Must Software Evolve?

It has been a year and a half since Capsoft UK (based in Scotland) purchased the HotDocs division from LexisNexis, and the combined entity became HotDocs Limited .  In this time period, HotDocs came out with a major release of its server product, including enhancements for integration with sharepoint, as well as a “shrink-rapped” portal for HotDocs Server.


By switching from Javascript to the Silverlight engine, HotDocs was able to vastly speed up the rendering time for complex document assembly interviews.  These high-end products put HotDocs squarely in line for the corporate general counsel market and for high-end law firms seeking to avoid the cost of desktop deployment of software.  HotDocs provided partner training for the server product, and invested R&D in bringing the Server product up to near parity with its desktop product.

On the desktop side, the changes were more on branding, than on improvements.  HotDocs 10 was released to handle compatibility with the release of Microsoft Office 2010.  HotDocs 2009, developed under the tenure of LexisNexis, did a major switch to XML component files and to Unicode (t0 support foreign languages).

However, there was little in the way of new features or options in either HotDocs 2009 or HotDocs 10.  On the marketing front, HotDocs Professional (with HotDocs PDF Advantage) became HotDocs Developer (at $800) .  HotDocs Standard became HotDocs Developer Lite (now at $500).  And a new product HotDocs User (at $300), a “player edition” of HotDocs that could only be used to assemble documents was introduced.

HotDocs has over 500,000 users according to the HotDocs website.  It is a product that has revolutionized the practice of law.  It has dramatically increased the productivity of thousands of lawyers as well as their profitability.  We have used it internally, and have built systems with it for nearly 15 years and so have an intimate knowledge of the product and its capabilities.

Some say it is “nearly perfect”.  Others that it is the “Gold Standard”.  What is true, is that all other document assembly systems are to be measured against it.  “I can do it in HotDocs … Why can’t I do it with your product?”   There are so many features to the product and so many capabilities.  And yet, no program is perfect.  Software evolves as new needs arise, as the product is put to new uses.

New ideas generate new solutions to old problems.  There needs to be some “new reason” to get the product, some sense that  the product is dynamic, growing and evolving.  Microsoft Office is being supplanted by GoogleDocs and OpenOffice, or OS-X version of Microsoft Word, and yet HotDocs templates can not be developed in those environments.

Law firm web sites are morphing into “portals” through which clients and prospects communicate with their Attorneys, and yet HotDocs does not have a low-cost web-service that allows law firms to integrate their web-data, their practice-management systems and their document assembly systems.  In our new “connected” world, dominated by “social networks” our legal software needs to evolve.