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Web-Enabled Document Automation: Increasing Law Firm Productivity.

Introduction to Web-Enabled Document Automation
Evaluating Web-Enabled Document Automation Technology
Learn More About Rapidocs Document Automation Technology


Richard Susskind, in his new book, The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, devotes a chapter to disruptive legal technologies and identifies automated document assembly as a leading example. A related analysis can be found in a paper produced by Darryl Mountain, a Vancouver attorney, that is titled "Disrupting Conventional Law Firm Business Models Using Document Assembly" Both authors make the point that automating legal documents is one of the major ways that a lawyer can increase productivity, particularly for document intensive practices. Offering these documents over the web directly to clients through a secure client area, where the client completes an online questionnaire increases productivity even more. It is much more efficient than a process where a lawyer or paralegal types data into a desktop windows application manually.

Once the user answers a series of questions that appear in the web browser, a document is instantly created ready for the lawyer's further review and analysis. If the client misses a question, the lawyer can easily communicate by email and request additional information or provide a clarification on how a question should be answered. But that is much more efficient that jotting down the client's answers to the attorney's questions on a yellow pad.

In terms of alternative work flow the process looks like this:

Web-enabled document automation
Here are the steps to a highly productive work flow for creating legal documents using Internet technology.

Step 1: The client first registers for their own secure client space and accepts a Limited Retainer Agreement;
Step 2: The firm does a conflict of interest check, and accepts the prospects as a client.
Step 3: The client selects a document legal service and answers questions within the web browser. When the client presses the submit button the document is immediately created in ready for the attorney's review, analysis, and further revision.
Step 4: The attorney returns the completed document to the client either in one of two ways: (a) uploads the document to the client's web space with instructions for execution or how to proceed with next steps, such as self-representation in a pro se divorce hearing; or (b) requests that the client make an appointment for an office for a traditional face-to face execution of the document, such as a will.

To see how this process works in practice, sign up for the DirectLaw Free 30 Day Trial Demonstration.

A Short Video on How Rapidocs is Used to Assemble Documents for Clients

This web-based approach to document assembly is  consistent with Susskind's analysis that lawyers should automate what they can, leaving to human intelligence what it does best, which is providing legal advice and more customized and individualized drafting. Today automated document assembly solutions are very robust and can automate very complex documents with multiple levels of "if-then" clauses to accommodate hundreds of different fact situations. Automation of more standardized legal documents should be a "no-brainer."  Using automated document assembly reduces greatly the amount of time the attorney has to spend on an individual document project enabling alternative billing systems that yield a higher margin for the law firm and also potentially lower pricing to the client.

Our DirectLaw, virtual law office platform makes our legal forms and automated document assembly technology, available to law firms as a hosted service.  The lawyer can bundle legal advice for legal forms offering a much valued-added offering at a price point which is significantly higher that the sale of automated legal forms only. The lawyer still provides a personal service element, but the document assembly technology enables the lawyer to spend more time with the client because creating the first draft of the document is instantaneous. Moreover, the client is doing part of the work as the lawyer doesn't have to waste time gathering basic factual information which is captured online within a web page.

We have heard some critics of automated methods remark that lawyers were not trained to be "robots." This perspective misses the point by a mile. By figuring out what parts of a legal process can be efficiently automated, and which parts need to remain the domain of human intelligence, the productivity of the lawyer is greatly enhanced. In the future automated document assembly over the web will become the norm, as it offers the promise of greater value and lower fees or prices.  If not through law firms, then through non-lawyer legal form publishers who have migrated their legal form content to a dynamic and interactive format.

Solos and small law firms ignore these developments at their peril. While many solos practitioners ponder these developments, non-lawyer operated web sites like Nolo, and LegalZoom, and other non-lawyer sites, will continue to eat away at the market share of the legal profession, particularly solos and small law firms.

Evaluating Web-Enabled Document Automation Technology

There are a number of web-enabled document automaton systems on the market today. DirectLaw has its own proprietary technology called, Rapidocs, which has been under development for over 15 years. Obviously we think it is the best system on the market today.

Rapidocs® is a web-enabled document automation solution developed and published by The Epoq Group, based in London, U.K. It is a leading document automation solution that has been used to generate thousands of legal documents a month in both the United States and the United Kingdom from both law firm and institutional web sites. First introduced in 2000 as a Windows desktop application, Rapidocs® today is a fully functional, web-enabled system that presents questionnaires for completion through the web browser (i.e., Internet Explorer, etc.). Assembled documents are exported in either rich text format (.rtf) for us with Microsoft Word (or similar word processing program) or portable data format (.pdf) for use with Adobe. 

Here's are three primary reasons why we think Rapidocs is the best web-enabled document solution on the market today.

1. It is very easy for the client to use and pure browser based. Thus it works in both a Macintosh and a Windows environment. If you choose the client can see a document being assembled in real time, or if you choose only the on-line questionnaire is visible. Help screens can easily be written to help the client navigate through a questionnaire. The Rapidocs client interface is constantly being improved.

 2. Both text-based documents like a Will, and Adobe .PDF forms, like a bankruptcy form, or court form , can be assembled in real time. There is no limit to the complexity of a document in terms of its capacity to be automated.

3. It is easy to author a form or create your own automated forms in Rapidocs. If you author your forms in Rapidocs, DirectLaw will publish your forms to your DirectLaw platform at no cost to you so you can make them available to your clients.

4. Directlaw, unlike any other virtual law firm platform vendor, provides state specific automated form libraries ready for use. We know that lawyers often don't have the time to automated their own forms, so we don the work for you.

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Copyright © 2017 Richard S. Granat