LegalTech 2006 – Document Assembly

Another year has come and gone … LegalTech New York … The largest annual technology show.  Despite the emphasis on Litigation support systems, there were some notable participants at the conference presenting document assembly solutions.  HotDocs was there as part of LexisNexis’ Total Practice Management initiative; DealBuilder with it online document assembly system powered by a unique “relevance engine”; Perfectus Solutions with its browser-based IPManager document creation and delivery system; iXIO with its innovate online document modelling solution (Q-Shift); and Microsystems with its Word-ML basis document creation system (D3).

I met with each of the vendors.  Several of the products are ones that we support.  DealBuilder, DealBuilder, GhostFill, Time Matters and Perfectus.

We were impressed by the level of energy and innovation in the document assembly space.  This is not meant as a review of these products.  That will come later.  But rather, a recognition that there is some serious programming talent coming into developing document assembly solutions.  There are more tools than ever, and more powerful tools that ever to help firms and corporations provide document creation services.

HotDocs is working on HotDocs 2006. … Under the hood are dozens of new features for “true” application developers.  When the new HotDocs 2006 comes out we will review it.  For now, to see what can be done with HotDocs, please view the link below and take a tour of some of our videos.

MicroSystems, a new entrant in the space, brings D3.  This a cross between a knowledge management capture tool, clause picker and Word-ML based document assembler.  It doesn’t fit the classical document assembly template environment, being tied closely to Word-XML and SQL database engine.  It is very flexible in handling a number of the features typically handled by major Macro-packs like SoftWise, or numbering and metadata cleaners like those from Payne Consulting and Levitt & James and WorkShare. It strength is as a Word add-on, and clause management structure.  However, it is weak in handling complex logic and dialog scripting.  Rather than presenting dialogs, the D3 assembler presents the “document” as a living editable template, and then steps through the document, presenting questions seriatum as the user walks through the document.  These fields are stored as WordML tags which can be “reassembled”.  Viewed this way, it is more of an enhanced document builder tool, rather than an interview-driven document assembler.

DealBuilder just announced the release of DealBuilder 2.7 which brings to market more than 500 new features.  Key new features include a new web-based data reporting application, enhanced end-user experience on DealBuilder questionnaires, expanded use of mark-up within DealBuilder Master Documents, additional Administration features and a new, easy to deploy DealBuilder.Server installer.  We will be announcing shortly a major DealBuilder online system which we designed and built.  It is a world-class product with even more power.  It’s relevance engine is a major benefit for those authors who have not mastered (or choose not to master) dialog scripting.  The system does however, handle incredibly complex rule structures, and resolves them to determine and ask only those variables relevant to the current answer set in use.

Perfectus has a recently released new build.  It is has a powerful GUI for building Interviews.  It has powerful template set, work flow, and document management tools built into the product that make it a total out of the box on-line solutions. The tools are all .NET and XML and fully addressable.  There is a great GUI with drag and drop development.  Simple templates can be built rapidly.  More complex business logic can be built into the system.  The one drawback is that each unique rule has to be tagged and named.  Since it is using XML tags instead of a put text markup as GhostFill and HotDocs currently do (or as the DealBuilder author supports), the developer is limited by the way XML allows tags to be named.

iXIO’s Q-Shift is like an online version of D3.  It’s has a document parsing tool that takes a Word document and turns it into an on-line document model.  The paragraphs are turned into entries in a master clause banks that can be pulled together on the fly.  Clauses can be conditional, or required, at the designers election.  You can preview the clauses and build your document from the model.  Like D3 q-Shift lacks support for Dialogs … it presents the variables in single-variable dialog boxes as it runs through the assembly, and has limit support for complex business logic.

For additional information, please visit our document assembly videos where we showcase a number of applications of these products. Video Tours