Do You Need HotDocs?    

HotDocs is the most widely-used document automation software. It is appropriate for firms that need to move from simple mail merge tools such as those included with Word and Word Perfect, to a full-featured solution that handles optional clauses, IF.. THEN logic and presents an interview-like front end to the user. HotDocs does all this and more. Before you purchase HotDocs, answer the following questions:

1. Does the firm frequently produce similar documents?

2. Do these documents have text in common, but require certain variations from client to client?

3. Is it taking too long to produce these documents by your current method?

If you answered Yes to these questions, you firm is probably a candidate for HotDocs.
For more on making the document assembly decision, see When Document Automation Makes Sense, by Jim Eidelman.

Here are some guidelines for starting your document automation project:

1. Start with one practice area. Do not attempt to automate all of the documents at once.

2. Automate only those documents that meet the automation criteria–a positive answer to the three questions posed above.

3. Get all of the staff involved in the project. If you are starting with a department, get all of the staff for that department involved. Everyone will not be a forms author, but there is a role for everyone who works with the documents: reviewer, typist, content manager, to name a few.

4. Look for pre-programmed practice systems. There are several publishers of HotDocs forms that are programmed and ready to use. Find out if there are forms libraries available for the documents you want to automate.

5. Get consulting help. Last, but not least, bring in a HotDocs expert, especially if you plan to create your own practice system with HotDocs. They can train your staff or provide document coding assistance.

For more on managing a document assembly project, see “Unlocking the Power of Document Assembly,” Law Office Computing,” June/July 1999 by Mark Lauritsen and Alan Soudakof. (If you have pitched your older issues of LOC, contact me for a copy of this article.)

Printed Forms
If your documents are on pre-printed forms form the court or other source, HotDocs with PDF Advantage can automate those, too. Import a PDF copy of your form into HotDocs, and you can define fields right on the printed form.

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