The key to a successful implementation of document assembly is an intelligent markup. The key to an intelligent markup is a solid understanding of the subject matter which is being marked up; as well as an awareness of what “can be done” with document assembly.
Of Forests and Trees
The old “saw” goes, “can’t see the forest for the trees”. And the converse is “can’t find the trees, all I see is forest”. In document assembly, you need both the “helicopter view” and the “hiker’s view”. You need to see the overall lay of the land, where the document is going, how it’s flowing. And then, you need to get down on the ground and start sorting and culling.
With the coming of spring, lawn maintenance is something on my mind. The sytems I built need a spring cleaning and refresh. Over the winter of use these systems can become stale. Like a lawn, you can let everything grow will. Better to run the law mower once a week. When cut to 2 inches height, weeds and grass look a like. You can rip up the whole lawn, an reseed with fresh kentucky bluegrass. Or, you can apply fertilizer and selectively apply weedkiller to find those troublesome patches.
In document assembly, you need to do a bit of everything.
Regular Mowing Like the lawnmower, you need to sweep through the document, getting all the obvious issues and gaps. Run assemblies (if you have done partial automating) and identify what is missing.
Apply Fertilizer: Go through you document on a regular basis and apply enhancements. Each time a new issues arises look where you could have addressed an issue better, applied more nuances.
Remove the Weeds: There are portions of your document that will just not work. You try to tweak the code, a little here and little there. But there are some blocks of code that just don’t work. They create eyesores that you are constantly deleting in the finished document. Remove these items, from the document, from the interview.
Reseeding a Patch: Sometimes, an Article in a Contract just needs to be rewritten. The language is stale. There are too many codes in the paragraph for one to figure what the hell you ever meant. In these circumstances, it is better to start from scratch.
Extending the Lawn: Look at your current systems. Did you go far enough. You are gathering data on a lease, but how come you haven’t created a term sheet generator or an abstract generator. Take the next step and build on what you created. What is the next logical document to automate. There are economies of scale in document assembly, and there is the “marginal cost of production”. The marginal cost of building the next document in a practice set is much less than the initial document cost.
Planting Garden Lawns are well and good. They are fun for croquet and games of catch. But gardens are what bring “fruits and vegetables” to the dinner table or “flowers” that bring value to the house. Consider taking what you have built and planting a garden. Let your clients know what you have done with these systems so they will want to give you more work and refer you to their clients as a lawyer who “gets it.”
A Tool To Consider – DealBuilder
I have written extensively about HotDocs and GhostFill, but not said too much about DealBuilder. DealBuilder, as a webhosted platform, which ships with a product called DealBuilder Author and DealBuilder Express.
These are the authoring environments for the DealBuilder Server. Until DealBuilder or one of its resellers offers DealBuilder on an ASP model, you will need to get a full license to DealBuilder Server and have the infrastructure and IT department to support it. Once you do, you will find that DealBuilder lets you do your infrastructure redesign right in the template. The Author engine validates the document, and renders conditional scripted dialogs on the basis of the nesting and scripting in the template. It also offers you the ability to “drop in” a data dictionary of terms, so that variables can be easilly reused across templates. As we evaluate DealBuilder more closely, we will post further information in the DealBuilder section (http://www.bashasys.com/dealbuilder/index.html) of Basha System’s main site.