Instruction Model: ADD TEXT TO MULT_CHOICE

This tip covers when to use and how to use the HotDocs Instruction Model: ADD TEXT TO MULT_CHOICE.  HotDocs supports dynamic multiple choice variables.  A list of options (and their associated prompts) for a multiple choice variable can be seen in the definition of a particular component. However, this restricts the user to options known at the time that a component file is authored. This instruction model lets the developer dynamically change the option values and their associated prompts based on answers given by the user during an assembly.

What are the elements?

  • ADD: The instruction to Add Text
  • TEXT: A Text Value, a Text Variable, or a Text String consisting of Text and Variables
  • MULT_CHOICE: A Multiple Choice Variable (Single select and Multi-Select)

Other Related Instructions?

  • CLEAR MULT_CHOICE:  Will clear ALL options and prompts for a Multiple Choice Variable

How do you use it?

1. Build from a Repeat

The sample below is used to set the options for a Beneficiary selector.  This option could itself appear on a REPEAT.  The beneficary variable is first CLEARed. Then the script loops through the list of children, adding each child’s name, one at a time to the option list.


2. Build from a Script

The sample below is used to set the options for a Beneficiary selector.  This option could itself appear on a REPEAT.  The beneficary variable is first CLEARed. Then the script loops through the list of children, adding each child’s name, one at a time to the option list.

ADD "Married|Client is married" TO CLI Married MC
ADD "Single|Client is single" TO CLI Married MC
ADD "Divorced|Client is divorced" TO CLI Married MC
ADD "Widowed|Client is widowed" TO CLI Married MC

3. Build from a Repeat and Add Custom Prompt

The sample below is used to set the options for a list of children to disinherit from a will.  The variable is first CLEARed. Then the script loops through the list of children.  For the option value, it adds each child’s name.  However, for the prompt, it puts in the child’s relationship to the , one at a time to the option list.

CLEAR HEIR Disinherit Name MS
// Change prompt based on gender of child
IF CHLD Gender MC = "Male"
ADD "«CHLD Name TE»|Client's son «CHLD Name TE»" TO HEIR Disinherit Name MS
ADD "«CHLD Name TE»|Client's daughter «CHLD Name TE»" TO HEIR Disinherit Name MS


  • You must create the Variable and assign a default option (e.g. “Name Goes Here” or “1″)


  • You must use a computation script for the CLEAR and ADD instructions.


  • The script must be processed before you display the Multiple Choice Variable.


  • However, given the way the HotDocs interview works, you can accomplish this by putting the computation on the Dialog Script where the Mutiple Choice Variable is used, or in an INTERVIEW script.  If you choose the latter option, it can go anywhere in the script.

Why do my autoentry forms include the wrong task links

Auto entry forms are a hybrid between chains and notes. They allow you to structure your tasks and events, much like a chain. And they also allow you to take notes on your tasks. However, if you convert an outline to an Auto entry form, the tasks associated with the underlying record (not the new record) are link to the outline topics.  It is simple to save an outline as an auto entry form. However, before you do that you should make a copy of the form and then remove the links to any associated records.

  • Make a copy of the outline
  • Remove all links to client and matter
  • Make a generic version of the description
  • Right-click on any outline elements that are linked to a task or event records and disassociate the link
  • Standardize and clean up the language
  • Click on the Save As Auto entry Form

You are now ready to go.

SET Command and GRAYed Variables

You need to SET the value of a variable, but want users to be able to edit the value even after it is SET.  HotDocs will GRAY a variable (prohibiting editing) if the SET command is processed on the dialog, and DEFAULT will not overwrite a variable’s value.

A “regular” script to SET a variable to a value (based upon a Multiple Choice variable) probably looks something like this:

IF Var_MC = “1”
SET Var1_TE TO “red”
SET Var1_TE TO “blue”

As soon as Var_MC is answered, Var_TE will acquire an appropriate value, and subsequently GRAYed out – because it is processed dynamically by the dialog script, and whilever those conditions are met, the variable will not be editable.

We need to avoid HotDocs GRAYIng the variable. The solution? A button that calls a computation.

Lets say we create a variable called Var1_CO – this is the variable that will be called by the button on our dialog. The content of this computation will be exactly the same as the script above. We don’t wish to do anything different, we just wish to shift the source of the SET command.

In our dialog additional text section, we type

@COMPUTE:Var1_CO: Populate

@COMPUTE is the command to tell HotDocs we want a button to call a computation. Var1_CO is the name of the computation variable we are calling. Populate is the button text which will be displayed. When we click this button, the value is SET (provided all conditions have been made), and the variable is editable.

The Holy Grail

There is much talk about the “Holy Grail” in document assembly.  As those who have seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or more serious students of the Arthurian Romance (as opposed to those who have read “The DaVinci Code”, the Holy Grail is a “chalice” or “cup” which held the blood of the real Christ, was kept as a holy relic by the church for centuries and then was lost to history.  During the middle ages, knights went on quests to “find” and “recover” the Grail.  The Grail was never found.  But the “search for the Grail” filled up thousands of pages of literature, and the hunt for the Grail kept thousands of knights diverted in a quest that kept them from seeking to overthrow corrupt monarchies.

In the world of document assembly, one vendor has claimed to have achieved “the Holy Grail”.  The technology will not be available till late in 2007.  When it is, we will review it.  The question is not whether the Grail can be found, but whether it will be the “solution”.

In a recent newsletter, Exari claims to have achieved the Holy Grail in Document Assembly

The Holy Grail: A Document Assembly System That Reuses Negotiated Clauses
There’s a favorite question that people love to ask when they’re pondering whether document assembly will work for them. It usually goes something like this:

“That’s great, I answer all the questions, the system spits out a great first draft, I send it off to the other side, and their lawyers mess around with the fine print of clauses 11 and 23. Now, can I shove that document back into the document assembly system and change a few of my previous answers?”

Looking into the Myth

This article inspired me to look into The Holy Grail and its application to the world of document assembly.  As a youth, I was entranced by the Grail myth.  I knew all the players: Percival, Gawain, Lancelot.  And so, when a document assembly vendor claimed to have achieved the grail, I thought I should take a look.

In the wikipedia encyclopedia, the Holy Grail was:

….  the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, said to possess miraculous powers. The connection of Joseph of Arimathea with the Grail legend dates from Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie (late 12th century) in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Great Britain; building upon this theme, later writers recounted how Joseph used the Grail to catch Christ’s blood while interring him and that in Britain he founded a line of guardians to keep it safe. The quest for the Holy Grail makes up an important segment of the Arthurian cycle, appearing first in works by Chrétien de Troyes.

In the literature of Chrétien de Troyes, a book called The Arthurian Romances, and other literature, the Grail was a “physical object”.  It is not that the Grail was illusive (it was certainly) and well hidden behind the walls of a fortress (it was), or that riddles needed to be solved and quests achieved. All these were true.  However, the ultimate criteria for “achieving the Grail” was “purity”.  Sir Lancelot, perhaps the greatest knight of all Chistendom, could never achieve the Grail.  For despite his strength, despite his intelligence and ingenuity, and despite his great experience and wisdom, Sir Lancelot lacked a pure heart.  He was (of course) an adulterer, sleeping with the Queen.  And so while Sir Lancelot could come within the presence of The Grail, he could not actually see or achieve the Grail.

What the Grail means today

In some ways, what Exari claims to have achieved parallels the Grail myth.  They have claimed to have built a tool that will effectively import “negotiated changes” back into a template.  When I asked to see the Grail (oh… I was not worthy), I was told to come back in a few months when it went into beta—Not quite yet.  Was this an announcement of a technology like Microsoft, before it existed?  I had a client who was intrigued in building a web-based contract management system and wanted it now. I was on my quest.

But the more serious question is whether the eXari Grail will offer the miraculous curative powers of the real Holy Grail.  This made me ponder.  If you take a “bad form” and automate it, will the Grail of document assembly save you.  Or, will it more likely allow you to continue reusing a poorly automated template well beyond its natural life.  Will the “Grail” be used to prop up a corrupt Monarchy that should long ago have crumbled of its own weight.  Will the “lack of purity” … or poor quality of the automated template mean that you will “not achieve” the bliss that comes from possessing the grail.

When lawyers fail to look at contract automation as an iterative process of regular updates and redesign of forms, such systems fail to meet their full potential.  In fact, it is the “lack of the Grail” that has been the biggest stimulus to effective authoring of templates.  By forcing the template designed to “anticipate” the negotiable issues and build rules, it creates better contracts, better systems, more power.  Yes, I am sure my clients would love to have their own “Grail”.  But in the end, I have a concern that it will diminish their impetus to put the proper resources into automation.  It will allow them to go back to the bad old days of word by word negotiation.

Further Details from Exari:

But there’s good news. The holy grail is coming. When Exari V5 ships in the first half of 2007, a big part of this problem will be solved.

In simple terms, any document produced from Exari which then goes through a process of negotiations (typically in Word) will be able to be “round-tripped” back into Exari in a way that preserves any negotiated changes to the text of particular clauses. This means you’ll be able to save the answers given during document assembly, as well as the edits made during negotiations, and re-use them against the same template, or even against an updated version of that template. So it doesn’t matter that the template has changed since last year. You simply load it all up and what’s relevant will be used, and the rest will be ignored.

Wiki Wiki Wiki

For the past several years I have been running a virtual office with collaborators in multiple locations.  We have tried a number of collaboration tools, including GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC, Groove, Time Matters World, with mixed success.  Most of the work was project based, where control of the project files could be passed (as a football) from one collaborator to another.  This works as long as you can pass control.  However, there are times when we have needed to have simultaneous control of a project.  For those, we have now standardized on a Wiki.

What is a Wiki?

According to, it is:

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.

Our Experience

I have talking with many programmers who work with source code Wiki’s to store and organize snippets of code.  What distinguishes a good programmer from a so-so programmer is the ability to understand and “reuse code” efficiently in different environments.  By using a Wiki, code can be annotated and placed in an environment where it is made available to other coders in the organization. But this is where most “databases end” and the “wiki begins.

Because each article in a Wiki can be edited, each person who finds the code and uses it, can improve on the code … revise it.  The wiki tracks prior version.  It also tracks discussion on the particular article.  In this way, a Wiki (used in open source development) can grow to become a vital resource of what works and doesn’t work in an organization.

At Basha Systems, we have recently implemented an internal Wiki.  Every time one of us has an idea, we toss it up on the Wiki.  Someone else may look at the idea and refine it (or reject it).  The idea can then develop into a procedure, process, or utility. Commentary can be refined as the utility is used in a feedback loop which then improves the program.  The wiki software we use is called [url=http:\]Expression Engine[url], the same tool we use to host this website.  But there are a number of “hosted” Wikis on Yahoo, Google, and other paid sites you can use.  We keep ours behind the firewall, but there is nothing to say you could not start a public wiki for open collaboration.

Adding Spacing to Dialog Elements

When working with Dialog Elements, particularly Horizontal Lines, you may wish to add a line (or vertical space) before the dialog element.  You COULD add a separate dialog element for the spacing. But that adds to your scripting and dialog management.  Instead, you should add a <.pm> Code before and after the Prompt for the Dialog Element.

  • Create the Dialog Element
  • Set to Horizontal Line
  • Choose Alignment:  Left/Center/Right
  • In the Prompt, Right-click and add a Paragraph Marker
  • Type your prompt
  • At the end, Right-click and add another Paragraph Marker

Optional, you can add formatting around the prompt to control things like Bold and Italics.

TechnoFeature: HotDocs Transformed — A Review of HotDocs 2006


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.


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.


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 With Altiris, I could install each version as a separate application layer. This enabled me to switch between the two versions without rebooting.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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:
T: (914) 827-9173

What’s The Big Deal with GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, GoToWebinar andGoToMyPC

The Following Article was Originally published in Technolawyer. You may have heard the radio ads for “GoTo…”. A businessman forgets a key file at the office and saves a long trip back to the office (and a lost sale) thanks to this miraculous service called “GoToMyPC”.  However, there is much more to “GoTo” than remote file access. “GoTo…” is a suite of online products and services from Citrix Online that is built around a core “secure desktop sharing” technology.  This review will look at the core technology and then evaluate each of the products, looking specifically at where they would fit into the practice of a busy lawyer.


The “connected” lawyer of today is wired with technology.  Whether armed with a Blackberry, Palm Treo or Motorola-Q, the modern lawyer is in constant communication with his/her clients, colleagues, and the court.  Text messages, e-mails, and documents fly across the airwaves and wires 24-hours a day.  With the expectation of “24×7” service comes the need for access to information “24×7” – far more information than can be stored on the hard-drive of a PDA-Phone (or even a laptop).

The “connected” lawyer of today works on multiple computers.  There is usually a desktop in the office, maintained by the Information Technology (“IT”) Manager.  There is the attorney’s laptop which is used “at home” and “on the road”. There are the family computers networked together in a “home” wireless network.  In addition, there may be computers at a client site or an airport.  When a lawyer complains that his computer doesn’t work, he could be referring to any one of these computers, all of which are critical to the conduct of his/her business.

The “connected” lawyer of today must collaborate.  Collaboration requires meetings with colleagues; meetings with clients; meetings with experts; meetings with co-counsel; and negotiation meetings with opponents.  The teams need to be brought together to make a decision.  The teams need to “see” and “review the evidence” before they can make a decision. However, there is not time enough in the day to travel to “all” these meetings; nor can many of these meetings be “scheduled” for a future date.  These meetings need to happen now!!!  Emails and text messages can facilitate scheduling the meeting; but they cannot replace the actual meeting.

The “connected” lawyer today must teach.  Unless you are the only lawyer in town, clients don’t just walk in the door.  They are “invited”.  A client gets a referral from a friend, reads an article, finds a website, or attends a seminar.  The prospective client gets to “know” the lawyer.  There is more to marketing than building a website (everyone does that); writing a blog (that’s a lot of work); or sending out a newsletter (how boring).  There needs to be a personal touch – a connection with the client.  What better way to get connected than in a seminar?  Why not teach that seminar over the web, and call it a Webinar?


The “connected” lawyer must “go virtual”. The full information resources that a lawyer uses at his/her desktop must be available 24×7 from anywhere and accessible from any device.  The IT Director of the firm must be able to provide instant support to “all” the lawyer’s computers (not just the ones that are tethered by Ethernet to the office network). And the lawyer must be able to setup ad hoc online meetings, as well as scheduled meetings.

Virtual Office: Fifteen years ago, I mobilized an army of paralegals to haul 50 banker’s boxes of exhibits to the federal courthouse on the eve of a trial.  A few years later, we replaced the boxes with a File-Server in the Courtroom, which we brought back each night to upload the daily court transcripts.

Today, you can bring in a laptop with a wireless broadband connection – any laptop, and have access to the same information. Using “remote access” software, the attorney can have access to this information, not only in the courtroom, but also at a conference table in settlement negotiations, at meetings with an expert witness or during depositions of key opposition witnesses.

Virtual Support: Once computers were a luxury, affordable only by the rich.  The computer supplied by the office was the only computer used by the attorney.  Today, computers are “appliances” that are in every room of the typical house.  The expectation (and a reasonable one) is that the IT Manager must provide support for all of these computers.  Run the ROI.  If a high-priced attorney has to spend 4 hours fiddling with his connections to do “office work” from home, whose money is lost?

Today, you can have instant support, on your desktop, on your laptop, on your MediaCenter PC.  In one-click of the mouse, you can have your office IT Manager connect to your computer (any of your computers) and fix it.  The typical “support call” used to take 30 minutes with a 50% success rate.  With remote desktop support, the IT Manager can “see” the problem, and often solve it in under five minutes.  A happy attorney is a productive and profitable attorney.  And for you IT Managers, think of all the grateful attorneys you helped and how they will vote at the partner’s meeting when it comes to budget approval (and compensation!)

Virtual Meetings: The virtual or online meeting used to be the province of high-powered corporations and law firms.  Only they could “afford” to set up a special audiovisual conference center with a dedicated T-1 line. Today, with “secure online meeting” software, you can schedule a meeting; send out invitations that include registration, time and conference call information; and then conduct the meeting from your “virtual office”.  The virtual office can be anywhere that has an internet connection.  It may be your office; a conference room; or a table at Starbuck’s.

Virtual Seminars:  Setting up a seminar used to be a big production involving publicists, mailings, space rental and special preparation.  Even virtual seminars involved costs: securing a phone connection, setting up the conference call, and charges per attendee that cost upwards of thousands of dollars.  Today, secure online meeting products have “all you can meet” and “all you can reach” plans for a fixed monthly subscription. The whole process from promotion, to conducting the meeting, to post-meeting follow-up can be handled from a single web-console; and is easy enough for an attorney to handle without assistance.


Citrix Online has built a suite of services:
– GoToMyPC for Virtual Office (
– GoToAssist for Virtual Support (
– GoToMeeting for Virtual Meetings (
– GoToWebinar for Virtual Seminars (

Each of these services has an “all you can use” plan, charging only per “organizer” or “host”. According to Citrix Online, each of these services offers: standards-based cryptography with true end-to-end encryption, a high-availability hosted service infrastructure, and an intuitive user interface combined to maximize confidentiality, integrity and availability.  In other words, your information is secure, available upon request and easy to access.

The core of the system is a “desktop screen sharing” client combined with a hosted distribution service that is easy to setup and maintain.  What sets Citrix Online offering apart is the combination of (1) security, (2) ease of use and (3) price.  The comments below are based on extensive use of this suite of products over the past five years. At Basha Systems LLC, we use all of these products to communicate with and support our clients numerous times every single day.

Each of these services is offered on a subscription basis (monthly or annual). Monthly prices per user start at $19.95 for GoToMyPC; $49.95 for GoToMeeting; $99.95 for GoToWebinar, and $300 for GoToAssist.  These numbers can quickly add up, unless the right business-case is made for their use of these services.  There are, of course, discounts for annual plans and multiple users, and special promotions.  The pricing is competitive compared to comparable offerings from other vendors. And as the expectation of clients and colleagues for instant collaboration and the need for law firm marketing increases, these fees will soon become just part of the cost of doing business.

GoToMyPC. This is the program to get your feet “wet” in virtual computing.  Get GoToMyPC Pro or GoToMyPC Corporate and install it on your office computer and on your home PC.  Be sure to assign a high quality password (text and numbers).  With a Pro or Corporate account, the IT Manager can manage the installation and the access rights from a central webpanel.

Once installed, GoToMyPC allows the attorney to login-in to their PC from anywhere, and work on their desktop, the same way as if they were right in the office.  There is no need to install special office files on each PC and configure them for access to the network.  By controlling your desktop PC, you can see everything you see at the office, without being there.

If you want to impress your colleagues about how late you were at the office, you can remote in from a late night Internet Café and send an email from your office computer.  If your child’s schools declares a last-minute snow day, you can continue your work from home.

Most often, this means grabbing a file or two from your office to work on your home PC.  There is an excellent File Transfer Utility built into the product.  In addition, there is also a remote printer setup that lets you open up a file on your office desktop, but then send it to print on the printer in your Hotel’s business office. The benefits of “remote desktop access” include added security since the file need not be transferred to the hotel computer. GoToMyPC can also be used for invitations for one-on-one collaboration. However, you are better served by the GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar product if you need to connect with more than one person.

GoToMyPC has had security issues in the past.  The security of a PC with an active GoToMyPC client on it is only as good as your passwords.  While there are 3 levels of passwords:  GoToMyPC login, Remote Access login, and Network login (if you lock your desktop), any failure to rotate your passwords or the use of obvious passwords will put your computer at risk.  In addition, accessing GoToMyPC accounts from untrusted computers (i.e. airport, internet cafes, Kinkos etc.) can subject you to risk of keystroke logging programs recording your login information.  This happened at one Kinkos in New York.  However, there was a happy ending.  Because Citrix Online records connection information (time, location, IP address), their fast response team was actually able to identify the offending PC and aided the police in arresting the culprit.

Another drawback of GoToMyPC occurs when you go on vacation.  When your client calls asking you to review a document or check on the status of his case, you no longer have excuses.  He knows you have GoToMyPC, and expects you to find a HotSpot and login into your desktop.

GoToAssist. This program is a must for any IT Manager.  You can set up an RDC (Remote Desktop Connection) in Windows to allow you to support computers inside the office (tethered to the Ethernet).  However, setting up an RDC for a home PC or laptop is something you should avoid.  It takes too much time, and is often done wrong.  Moreover, at the time of the support call (when the crisis is brewing) is not the time to take a highly anxious senior partner through the steps of properly setting up the RDC.

This is where GoToAssist shines.  Set up a link on the law firm’s website.  The lawyer clicks on the link, accepts a download, and you now have complete remote access to their PC.  The GoToAssist service is on a monthly or annual subscription with a charge per concurrent support technician. The support call comes in over GoToAssist as a request for connection.  The technician sees the desktop and places a call to the user.  Assistance is immediate.

GoToAssist is expensive; the monthly charge adds up. Realize however, since the license is concurrent, you will likely need only a single license for the firm. The program sometimes has problems with firewalls.  If the attorneys you are supporting have Zone Alarm or Norton Internet Security on their home PCs, they will have to affirmatively allow access before the session can begin.  Once the connection is made, of course, you have full remote desktop control during the length of the session.

Finally, a high-speed internet connection is essential.  While it functions over dial-up, the delays in screen-updating make the provision of remote support tortuous.  We once had a client in a remote part of Nebraska who had a satellite connection that made dial-up look fast.  Transferring a 15 megabyte file took over an hour and the screen refresh delays were 10-15 seconds.  These are the exception, rather than rule.  Most connections are instantaneous.

GoToMeeting. Collaboration on documents is what lawyers do.  And since most documents are digitized, collaboration involves hovering around a computer screen (or projector) and discussing the document.  GoToMeeting makes meetings easy, with an “all you can meet” product.  You pay a monthly or annual subscription for each authorized organizer; there is no fee for attendees or per meeting.

You can start a meeting by simply clicking on GoToMeeting icon in your system tray, a toolbar icon in Word, or using Instant Chat.  Simply choose (or list the attendees) and send off your invitation.  GoToMeeting include a free conference number that attendees can dial into and enter the meeting ID.  Collaboration could not be easier.

Once the participants are in attendance, GoToMeeting allows you to “chat” with attendees, use markers and highlights to illustrate points, even lets you pass the mouse to other attendees, and even lets you pass the baton to another presenter.  It gives you all the tools found in other online meeting programs.

While most GoToMeeting connections are quick and easy, there are some minor annoyances.  When the meeting starts, there is a control panel on the upper right hand of the screen which blocks a view of the desktop.  The attendees need to be instructed how to collapse the panel and then maximize the desktop viewer.  It would be far better to have the default be a collapsed panel and a maximized viewer.  Also, from the perspective of the organizer, the settings for allowing drawing and keyboard control could be more intuitive.  When you switch presenters, the new presenter has to manually give keyboard and drawing privileges to the original presenter.  It would be far better to get those issues resolved when the presenter is passed, allowing the presenter to show his screen, allow drawing and give mouse control in one click.

GoToWebinar. The online seminar product is only a few months old.  Citrix Online is currently bundling it free with a 10-user GoToMeeting account.  GoToWebinar is an “all you can reach” product.  It enables lawyers to reach their clients and prospective clients with maximum ease and minimum cost.  Like GoToMeeting, you pay a monthly or annual subscription for each authorized organizer; there is no fee for attendees or per meeting.

GoToWebinar works just like GoToMeeting.  In fact, it comes bundled with GoToMeeting.  The distinction is that GoToWebinar is designed as a marketing and educational tool.  It includes special tools for sending out slick customized meeting invitations.  A webpanel allows you to describe the meeting, add graphics and information, and conduct a pre-attendance pool of the attendees.  You have reports of how success the mailing was, how many have registered, and what their answers were to the poll.

During the meeting, you can have multiple organizers.  While one attorney is making a web presentation, another attorney can be fielding written questions from the users or preparing quick-poll questions to get feedback from the attendees.  The meeting control panel even lets you gauge the interest of the attendees in real-time so you can liven up the presentation.

After the meeting, you can automatically send out surveys of the users to either test their “recall” when the webinar is for instruction or to gather useful feedback for future presentations.  There is even an option for attendees to record the webinar for future playback.  In addition, for invitees who could not attend the meeting, such users can be automatically sent a link to a recording of the meeting on the hosted webinar site.

GoToWebinar is a new product, with some issues still being worked out.  There can be issues with firewalls that block certain attendees from viewing the meeting.  The innovative poll is a great feature; however, on my last session, GoToWebinar failed to properly record the answers to the instant polls.  Further, GoToWebinar presumes that attendees do not intend to speak during the session, assigning a conference number that is “listen only”.  You can manually override that number and supply one that can have up to 100 speakers (sufficient for most webinars).


Getting the GoTo line of products may well be your best technology investment ever.  The service will make you as a lawyer more productive and more responsive.  It will help you secure new clients and new business.  With the new business you will be able to afford (and in fact be delighted to invest in) all the other technological productivity investments, whether they be case management, document assembly, or digital voice transcription software.

Disclosure: As a consultant I have used a courtesy copy of GoToMyPC, GoToAssist and GoToMeeting for several years.  I have been an unpaid advisor first to ExpertCity and then Citrix Online to give advice on which features would make the service attractive to lawyers. And I was a beta-tester for GoToMeeting prior to its launch. This has given me a unique insider’s perspective on the technology.


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. 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 DealBuilder, Perfectus, GhostFill and HotDocs. You can contact Seth via e-mail ( or telephone at (914-827-9173).

The Yin and Yang of Document Assembly

I gave the following presentation in Sydney, Australia at a conference sponsored by Simon Lewis on the future of Document Assembly.  In this conference I spoke about the opportunities and barriers to entry for document assembly in the legal marketplace.

A word on who I am.

  • A lawyer … like you and the people you work for with impeccable academic credentials
  • A programmer … like some of you with NO academic credentials
  • An evangelist who seeks nothing less than to turn the current legal profession UPSIDE DOWN and bring to the practice of law 19th Century business principles:
  • Define the Product
  • Figure a way to SELL the Product
  • Mass Produce the product

THESIS: Document Assembly is not a “product” or a piece of “custom software”, but rather part of a process that transforms the practice of law.

  • It is an evolutionary and enabling process that builds on existing best practices and manual processes.
  • The goal of a well built system is not people replacement, but enablement, the enabling of your current staff to reach new heights of productivity
  • The goal is the ability to bring on new staff as productive members of the team shortly after hire.
  • The Yin is your existing staff and manual processes.
  • The Yang is the software and the custom solution.
  • Together, they create a wholistic solution that will bring your law practice to the new levels of profitability.

Prerequisites to Selling Document Assembly in the Organization – Requires agreement on the Following

  • Law is NOT about Hours, but Deliverables
  • The DELIVERABLE can be accurately described
  • The CURRENT cost of achieving that deliverable can be quantified (albeit in a range)
  • The Time from Retainer to DELIVERABLE is a separate quantifiable factor
  • The case load maximum capacity of your existing talent is a FACTOR.

Document Assembly can do it

  • I have not yet met a document I could not Automate.
  • The more complex the document the GREATER the return on the investment in automation.
  • You know the story about the Ginzu knife: it slices … it dices … it chops … it even opens Beer cans …
  • A well implemented process can do and handle ANY ANTICIPATED legal or factual issue.

Can Your Firm Afford a Document-Assembly Empowered Business Process?

  • I am not talking about CASH … cost in the traditional sense.  I am talking about STRESS on the organization of a process that can be sped up by a factor of 10 to 100
  • This stuff is Crack Cocaine … Once started, there is no going back.  You take away document assembly, and your staff will QUIT.
  • Every aspect of the BUSINESS process is up for evaluation for potential automation.
  • Document assembly means paralegals and secretaries are doing FIRST RATE legal work and calling in the attorney for Closings and Court Appearances.
  • With Document Assembly you can ELIMINATE the Middleman … that supervisor layer that serves as an quality control and process bottleneck on getting the work done.
  • With Document Assembly you can RETAIN staff.  The work is exciting and the pace is fast.
  • With Document Assembly you can scrap those plans to go on a HIRING SPREE.  Your current staff can handle the work.
  • Document Assembly enabled processes adhere to Moore’s law … each year, you can double the amount of the work with the same Staff.

The typical questions and some not so typical answers

  • What will it ACTUALLY COST? How long is a piece of string …. as long as it needs to be.
  • How long will it TAKE?  How does one move a mountain?  …. One rock at a time.
  • Will you constantly need to REVISE the system?  Will you stop practicing law?  No … so why should a document assembly process ever be finalized.
  • Are all document assembly platforms the SAME?  … Oh … you must be snorting coke.  Document Assembly programs, unlike people, are not ALL created Equal and endowed by their creators with certain inalienable functions.  Some are simply more capable than others.
  • Does it REALLY matter which document assembly program I start with?  NOT REALLY.  So long as you start, and follow a clearly defined and documented process.

Love Your GhostPad

GhostFill in its last version upgrade included a new feature called GhostPad. GhostPad is both a text editor with full GhostFill fillpoint support and full syntax coloring. It should become part of your arsenal of development tools to tackle problems.

GhostPad allows you to enjoy the same functions as Microsoft NotePad. It can be used as a Clipboard to copy snippets of text from a Template or Script and store it for reuse. But its real power lies in its support for syntax coloring and the ability to test scripts. Syntax coloring means that all the fillpoints display in blue, comment text in green, and text strings in brown. And, all paired codes are automatically displayed in bold, so that you can tell the KeepBlock and the corresponding EndBlock.

GhostPad allows you to test and manipulate text without endangering the template. For complex scripting, you can copy a paragraph from the template and lay it out based on logic decision points. In the GhostPad you can test the assembly. When the script works properly, simply remove the excess hard returns and tabs and paste the paragraph back into your template.

Invoking GhostPad From the Start-Menu, START -> ALL PROGRAMS -> GHOSTFILL -> GHOSTPAD

To create a desktop or quicklauch shortcut, point to C:/Program Files/GhostWare/GhostPad.exe

From GhostFill developer: Right-click to create a new text template. Then right-click on the template and Open the file for editing. We suggest you create a template folder called “~Test” or “~Development” for your text templates used for testing purposes

Useful Tip: Always remember to make a backup copy of your templates before making major text changes.