Create, Automate, Generate
Those words describe an ideal pattern of steps in between manual document creation and a streamlined process. This is a topic that is at the forefront of conversations in law firms of all sizes.
Document automation and document assembly are technology that has long been the key to turning tedious work into automated bliss. Traditional software required server-based applications and specialized programming skills. Now, thanks to massive innovations in technology, solo and small firms are able to build a process that feels comfortable for both their clients and their staff, whether the automation is used to generate documents within the firm or to have clients generate their own documents through a legal app.
Think of your intake process. The answers to your questions can be used to automatically generate documents that you can use to represent your client, or you can deliver the documents to your client as completed work product.
Founded by attorneys and machine-learning engineers, Documate was initially created to create “Turbo-Tax”-like workflows for pro bono attorneys to connect with their clients. It allowed lawyers to deliver the document packets they needed to help clients through their legal situation. As anyone who has volunteered to work on pro bono cases knows, the challenge of time management is substantial. But Documate saw an opportunity to build a broader platform, allowing any attorney to automate their own expertise – in any area of law and any jurisdiction without hiring a developer. As they put it, they are “democratizing development.”
Interview Driven Documents: How Documate Works
Documate believes that you can have powerful software that you also love to use. They set out to provide attorneys with a simple, easy to build document automation platform that was also modern and easy for consumers to use.
Where to Begin: Law Firm User Walkthrough
In building the workflows, the system is comprised of two tabs:
- (1) The Interview (where you build the questionnaire)
- (2) the Output Documents (where you connect your Word or PDF templates).
The simplest way to approach creating your documents and interviews with Documate is to outline your initial consultation or intake process. By writing out the questions and answers needed to proceed with casework or representation-building, your ‘interview’ becomes much easier.
You can build the questions and answers required to move forward with a new client or case directly in Documate’s interview builder. You’ll give each question a ‘variable name,’ which is a similar to custom fields that map your document. Next, add questions with requirements of certain data types such as date and also add help text to ensure that the client understands what they need to enter.
As you work through the interview-building phase, you can set complex logic to control the workflow. For example, set logic to questions by selecting ‘show if’ or ‘hide if’ for certain conditions if they are met, such as ‘marital status’ or ‘multiple children.’ For questions with clients in a personal interview, enhance their experience by adding their name to the top of the interview:
Hi <client name>,
Please complete the questions below to begin your paperwork.
Lastly, map powerful logic from the interview answers into your document to control how your documents are populated using Documate’s no-code “document tagger.” Documate’s cloud-based automation engine allows you to map tags (answers) into PDFs or Word documents directly into the platform. For coding directly in Microsoft Word, Documate’s Add-In works with Office 365 and your local version of Word, even for Mac users. The interface allows for complex boolean logic, calculations, and looping lists of items:
Once you build your interview once, you’ll be able to use the same interview workflow to generate client documents each time.
Clauses and Calculations
Add clauses based on the answers to questions in the questionnaire, or trigger clauses based on the logic in your document, by checking a box. Run calculations within the document from the answers to interview questions that will produce a numeric value, currency or other value.
Here’s a simple example where an interview question will populate the following clauses in the document:
One of the most common concerns about document automation is the review of the work product before use. Documate can automatically send the completed document to the attorney or associate for review. You can choose the output in PDF or Word or you can save the interview for later completion.
You can preserve document styles, format capitalization, numbering and more in Word, Google Documents and PDF formats.
Ideal Use Cases
Imagine any case type, project or practice area that relies on the collection of information from a client or runs at a thin margin because work is done on a flat-fee rate scale.
Documate’s most popular areas of adoption to date are:
- Estate Planning
- Healthcare Directives
- Business Law
- New Business Formation
- Standard Contracts and Agreements
- Family Law
- Divorce (Uncontested and full
- Hello Divorce is Powered by Documate
- Real Estate Law
- FreshLease.org uses Documate to create Residential Leases for their clients.
- Landlord / Tenant
- DIY/Pro Bono Services
- Used to increase the number of clients served while preserving profitability. Read more about Documate’s work with Legal Aid organizations to create free tools for the public here: (https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2019/05/aba-center-for-innovation-and-lsc-launch-legal-tech-donation-eff/)
Everyday Process Improvement
Documate interviews also serve as internal questionnaires that can be assigned as tasks. Identify any repetitive forms, documents or work your team is doing and automate them.
The team at Documate realizes that firms aren’t always able to dive in and create interviews right away. They will help set up your first set of documents and are available for ongoing support 7 days a week for free.
Upcoming Releases and Integrations
A robust integration with Google Sheets is on the horizon. A first for online document automation providers, the release will connect a Documate interview with a specific Google Sheet and then reference a row in the sheet and enter in all of the client’s information. The integration will also allow you to export your list into Excel, and convert that into a Google Sheet.
Clio integration makes intake and client or case information available for document generation. This is a highly-requested feature as many Documate users have been anxiously awaiting the capability to leverage their Clio data.
For larger firms, Documate’s robust API is a great fit for specialty solutions and is especially attractive to firms or pro bono organizations.