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My Generation: Document Automation Tools for Lawyers

You’ll have read some variation of the Myth of Sisyphus elsewhere, no doubt; and, mostly, the story gets you weepy over ol’ Sisyphus because, each time he seems to have completed his task . . . well, the boulder rolls right back into place — and, he must start again, from scratch. Lawyers should be well-acquainted with ‘the Myth of Sisyphus’. Now, if you’re going to commit to rote transactional work, even if you can’t stop yourself from rolling a boulder up a hill, you can always start your rolling higher up the slope. That’s where document generation software comes in.
If you’re constructing documents from templates and clause libraries with the capacity to make global changes, you’ll be generating those documents much faster than you would by making edits manually, or via homespun remedies. I’ve recently interviewed, at my podcast, HotDocs’ chief technology officer, Lowell Stewart, concerning some additional advantages respecting document generation; and, you can listen to that audio, here. But, my sense is that I’m likely preaching to the converted: Most lawyers want to manage their documents better, they just don’t know where to start.
Fortunately, there are a number of applications available, at various price points, and across platforms. (Neither is the forthcoming an exhaustive list; feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.) There is the aforementioned HotDocs, which is used in the legal environment. But, at an even more basic level, most lawyers have built-in document- and email-building tools, and are perhaps unaware of the fact. Between Microsoft’s QuickParts and Outlook Signatures, tools are already in place (delivered by a near-ubiquitous (in legal, at least) office suite system) for lawyers to more quickly work up documents and emails. The Form Tool is a relatively inexpensive program that integrates with Microsoft Word. For those with more upscale tastes for document generation and management applications, NetDocuments (reviewed here) and Brightleaf (reviewed here) are popular choices, as is Worldox. And, lest the Mac set feel left out, these are some popular programs in that line: XpressDox, Turner, DraftOnce, MacSimplePrompter, FileMaker Pro and Daylite (which is more of a practice management utility with some limited document management features; so, most attorneys use it in conjunction with HotDocs, which is available on the Mac). (If you’re looking for more information about using Apple products in your law firm, check out LOMAP’s new resource hub: LoMac.)
Let’s face it: Working is lame. Working too hard is even lamer. If you can effectively leverage document generation tools, you’ll be able to move through, and onto other, projects more quickly. Like the Alan Parsons Project.
This post originally appeared in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s eJournal.

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