, I make the extra trip for one reason – the lady behind the counter.

Her name is Maria and she is a lovely Hispanic woman with the warmest smile imaginable.  From the first time I came into this drycleaners, she always gave me the friendliest and most concerned of service. When my children come in with me, she talks to them and sometimes gives them gum.  When I have a problem, nothing is too much trouble for her. So, I return again and again.

Now, what does my drycleaners have to do with Time Matters, client service in law firms or really anything computer related?  The point is, my drycleaner Maria has discovered something very important—the necessity of making a personal connection in an interconnected world.

Now, that last sentence sounded just a bit strange.  After all, what could be more personal than interconnectedness? Frankly, a lot.  As I sit at my desk in my office at Basha Systems, I receive many, many emails.  Amongst the ads for Viagra and Florida vacations, there are quite a few that inquire about having Basha Systems do HotDocs or Time Matters customization for their firm. Now, I could shoot back a canned email response or possibly something even more detailed, but I usually pick up a phone. I make that more personal connection.

That personal connection is critical for us.  For in that short phone call, I can determine what kind of software a client wants and really needs. Sometimes I’ll get an email from a client who THINKS he or she wants HotDocs but could really be serviced better with Time Matters merge templates.  And, sometimes, none of the products we service are right for them and then I try my best to steer them to other providers who can better suit their needs.

To have a personal connection with someone, you must remember details about them.  My drycleaner Maria remembers me, my children and different details about myself or others that I have dropped over the years.

I am not lucky enough to have Maria’s memory. We have dealt with thousands of emails over the 14 years we have been in business, and worked with hundreds of people in a substantive fashion. We have over 4,000 contacts in our Time Matters database.  The feat of remembering everything about every one of those contacts would boggle the mind.

For that, we have Time Matters, and an add-on built by Basha Systems called the Basha Systems Office Management System for Time Matters (aka “OMS”).  A couple of years ago, Basha Systems created two packages for Time Matters software to make it more powerful – EPMS (Estate Planning Management System) and OMS (Office Management System).

The most amazing part of these packages and the one that everyone is most impressed with are the Power Views created by Seth Rowland and Ian Burrows.  They seem simple (despite the thousands of dollars of development time).  They implement the 3-Click solution.  And in so doing they unlock the true power of Time Matters.

By clicking on a Contact in Time Matters and clicking on the Power View list, I can see numerous details at a glance. One of the things I really love about our power views for Time Matters is the ability in a single click to see the data entered on ALL THREE tabs of the Contact record (or the Matter record) in a single view which can be printed.  The second favorite Power View is call OMS Contact Note Phone List.  Here, in a single power view is a list of all contacts (with their name, code, phone number, cell number, and email), the full text of ALL related notes, and the full text of ALL related phone calls.

With information like that at their fingertips, lawyers/professionals can treat each of their clients (whether they have 50 or 5,000 clients, and whether they are solo or work with a team of 20 people) like EACH one was the most memorable and important client they had.  All this information, available in 3-clicks and quick perusal, gives YOU that personal connection.  It is an interesting concept and one we believe in at Basha Systems.

TechnoFeature: HotDocs Transformed — A Review of HotDocs 2006

AS IT APPEARED IN TECHNOLAWYER:

Buying a new pair of shoes is fairly simple — you pick out styles you like, try them on, and go with the pair that fits and looks best. But picking out shoes and picking out a document assembly program are two entirely different animals. In this article, technology consultant and HotDocs expert Seth Rowland takes the guesswork out of your search and arms you with all you need to know about the newest edition of LexisNexis’ popular document assembly software — HotDocs 2006. Seth gives you the lowdown on the pros and cons as well as his wish list for future editions. Whether you’re new to document assembly or an experienced coder, we think you’ll find Seth’s exhaustive review helpful in your evaluation process. This article contains 2,753 words.

INTRODUCTION: HOTDOCS AND ME

For the past eleven years I have dedicated my consulting practice to bringing “document assembly” to lawyers. As a “recovered lawyer” (University of Pennsylvania Law School ‘88 and veteran of Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Kramer Levin LLP), I see document assembly as central to the survival of the practice of law. As law becomes perceived as a commodity service, only by embedding knowledge in expert systems and practice automation can the lawyers of today deliver competitive high-quality legal services.

In the past decade, I have implemented document assembly solutions on a range of different document automation platforms. I have worked with HotDocs since version 4.2, serving at various times as a HotDocs Reseller, a HotDocs Consultant, a HotDocs Partner and now as a HotDocs Certified Independent Consultant (“CIC”). I have participated in several beta programs for HotDocs and posted hundreds of support e-mails to the HotDocs list since 2001. Members of my staff and I have logged several thousands of hours working with HotDocs and teaching others to use it. I can safely say that I know the product pretty well.

TEST LAB EQUIPMENT

In reviewing HotDocs 2006, I have tested it on an older Compaq Presario X1000 (1.5 Mhz Pentium M with 512 MB RAM) and a newer Dell Dimension 4600 (2.66 Mhz Pentium IV with 2 GB of RAM). Both systems run Windows XP, Service Pack 2, with Microsoft Word 2003.

WordPerfect users should note that LexisNexis continues to support WordPerfect templates. However, some of the new features (like Markup View) are only available for templates developed in Microsoft Word. Unfortunately for users of Mac OS X, no Macintosh version exists at present, although with the newer Macs running on Intel, you can dual boot into Windows XP and run HotDocs.

To check for compatibility issues between HotDocs 2005 templates and HotDocs 2006 templates, I installed Altiris Software Virtualization Solution (available from www.altiris.com). With Altiris, I could install each version as a separate application layer. This enabled me to switch between the two versions without rebooting.

TRANSFORMATION OF HOTDOCS

Starting with HotDocs 6 and culminating in HotDocs 2006, LexisNexis has completely rewritten the HotDocs engine. HotDocs has shifted from a powerful dialog-box based template-filler, into a true interview-driven application.

In HotDocs 5, the assembler would parse a template sequentially, and present a series of dialog-boxes, as needed, to complete the assembly. With HotDocs 6, the dialog-boxes were merged into a single interview with the ability to navigate from one dialog to another through an interview tree. This change began the shift from a template-driven system into a scripted interview-based application.

Over time, the developers added features to the interview. Via tabs, you could see a blank questionnaire and a fully completed questionnaire. In HotDocs 2005, they added a dynamic document preview. As the answers in the interview changed, the text in the preview changed. Variable text was marked in blue with hotlinks to actual questions. You could now use a comparison tool to visually compare the text under different scenarios.

With the inclusion of the HotDocs database connection (and its enhancement), as well as the Time Matters connector, HotDocs entered the world of workflow, giving it the ability to easily pull in data locked in company and law firm databases.

HotDocs 2006 represents the culmination of this evolutionary process: easier, faster, more powerful, more flexible, and with a richer user experience. LexisNexis has also addressed the need for lawyers to better understand the templates through markup tools and coloring that hides the complexity of the systems.

PROS OF HOTDOCS 2006

Below you’ll find just a few of the new features available with the latest release of HotDocs.

The Error Is Your Fault — And Now You Know Why

Perhaps the best new feature of HotDocs 2006 is that “IT WORKS.” Stability issues plagued a number of the new features that emerged in HotDocs 6, but these have now been ironed out. HotDocs 2006 doesn’t crash; it gives you an error message and takes you to the text of the template or the portion of the script that has caused the error. Most “crashes” result from template developer error (sorry folks, it is sometimes your fault). The problem was lack of information in a complex multi-template system; i.e. identifying the location of the error. The system will now halt the assembly and take you directly to the error.

In the template development environment, you can click a button to “Test Assemble” the document. In this Test Mode, you can use the Document Preview tab to test for errors under different scenarios and then use the editor to right-click on an offending variable or dialog to edit the script or text.

You Would Be Foolish Not to Use These Tools

Haven’t you realized that “real” template developers use toolbars? Seriously, template development is complex with myriad opportunities to make mistakes. In recognition of this, you now have a range of tools on the Word toolbar to assist in spotting potential errors in coding and adding codes:

• Markup View/Developer View

This feature enables the developer to hide all the “blue code” in a template and present it to the knowledge specialist with a simplified markup. Green square brackets denote the borders of conditional text. Blue italic text in square brackets denotes fields — very much like standard word merge-text fields. In this manner, you can edit the text of the template without the distracting conditional logic. And then, with a single click, you can convert the template back to developer view with all the HotDocs codes revealed. Making templates more readable is always a good thing.

• HotDocs Outliner

Have you ever wanted to know which questions were ONLY asked if the Borrower was a corporation, or some other special criteria? With the HotDocs Outliner, you have a visual tree of all HotDocs variables in a template. If they appear in conditional text, the outliner will show all the parent conditions which determine the relevance of that particular variable. This feature really works; but you need to be in Developer View (see above) to use it.

• Apply Colors -> Nested

In HotDocs 2005, the concept of colors for conditional logic was introduced, along with the ability to number rules. In HotDocs 2006, this feature has been refined with the addition of a nested color schema. This means that by visual references (green is top level), you can tell all the parent conditions for a particular block of text. In plain English, you can now know “why” that darn paragraph did not show up in the template … or the converse. As part of this feature, HotDocs will throw an error if there is a missing END IF or an extra END IF and bring you to that point in the template to fix it. HotDocs also has a “sequential” coloring scheme. While the colors are pretty, this feature is only marginally helpful in diagnosing errors in template design.

• Other Refinements to Toolbar Buttons

Match Fields and Label Fields are useful tools. The first enables you to click on a conditional expression and find the matching END IF (or converse). The Label Fields formalizes what has been known by developers for years — that you can provide documentation inside a HotDocs fillpoint which does not affect the automation by using a “//” followed by the comment. Label Fields now enables you to control the visibility of those comments as well as supply a sequential identifier for each block of conditional text.

Bake the Cake and Eat It Too with Span Tags

How often have you wanted to change a section of an automated document, while preserving the automation so that you could reassemble the document? With the addition of a SPAN instruction, developers can now control document editing by marking sections of a template as a SPAN. This enables users to edit that section of text at the Document Preview tab of the assembly window. You can then save changes made during assembly to the answer file so that you can reassemble the same document later and have your changes reapplied. Used judiciously, this is a great feature. It moves the editing process into the Document Interview. For some users it may appear counter-intuitive: to edit an automated document, you need to “assemble” it, click on “preview” and then make your changes. This is not yet the “holy grail” of document assembly, but it gets closer.

The Razzle-Dazzle of Dialog Elements

HotDocs now provides a new Dialog Element component that enables you to add additional text, hyperlinks, buttons, graphics, lines, and spacing to dialogs more easily. HotDocs has gotten rid of the ugly undeclared component known as “additional text.” What used to be done by special scripting of “additional text” now is done much more logically with this new component. You should really care about this because it makes the “user” experience so much simpler.

What the Heck Are “Dot Codes”?

HotDocs 2006 introduces a new feature called dot codes, which enables you to 1) format text results derived from computation scripts, 2) insert special characters in plain text and template text, 3) format variable prompts and additional text, and 4) punctuate non-repeated lists of answers. This stuff is “cool.” If I had the last item, the punctuation codes, I would be much poorer today, for I have charged clients thousands of dollars to implement proper punctuation in automated agreements.

SOME AREAS OF CONTINUING WEAKNESS

Speeding Up Complex Interviews

With so much now riding on the interview that needs to be rendered dynamically, certain aspects of HotDocs has slowed down. There are pauses when you exit a question before the screen refreshes that can last a second or two as HotDocs crunches through the implications of each change. HotDocs has provided a solution, a button to “turn off dynamic interview.” This will substantially speed the performance since HotDocs will not refresh the interview tree until you exit the dialog.

Answer File and Document Management

HotDocs has historically been built around single template assembly off a shared client or matter answer file. If you don’t have a document management system (“DMS”) like Hummingbird, iManage, Worldox, or Time Matters, you will have to manage documents with Windows Explorer. This works fine when producing one document at a time. However, when you use a single interview to produce 20 documents (e.g. a loan package), HotDocs does not give you control (in the Interview script) to define the name and location of the answer file based on questions in the interview or to provide an output folder and location for the documents being assembled. A clunky workaround for the ASSEMBLE command exists, but more explicit control in scripting would go a long way in giving HotDocs workflow functionality.

Autosave an Answer File

The HotDocs API (Application Programming Interface) is very powerful. In the hands of an experienced database programmer, miracles can happen. However, most template developers are not experienced programmers; they generally come from the ranks of lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries and are self-trained. I would love it if some of the functions of the API could be incorporated as functions in the component manager — in particular, the ability to force a “SaveAs” which incorporates a HotDocs Variable into an Interview Script.

More Sophisticated Event Management

When a programmer talks about events, she is not talking about parties. HotDocs supports only two types of events: a global on change and a local on click. The on change happens when you change a variable. Every time you change a variable, it is checked against all scripts in the system. If there is a match, that script fires and things happen in your interview. By contrast, the on click event happens ONLY when you click a button. It would be better to have a middle ground, where you can tie an event directly to a single variable and have it fired “on exit” from that variable.

Rationalizing Complex Dialogs with SubTabs and More Variables in a Row

Computer monitors provide only so much screen “real estate.” For dialogs with lots of variables, the screen fills up with questions (and the infernal scrollbar emerges). This happens because HotDocs only enables you to put three variables in a row. This made sense when we had VGA screens with 640 x 480 resolution. But I run two 19-inch LCD panels with 1280 x 1024 resolution and my three variables in a row dialogs look ridiculous. The ability to layout additional variables would go a long way in making the dialogs more user-friendly. HotDocs could add a new dialog element called a “SubTab”. By default, all variables in a dialog would be on the primary tab. However, once you inserted a SubTab, all variables that followed would reside on the SubTab. Tabs would have titles and run across the top of the dialog. So rather than scrolling (to see what you can see), you could click on the tab button.

WISH LIST FOR THE NEXT VERSION

Developers always want “more.” So I’ve compiled a speculative wish list for LexisNexis to consider.

Component File Plugins

HotDocs enables the developer to use “pointed component files.” In so doing, the developer can avoid “rebuilding” dialogs and variables for each template. With HotDocs 2006, the “pointing component file” can have a single computation component that contains a special interview script that calls on the master component file. This is the first step to making HotDocs more modular. Ideally, you’d have a master component file that at runtime can pull in elements from multiple other component files. This would enable you to develop special-purpose CMP files that function essentially like plug-ins to extend the power of the program.

Custom Functions

HotDocs has a powerful scripting language, with a number of special functions for text, number, and data manipulation. There are times, however, when there is no function available for the task at hand. The current approach is to create repetitive computations. So if a special format is required for fractional shares, a new computation script is created for “each” variable that needs to be converted into a fractional share. With a function, you can pass an argument to it, e.g. and then reuse that computation for handling other variables.

Style Sheets and Library Level Customizations

With HotDocs 2006 you can change the appearance of the HotDocs interview, selecting colors, font type, and font size. This approach works much like a Web-based cascading style sheet, enabling the same interview to be rendered differently depending on the settings in the styler. If the style settings could be stored at the HotDocs Library or the Component File level, content providers (and office managers) could provide a distinctive look and feel for each form-set (e.g. Red is for Real Estate and Blue is for Corporate).

EXPERIENCE WITH TECH SUPPORT

Technical Support for HotDocs falls into two categories: (1) application support, and (2) template development support. LexisNexis provides very effective application support: installation assistance, compatibility issues, support for links to word processors and document management systems. If the program won’t load, or the PDF writer won’t work, LexisNexis support technicians will work with you until it does.

However, LexisNexis draws the line at template development support. Any issues regarding the proper design or functioning of templates, development of interviews, formatting, etc. is handled either through paid consulting services offered by LexisNexis; through a searchable and extensive HotDocs knowledgebase; or through the HotDocs Listserver.

The HotDocs List (with over a thousand registered members) is a unique place for freewheeling discussion of ideas, problems, and best-practices. Unlike other lists, HotDocs developers (both those working for LexisNexis and those working independently) actively monitor this list and review and respond to posts by users. Many discussions started on-list move to off-list calls and exchanges and real solutions. The response time for posts can be measured in minutes, whether it is from a developer or a fellow user with a similar issue.

CONCLUSION

If you take your law practice seriously and plan to stay in the law business over the next decade, you should seriously look into document assembly, and more specifically HotDocs. It is a truly great product that can dramatically enhance your productivity and profitability. Buying the software, however, is only the first step. Like my membership at New York Health and Racket Club, merely paying dues doesn’t make you healthy and fit.

Copyright 2006 Seth Rowland, Esq. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Recovered attorney Seth Rowland was named TechnoLawyer Consultant of the Year in 2002 for his contributions to TechnoLawyer on the subject of document assembly and law practice automation, and more importantly, his service to law firms around the country. He is a nationally known technologist whose company has helped many law firms and content providers build document assembly applications for both internal use and for resale. Please feel free to visit his blog for the latest on document assembly or the video tours page to see what such a system can look like. Basha Systems currently offers document assembly consulting services in HotDocs, DealBuilder, and Perfectus.

Contact Seth:
E: sgr@bashasys.com
T: (914) 827-9173

Basha Search

Loading

Basha Network

Basha Product Sites