Document assembly is a powerful tool that we are starting to deploy across my firm. Document assembly is a wonderful and powerful knowledge management tool. We recently deployed HotDocs Server.
I found the desktop version of HotDocs to be powerful, but a pain in the neck to install, maintain and train attorneys on how to use. Going the route of the server made deployment easy. Users just need a web browser to access the templates, answers the questions and assemble the documents.
The problem with HotDocs server was that they sold it without a front end, expecting the customer to custom-build the user interface. Last year, HotDocs came out with their Template Portal product to act as the user interface for the portal. This allowed us to open the box and deploy the server in a week. Most of that time was spent changing to the colors and graphics to match our intranet.
One issue I had with the Template Portal is that it presents all of the templates in a flat list. I wanted to seamlessly integrate it with our intranet and forms library. So instead of opening the form of deed in word, you get the HotDocs interview taking you through the conveyance process. We found a workaround. We found the Template Sets feature created a distinct URL for the template, allowing us to link directly to the HotDocs interview.
Barron Henley and Blair Janis wrote an article for the Best of ABA TECHSHOW: Abracadabra: Document Creation You Can Really Use. They do a great job of taking you through the process and touting the benefits of document assembly.
The problem I have is dealing with changes to the documents and managing the client. Any good form document should change as market conditions change, the law changes and client expectations change. Inevitably, the client wants to see the changes and approve them before they get into the form, or the client wants to send a set of forms out to a potential recipient to give them a flavor of the documents. The problem is that the form is full of the document coding, making it hard to understand what is happening with the document.
To counter this, I have starting setting up the templates with a form option. This option pre-selects some of the answers and produces a form for distribution. It is kind of kludgy but is solving the problem for now.