HotDocs Tips – Importing from Outlook

HotDocs has for years had a connector to Microsoft Outlook.  It is an effective tool for importing data.  However, the data that comes in, often needs to be “cleaned up” before it can be used.

Working with Outlook

  • State Field: The state can sometimes be entered as Abbreviated (e.g. NY) or as a Full State (“New York”) which causes problems on import if you importing into a Multiple Choice field
  • Street Field:  The “Address” in Outlook is different from the BusinessAddressStreet field.  And that field can have multiple lines in it, affecting how that text appears in your template where you may have coded Street1 and Street2

Further, some of the mappings in the tool are confusing because of the terminology used by Outlook and that used by most HotDocs coders can be quite different.

  • Which Address:  In Outlook there is a MailingAddress, a HomeAddress and a BusinessAddress.  If you are importing into a primary address, then you would choose MailingAddress.  If it is a Business, with a Company, you should use Business Address.
  • Salutation, Title and Job Title:  These fields are confusing since Title is “Mr.” or “Mrs”, Saluation is non-existent, and JobTitle is the positon someone holds at a company.

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Cloud to Desktop – Connecting XpressDox to Advologix

Salesforce is a powerful tool for practice management.  It’s implementation by AdvologixPM brings that power in a digestable form to attorneys.  Until now, your main option for document assembly has been to create basic merge templates.  The DrawLoop addin allowed you to create packages; multiple templates with designated outputs.  But in the end, you were still restricted to Word-Merges.

XpressDox 4.0 introduces the Salesforce.com Data Source Configuration Tool

Now there is another option, XpressDox.  This tool is a power document assembly engine (with most everything you would expect from rival products), but at a very competitive price point.  What I want to show here is live and dynamic connection between the desktop version of XpressDox (NOTE: it also works with the Server version as well).

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Upon Returning from Banff

I have just returned from the Amicus 2010 Consultants conference in Banff.  They were kind enough to invite me to speak on document assembly to their consultants and to demonstrate how Amicus Attorney can support and facilitate complex document assembly workflow.  The setting, high in the Canadian Rockies, was nothing short of spectacular.  Some days were sunny and warm (I wore T-shirt and shorts) and other days it snowed.  But what was real exciting was the transformation from Amicus Attorney from the “warm familiar” attorney practice management system that “anyone” can use into a powerful, fully customizable, extensible workflow powerhouse.

Workflow Possibilities

I took several days to prepare for my session, evaluating just how far and how easily Amicus could be modified to support complex workflow.  The answer was that “within constraints” there was no limit to how far it could be customized.  Customization is permitted on Contacts and Files in the form of “Custom Pages”.  Each custom page can be designed.  All field types are supported.  You can layout the prompts and the data entry boxes in any fashion you want.  You can (and are recommended) to use the same fields across multiple file types.  However, you can apply them in a different order, in a different grouping, and on different pages across multiple file types.  You also have “custom records” which can be used on files and contacts, with no restriction on the number and type of custom records.

This is all done without substantially altering the familiar look and feel of Amicus.  But in the process, it truly transforms the product.  Gone are the limit of 50 custom fields for Files and 20 custom fields for contacts (assuming of course you are using Premium Edition).  In preparation for the session I prepared 3 custom pages with a total of 100 custom fields of various types including dates, picklists, checkboxes, text, and memo fields.  I also added custom pages for contacts on the file.  And I created two new record types.  It was all done rapidly.  I was able to define the field names, the prompts, the size of the text boxes, the location on the page, and even use alignment fields to make everything “pretty”.  I was also able to add text label boxes to provide further clarification.

The fun begins

This would have been enough, but the focus of my presentation was document assembly.  Amicus lets you access all the fields, including custom fields, in both “merge templates” and through HotDocs.  The merge template builder gives you access to the custom data on the file with fields grouped by file type.  If you are “rigorous” on your field naming, your field lists can self organize by subject area.

As for HotDocs, Amicus takes full advantage of the HotDocs API.  You can use a default “map file” which will automatically create a HotDocs component file will all the data on the file (with the exception of custom records at the present time).  This include all matter data, including custom fields, all data on the “primary client” including custom fields, basic information on people on file (in a repeat) and special fields for data on events, tasks, notes, calls etc.  It creates a CMP file and will generate the requisite answer file without any mapping required.  That doesn’t prevent you from creating your own custom maps to an existing set of HotDocs templates.  Nor does it prevent an advanced HotDocs developer from creating his or her own master component file and using an INSERT command to bring the interview into the template.

Even more exciting is the ability made possible by SQL Server that ships with Premium Edition.  You can create a database component in HotDocs and “query” the database for any data that is not coming over automatically.  You can use the Short Filename in your query to go back and grab more related data. Or, you can build your own dynamic reporting system.

Conclusion

As you can see, it was a busy few days.  I learned a lot about Amicus and met a lot of great new consultants and made some new friends.  In my standing room only presentation, it is my hope that I have excited them as much about document assembly and its possibilities, as I am now excited about Amicus.

Document Assembly – The Contenders

When you think “document assembly” for law firms, who do you think of?  For many years, there has been a single answer, HotDocs.  This is not because of any great marketing effort by LexisNexis (the former owners of HotDocs). Rather, it was a combination of “automated forms” delivered by LexisNexis and a grass-roots movement of lawyers and consultants building systems from the ground up with a “cheap” software tool.  It was word of mouth that caused the spread of HotDocs, one license at a time.  Now that HotDocs is “established”, who are the contenders.  I was given the following list of contenders: ActiveDocs, Business Integrity/Dealbuilder, Epoq/Rapidocs, Exari, Korbitec/GhostFill, Napersoft, Pathagoras, SoftPowerHouse/PowerReuse, Thunderhead, and Zumesoft.  It is interesting that despite my 15 years in the business, this list failed to include some interesting contenders, but also included some contenders I had never heard of.  So, who are these contenders?

The text below is drawn directly from the website of these vendors.

ActiveDocs

ActiveDocs Opus facilitates the simple and effective creation of your essential business documents and the automation of a wide range of mission critical communications. A scalable, affordable, high-performance document production solution, ActiveDocs Opus enables you to quickly create accurate, professional documents that meet a variety of business needs.

Business Integrity / Dealbuilder

Business Integrity launches ContractExpress.com, the world’s first premium document assembly product to be delivered exclusively as “software as a service,” requiring no set-up costs or infrastructure. ContractExpress.com builds on Business Integrity’s trusted DealBuilder technology, which is used by many of the world’s leading law firms and corporate legal departments.

Epoq/ Rapidocs

– Rapidly automates legal and business documents
– Creates dynamic and interactive interviews
– Delivers to end-users instantly in the browser
– Displays real time document changes live to the user
– Supports all popular web browsers
– Handles both text and PDF forms
– Offers ‘try before you buy’ technology for your customers

Exari

Exari accelerates your contracts, reduces costs and risks, and streamlines authoring complex documents.  …. With Exari, business people create their own legally pre-approved documents and agreements by completing a web-browser interview. It eliminates the need to wait for the legal department while still providing legal compliance and contract visibility. Exari saves time, lowers costs, improves document quality and minimizes risk. Exari contract creation and contract management solutions are used by leading companies to automate various document types including those used in sales, insurance, and banking.

Korbitec /Ghostfill

GhostFill is no longer offered directly for sale.  However, GhostFill is embedded in several applications, including AIA Forms, DWTA, and Nebraska Probate System V.

GhostFill is one of Korbitec’s flagship document assembly software engines, and has over the last decade been utilized in thousands of document-centric software solutions at law firms, banks, publishers and other institutions, world-wide.

Napersoft

Napersoft CCM (Customer Communication Management) solutions streamline business processes for document creation, personalization, publishing, distribution and archiving. Quickly & easily create complex real-time customer documents, including correspondence, letters, emails, notices, alerts and confirmations and distribute them via print, email or the Web.

Pathagoras

Pathagoras™ is a multi-faceted document authoring tool. First and foremost, Pathagoras is a ‘Plain-text based’ document automation system.  In just two clicks, using your current collection of documents, Pathagoras can present a list of forms or clauses on a designated topic. From that list, you would select an appropriate form, group of forms, or a subset of clauses to be assembled One more click presents your selections, fully assembled, onto the editing screen for final processing.  No complex or time consuming setups are required. You can create automated documents within 5 minutes of installation. You will begin cutting document produc-tion time immediately.

SoftPowerHouse/PowerReuse

PowerReuse is a document assembly software designed for boosting productivity for professionals (lawyers, insurance agents, real estate agents, project managers, sales, marketers and consultants) in small and medium-sized companies. Taking advantage of its patent pending technology, it organizes related Word, Excel and PowerPoint files into projects for better accessibility, updates many documents at a time and pastes pieces of text from the created library by simple drag & drop. The functions ensure accuracy and consistency of all your documents.

Thunderhead

[With the CorrespondNOW module] customer communications are as personal as they get with this module, which allows you to create individual ‘ad hoc’ communications quickly and simply. Streamline correspondence creation, allowing your customer service teams to respond more quickly and efficiently to customer inquiries while bringing new levels of control to the desktop.

Zumesoft

WordFusion is an advanced web-based Document Assembly Platform.  In very simple terms, WordFusion allows you to automate document templates, and then distribute them within your organisation or across the internet. WordFusion also provides work-flow management for the preparation, review, payment and finalisation of documents. This enables professionals from a number of disciplines to effectively collaborate on the production of a document. In essence, WordFusion is a project management tool, to connect you with your clients and other professional partners, to efficiently collaborate on the production of sophisticated and high-value documents.

There were a few MORE that should rightly have been on the list.

XpressDox Docussembly

XpressDox Docussembly™ saves you time, saves you money.  XpressDox Docussembly™ is a document assembly system that will help you become more productive when creating repetitive documents. Using XpressDox, you can easily create a template that asks you for only the information which changes. This improves your efficiency and effectiveness, and ensures that all documents you create conform to your organization’s standards. The result is faster, more accurate documents, which saves you time. And saving you time means saving you money, too.

ActiveWords

ActiveWords relates words and actions, giving you instant access, making you more productive, and improving the quality of your work.

Memba Genesis

The Memba Contract Management Platform is constituted of three main components which work integrated or independently. Memba Genesis Editor is the editor of contractual documents and templates. Memba Genesis Formation Server supports contract drafting and negotiation. Memba Genesis Execution Server supports portfolio and diary management.

Intelledox Enterprise

Intelledox Enterprise is the fully featured Intelledox document creation software solution. Built on Microsoft technology, Intelledox Enterprise is a user-friendly, document creation solution that enables the fast, accurate and compliant production of documents; tailored to individual business requirements and delivery methods.

DrawLoop Technologies

Drawloop is a complete document automation service. We help businesses, organizations and individuals close more deals, increase revenue and improve productivity through automating document creation. In minutes, you can web-enable the same Microsoft Office files your business has been using for years. There is no hardware or software to buy, install or maintain. All you need is your documents and a web browser!

Ultimus

Ultimus automates and simplifies key business processes so you can dedicate more time to your business and customers. Ultimus’ Business Process Improvement Suite reduces the potential for human error, eliminates waste, and decreases the amount of paperwork companies use on a daily basis. Moving far beyond standard workflow automation, Ultimus (Business Process Management) BPM Software provides a flexible solution that connects technology systems to enable data sharing and enhanced visibility throughout your entire organization

Ultimus has automated more business processes than any other BPM software provider worldwide and has over 15 years experience helping organizations across many different industries implement business process optimization. We have more than 1,900 customers and thousands of process templates to enhance every division of your company.

*This list is by no means an endorsement of any or all of these products.  As independent document assembly specialists since 1996, we have worked with a number of these products.  Our entrepreneurial clients have generally favored HotDocs as the best dollar value, given its historical pricing.  However, over the years we have partnered with GhostFill, DealBuilder, and Exari on projects, and we have carefully evaluated a number of other products.  Any decision on a document assembly platform should at least consider these contenders.

Merge Templates and Clause Libraries

Early Days of Automobiles

In the early days of the auto industry, a team of mechanics would put together a car in a week.  This was no mean feat of engineering.  In many cases, the car would have “custom parts”.  There would be “user” preferences.  And there was the inevitable unintended variation.  To achieve efficiencies (and thereby profits which was the ultimate goal), the engineers would create a template (a master design) with instructions to be “manually” completed by the engineers.  Further efficiencies were achieved by laying out the workspace; adding labeled shelves with all the key auto parts.  Some items were “pre-assembled” or partially assembled, leaving a few remaining steps that could be used for customization.  Nevertheless, it required a team of skilled engineers to put together a car.  Quality control was a matter of “experience” and not something that could be measured.  Each car had a unique character.  And of course, cars were expensive; in fact, too expensive for most people to afford.

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Wordle Revisited

Apparently my experiment with Wordle did not change the results for HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM. Perhaps, if I reorder the phrases HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM so that they are alphabetical:  AdvologixPM, Amicus Attorney, DealBuilder, GhostFill, HotDocs, HoudiniESQ, Time Matters, XpressDocs.  Maybe if they are reverse alphabetical:  XpressDocs, Time Matters, HoudiniESQ, HotDocs, GhostFill, DealBuilder, Amicus Attorney, AdvologixPM, it will push me over. Alternatively, I can try them by word length:  Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, AdvologixPM, HoudiniESQ, GhostFill and HotDocs.

So … back to Wordle for the test.

Will let you know. I suspect the reason has to do with the fact that Wordle uses Google Analytics and it may be that the feed has not yet registered in Google.  Not sure if that is true, but will check back later.  Must return to real work.

Wordle and Cloud Maps

I recently WORDLED this blog.  It turned out the hot word was SAAS.  Even though our predominant focus is document assembly and workflow, those words did not show up.  HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM did NOT show up. There was some mention of ContractExpress and DealBuilder.  This could be because Wordle focuses on the RSS feed which is the Summary para of the blog entry, and not the body.  It also could reflect that HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM don’t have prominent mention in the summary. And so if I use the words: HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM more often in my summaries, then it is likely that HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM may show up more often.  And so I am testing Wordle to see how responsive it is for these words: HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM.

My apologies for the redundancy, but I am checking an experiment.  This is also an advise to those using social media to pay special attention to Summary/Abstracts if they are targeting key words.

And yes, there is method to my madness.

Database Connection – Vista64 and Windows7

Have you ever tried to add an Access database as a new “datasource” in Vista64 and Windows7? In most cases, you will go WINDOWS START -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Data Sources (ODBC).  When you click ADD, you will get SQL Native Client and SQL Server.  There will be NO opportunity to add Access or any of the OLDER data types.  These 32-bit datatypes are effectively banished from the system.  Quelle disaster!!!  Well we have a solution, one that is REAL EASY

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