The Case for Document Automation

Darryl Mountain (Ontago, Inc.) recently submitted a scholarly piece to the International Journal of Law and Information Technology, titled “Disrupting conventional law firm business models using document assembly”.  In this piece, Mountain looks at document assembly software programs: dealbuilder, ghostfill, and hotdocs (to name a few) in the context of how they are, and will be shaping the practice of law—worldwide. To users of document automation, his conclusions will not be surprising.  However, to those on the fence, or to those trying to convinces others to get off the fence, this should be good reading.  CLICK to read article

For other articles on document assembly, please CLICK HERE.

Ghostfill Create a progress bar

There are times where you wish to give the users information that progress is being made during an assembly, or some indication of where they are.  GhostFill has a progress bar utility. It can be invoked and then controlled by a script. That script is up to you.

%[x = dialogs.Utils.CreateProgressBar]
%[x.title = “This is my Title”]

%[x.progress =0.1]
%[x.progress =0.2]
%[x.progress =0.3]
%[x.progress =0.4]
%[x.progress =0.5]
%[x.progress =0.6]
%[x.progress =0.7]
%[x.progress =0.8]
%[x.progress =0.9]
%[x.progress =1]

This code illustrates how to create and control the progress bar. It is up to you to create the rules for each of the progress codes. It could be a clock timer, or it could be just some condition.

Filtered ADDing to MC Variables

Quite often, you’ll want to dynamically create the options of a multiple choice variable from a repeating dialog (or other source).  This HotDocs snippet will detail how you can do that.  The concept is simple – if you ADD an option to the MC variable, you also accumulate the ADDed value in a text string, so that you can test against that string later.  Then, each iteration, you test whether the current value you may wish to add already exists in the text string and if it does, you do NOT ADD it.  If it does NOT exist, you ADD it to the MC variable, and also to the text string.

In this example, we are repeating through a list of generic party names (essentially a database on the fly in HotDocs, using a REPEAT dialog), and adding names to a multiple choice variable for possible Guarantors.  Testing TE is the text variable that will store each unique value as it is ADDed to the multiple choice variable.  Party Name CO is a computation that assembles the full name of a given party, much like you’d see anywhere else in a HotDocs system.  On this note – it is quite often easier to build a computation specifically to use in this scenario, so that you can do all your error checking & string building there, leaving your ADD instructions simple and clean (even if you are only joining two unconditional vars together, it LOOKS cleaner).  Guarantor Select MC is the multiple choice variable that we are building on the fly.

//clear & clean our values
CLEAR Guarantor Select MC
SET Testing TE TO “”
//lets go
IF Testing TE CONTAINS “«Party Name CO»”
//do nothing
ADD “«Party Name CO»” TO Guarantor Select MC
SET Testing TE TO Testing TE + “ «Party Name CO»”

You could also use a HotDocs Filter to do this however, this approach is “safer” for one reason…as soon as you filter a repeated dialog in HotDocs, the system var counter is altered.  If I wanted to use my new multiple choice variable as a lookup to Party RPT in this example, my ADD line would look something like this:

ADD “«COUNTER:009»|«Party Name CO»” TO Guarantor Select MC

This would mean that the option is the COUNTER value (meaning index) of the dialog that it came from, while the prompt is the party’s name.  If you are using filter, and the filter actually strips out an iteration from Party RPT, the COUNTER will be WRONG.  Yes, wrong!  No, this is not a bug in HotDocs, it is intentional as COUNTER with a FILTERed dialog will reflect the filtered answers rather than the “complete” answers.  To explain a little more clearly, lets take a look at a repeating dialog answer set that contains a duplicate entry:

1 Jack Jones
2 John James
3 Jack Jones
4 Michael Davis

Using filters and the above ADD code, you would get a list that looks like this:

(1) Jack Jones
(2) John James
(3) Michael Davis

Michael’s index in Party RPT is actually 4, but because the 2nd occurrence of Jack Jones got stripped out, HotDocs changed his COUNTER value to 3 (because this is his index in the FILTERed answer set).  This means you cannot use your MC variable to index Party RPT later, because Michael’s entry will actually index incorrectly.  If however we use IF statements instead of a FILTER, we would get:

(1) Jack Jones
(2) John James
(4) Michael Davis

No filters means that COUNTER is once again a reliable indexing tool.  This minor difference may not make any difference to many HotDocs developers out there.  But if you are populating dynamic lists and starting to toss around (or centralize!) data, be aware – FILTERing repeats can be problematic.  The rule is simple: if you intend to use a COUNTER in your ADD statement, dont use filters.  If you must use filters, you must use a manual COUNTER that you define, control & increment yourself.  Bear in mind that this can lead to endless loops and irritating code, so I try to avoid it where possible (which I get away with most of the time).

TMSave Toolbar in Word after an Upgrade to TMW6

When upgrading from Time Matters 5 to Time Matters 6, many users will take a wait and see attitude. They will install Time Matters 6, but NOT install Time Matters 5. This is generally not a problem with the database, since Time Matters creates a separate database during the upgrade. However, it is a problem with the TMSave Toolbar in Word which will often continue to point to the old database. The TMSave toolbar and the menu items are inserted into Word via a Startup Template. This template is loaded when Word is loads. There is a TMW5 templates and a TMW6 template. When you uninstall Time Matters 5, it removes the TMW5 template. If you keep both active, you will have a toolbar with links to both databases. Both toolbars will look identical. Depending on which you click first, you will have links to the TMW5 or the TMW6 database.

The solution is to uninstall Time Matters 5. Go into Control Panel and choose add-remove programs. Find Time Matters 5 and click on Remove. This should remove the TMW5 template. Then restart Word. There is no requirement to reinstall Time Matters. In some circumstances, the TMW6 startup template may not have been installed in the first place. In this case you have two options. One is to reinstall Time Matters, but this time choose only Word-Processor links. The other option, is to go into Workstation Setup and click on Word Processor Links or Additional Product links.