Posts Tagged ‘hotdocs’

SQL Adventures – Navigating PCLaw Billing Preferences From HotDocs

The answer to the question is “MatterInfoSpareLong2″.  After several hours of searching, calls to former PCLaw product managers and tech support directors, I got the answer I was searching for.  My odyssey had started with a simple request: “Produce a report that combines File details in Amicus Attorney with billing and receivables details in PCLaw.  Having presented a seminar on integrating Amicus Attorney and HotDocs, I thought it a simple matter to integrate HotDocs and PCLaw.

On the surface, it was easy.  In PCLaw there is a MattInf table that stores the Matter information.  You can use the MatterID from within HotDocs to query the SQL database and get file information.  On the MattInf table there is a ClientID that links to information on the primary client, allowing you to pull in client data. For current statistics, there is a MattBal that contains data on each file regarding account balance, receivables, billings etc.

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Off-Label Uses of HotDocs

Just for fun, I have included some interesting off-label uses of HotDocs.

Related Link: Litigation Support for Time Matters

Most of the time, we use HotDocs for the boring on-label uses to generate legal and business documents.  However, on some occasions we have been called on to do something fun:

Santa’s Workshop – Built a fictional application to manage contracting and job assignments for the North Pole.  We then featured the application on Holiday greeting cards.

Litigation Support – Document Profiling. Wrote an application to allow you to build and categorize a document production. Using dynamic list building features, every time a name is mentioned in a document profile it gets added to a master list that populated the To, From, CC, and Mention listings.  Client didn’t want to spring for a LitSupport system, but already had HotDocs.  A better solution is our Litigation Support plugin for Time Matters

HTML Tip Generator – Use of HotDocs to pull data from Time Matters Custom Form and to generate HTML Page with dynamic javascript for Tips on how to use HotDocs.  See the results at

Licensing Negotiation Workshop – CLE – Use of HotDocs to generate a term sheet after a two-hour staged negotation.  Instead of using Powerpoint to illustrate the points, we used HotDocs.

Interview Computations (Best Practices)

A few recent posters to the HotDocs list have suggested it was not “best practices” to use computation in the INTERVIEW computation; that is was best to use a series of ASK statements, surrounded by IF EXPRESSIONS to guide the interview. This Blog add looks into Best Practices for creating a document-scope INTERVIEW computation in HotDocs

Related Link: General information on HotDocs

A few recent posters have suggested it was not “best practices” to use computation in the INTERVIEW computation; that is was best to use a series of ASK statements, surrounded by IF EXPRESSIONS to guide the interview.

Best practices are always best understood in context:  what is the purpose of the practice; when is this practice appropriate.  In the case of using computations inside the INTERVIEW computation, there are a number of competing factors that affect your choice.

READABILITY: The purpose of the interview computation is to define the scope of the INTERVIEW for a document.  To this end, it is meant for a sequence of ASK statements.  The more you can focus on what is being asked, and place it on the dialog, the easier it will be to debug scripting issues arising from “misplaced dialogs” and “orphan variables”.  There may also be a benefit for those using HotDocs Online, where it is indeed best practices to explicitly state the order of dialogs asked.

SPEED OF PROCESSING: There are times where HotDocs processes or calculates certain scripts FASTER than other ways, used by more experienced developers.  I have found a modular master interview, with optional calls out to computation variables that contain the dialog asking sequence to actually run faster.  In a Master Will, I might have a sequence dealing with pre-residuary gifts that I would isolate from the main interview in its own computation.

DATA-MANIPULATION: HotDocs 6 and HotDocs 2005 fundamentally changed the way HotDocs processes data.  It changed from a “linear processing” to “recursive processing” whereby each new data entry leads to a recalculation of the complete interview tree. Being aware of this has led to certain best practices on our part, namely using either (1) Buttons that launch computations or (2) computation scripts in the main interview that contain “flags” to determine whether or not they have been launched.

MASTER CMP vs. DISTRIBUTED CMP: also known as MATTER SCOPE INTERVIEW vs. DOCUMENT SCOPE INTERVIEW:  I am a big believe of Matter Scope Interviews; a single CMP file that launches a master interview that start out with a Document Selection dialog, and then renders a custom interview based on the document(s) selected.  In such an environment, interview scriptlets (or subinterview computations) are critical.  On the otherhand, if you are only doing document scope interviews, which work in a system with shared matter-scope answer file, it would be easier to keep the scripting to simple ask statements in the INTERVIEW file.

Tips for Working with the HotDocs Markup Tool

In working on the CIC exam for HotDocs, I took the opportunity to master the HotDocs Markup Tool and HotDocs Template Generator.  In this article, I examine some tips on how to use the tool to the best advantage.

HotDocs has recently released the HotDocs Markup Tool.  A few of you may have dismissed it as a toy … real coders don’t need markup tools.  But I took the challenge to see if I could find a use for the tool.  Following the NYMetro user’s group where Marshall demonstrated the tool, I started seeing additional features, not obvious on the surface that have been built into the tool.

Now, I am a big believer in planning.  I build spreadsheets for complete template systems.  I layout all the fields, organize by topic and series and name consistently.  The concept of a markup tool, therefore is appealing, but only if I can have my categories and groupings.

Conclusions about the Tool

There are limitations to the tool, but on balance, its ability to write directly to a HotDocs component file and to interpret directly IF expressions and variables with formatting, promise the potential of much faster template development.  Doing work faster and more efficiently means projects get done.  There is a value to finishing, as a significant number of HotDocs systems never get finished.

So … if you are going to use the tool, here are some tips

  • Code: This is the markup that will actually show up in the document.  Use abbreviations that group the variables by target dialog and then identify the type of variable.  Do not try to get the exact HotDocs variable name.  Use something descriptive.
  • Variable Name:  Take some time to think out the variable name.  Realize, this is a database, so you can change the variable name BEFORE you publish it into a component file.  Give it your best shot.  Use a prefix that groups the variable by the target dialog.  Use a suffix that identifies the data type.
  • Type:  This is merely a matter of telling which type of component to create.  There is now support for Multiple choice variables.  Also, note the support for computation variables.  This does not mean you can actually create the computation, but you can place a computed variable in the template and it will create a blank computation that you will later use.
  • Default:  This is the format example.  It is worthwhile setting this, particularly for dates and numbers.
  • Options:  This applies only to Multiple Choice variables.  There is support for setting both the options and the prompts
  • Resources:  This is a fancy name for Help Text.  For some reason, HotDocs persists in calling this “resources” when it is really just links for help text. At the moment, the only support is for the standard help text, not for links and URLs
  • Notes:  Very useful for notes and status.  Not sure where these end up in the component file.

Now what can be done with the data?

  • Drag and Drop:  You can drag and drop from the list into a template.  It uses square bracket notation for the variables
  • Add Logic:  The square bracket notation can also read IF expressions and Repeats and End Repeats, End Ifs etc and translates them into chevron notation.  It is not clear whether the if expressions can use the pseudo variables in the markup and replace them with the actual variables or whether you have to use the HotDocs Variable.
  • Copy All Rows to Clipboard:  This lets you copy the complete database to the windows clipboard.  You can then “paste” it into a spreadsheet.
  • Paste Rows from Clipbard:  Assuming your clipboard matches the columns on the spreadsheet, you can now copy from Excel into your markup database, effectively creating a data dictionary that you can supply to your authors for template markup.

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