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Enabling disruption

In his book “The End of Lawyers?” Richard Susskind refers to document assembly software as a “disruptive technology” because it challenges the way law firms are accustomed to doing business. He goes on to say that it is one of the few technologies that will fundamentally challenge or overhaul the legal profession in years to come, since it will facilitate the automatic production of legal documents. But despite the fact that it is relatively inexpensive, and increases productivity dramatically, law firms haven’t rushed out to buy document assembly software. In fact, the majority of lawyers don’t even know that document assembly software exists.

So why hasn’t document assembly become mainstream?

Seth Rowland of Bashasys in New York summed it up nicely when he said that most users are content to use software in the most basic way. Another school of thought is that while document assembly software is relatively inexpensive, creating template libraries is not. So law firms may simply be afraid of the cost. On top of that, lawyers often favor their own contract documents over a standard precedent created by someone else, so they simply continue creating their own documents from scratch. Lawyers also don’t think about document productivity much, because they aren’t the ones doing the actual work: They request a document to be drafted, and voilà, the document appears a short while later. Therefore many lawyers don’t see the need for document assembly software.

An essential tool

It’s not that document assembly isn’t an essential tool for law firms. For example, the often used cut-and-paste method of creating documents is risky, because information from a previous version might be forgotten in the new document, which may change the interpretation. Also, to draft every document from scratch wastes time. It also means that mistakes can creep in, whereas with a document template, only the information that has changed needs to be reviewed. Document assembly is also one of the few remaining ways lawyers can increase fees without putting in more hours, since information – both document and data – is re-used.

Productivity lost

In the early years of document assembly, before Word Perfect and MS Word became popular, the software used for creating document templates was far easier to use than it is today. As a result, users created their own templates, and didn’t need to wait for the IT department, or the document developer, to build templates for them. The result was a massive boost in productivity that lasted until Y2K. That’s when Windows took hold and new, more sophisticated, document assembly systems were designed that were more difficult to learn and use. This meant that supervisors were needed to create and change templates, and so productivity slowed as law firms grappled with educating their users in the use of these new Windows applications.

While there still are some projects that require the services of a document developer, most document templates at law firms can be created by users themselves. Whilst there is a good case for having some document templates in a centralized template library, standard letters and other often-used documents for example, it doesn’t make commercial sense for law firms to ban template creation by users.

XpressDox makes sense

This is where XpressDox comes into its own. In short, XpressDox can be as simple or advanced as you require, so despite it being one of the most powerful document assembly systems on the market, XpressDox is the easiest to learn and use. This means that smaller firms can be up and running in a matter of minutes. And for larger firms that require power and sophistication, XpressDox has all the commands and functions necessary to create advanced document templates. For even more power, XpressDox links to almost any database, including ODBC, SQL Server, MS Outlook and MS Excel. And if that still isn’t enough, XpressDox can be integrated into your accounting or practice management application.

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