Document drafting and precedent tools can be a nightmare for both users and developers. They need to be configured and developed in painful ways that require specialist knowledge in document production and often multiple programming languages. As a result the document automation process is often complicated, expensive and difficult to manage for law firms.

Having experienced all of the above firsthand in law-firm environments, we developed DocAssist to be remedy to these issues.

DocAssist by nature is a no code, no macro and no template system that allows operators with little to no coding experience to generate beautifully styled precedents in no time. What are some of the cool features of DocAssist though? Well, that depends on whether you are an end-user or a precedent developer/editor.

Features for Lawyers and End-Users

Select Paragraphs

Lawyers want to make informed decisions by knowing what changes will happen to their document.  With DocAssist end-users are able to expose all options available to them, so that they can make an informed decision about their options.

Maintain Contacts

Your end users will see the time that is saved by collecting information in a document (like a Lease Agreement) and using it immediately in subsequent documents, such as collecting the Lease date, Property Address, Rental Term etc. You can also create “Data Sheets” for your end users to collect matter related data in DocAssist database, essentially using your document drafting tool as an extension to your PMS!

Contact Lookup

DocAssist not only integrates with your address books on your PMS and Outlook, it also allows you to build contact relationships to your matters on its own database. Clicking the ellipsis button on the contact field on the pane will bring up the lookup dialog. From here, you can choose your contact, add a new contact or amend details of an existing contact.

Outlook precedents

Our current end users LOVE Outlook precedents.  Much of their time is spent corresponding via email, with a lot of it also repeatable. 

Clause Bank

  • DocAssist will know about the clients/matters that are created in your PMS, and it will also know about the workspaces in iManage. Clicking OK on the DocAssist pane will launch the iManage save dialog with the correct workspace already selected, and with the profile filled out (document description, author, document type).
  • If you’re using a different DMS then the save button can be configured based on your specific requirements.
  • Clause Bank makes it easy to add pieces of content into documents. Precedent Bank provides users with quick access to their precedent repository.

Features for Precedent Developers/Editors 

Index Sync Grouping

This is the ability to link Select Paragraphs together.  IE answer a question on page 1, and it can automatically answer any number of ‘linked’ other paragraphs together.  And with no coding required. This is just one part of the no code, no macro functionality behind DocAssist.

Outlook precedents

Our email precedents are so simple to configure that anyone who can operate Microsoft Word can create an email precedent.

Simple deployment

Pop new DocAssist documents into a specific folder/workspace in iManage, and they are immediately available to end users via the Precedent Bank dialog. 

If you’re not an iManage site, no worries! Your precedent deployment is still as east as 1, 2, 3. Pop them into the specific folder in your DMS and make sure your Precedent Library is configured for its path. Your precedents will be available to users via the Precedent Library dialog.

Styles and formatting

DocAssist precedents are just Word ‘documents’.  Which means all the styles and formatting they are familiar with are there.  Precedents can be linked to underlying style templates, which are again just Word ‘documents’.  So managing styles across the entire precedent bank is incredibly easy. 

We get a lot of queries about Office 365, and about whether a law firm can use the online version instead of the local applications.

It’s an interesting question, and a very interesting answer.

The first thing to be aware of is the online version of Word is very limited in what it can do. So as long as your needs for editing are basic, then the answer is “possibly”.

A deal breaker for legal is often the fact that the online version has limited support for track changes. If you have a document with track changes turned on already, then yes you can edit it online and your changes will be tracked – but the kicker is you won’t see the tracked changes online. You need to open the document on the desktop version to see your tracked changes. Also, there is no way to turn track changes on or off with the online version, so you need to do that in the desktop version of Word first.

Another commonly used feature in legal documents are cross references. Well you can forget about them in the online version.

We also won’t mention that you can’t insert or update a table of contents, you can’t add or edit styles, or you can’t add shapes, textboxes or WordArt.

There is also only limited support for content controls. The online version only supports rich text content controls – so you can forget about things like date controls and dropdowns.

Law firms tend to have a lot of addins and customisations, most of which are also not supported in the online version.  So forget about all those macros and ribbon customisations your firm uses on a daily basis  – they won’t be available. Most commercial addins are either COM or VSTO addins – which do not work online as they rely heavily on the operating system and the .Net framework so will not be happy in the confines of a browser.

Speaking of addins, that usually includes your document management system. You’ll find most will require the desktop version of Word.

The online version of the Office apps have a long way to go to even get close to the desktop versions. They may be a handy tool to get you across the line with a few basic edits especially when you’re stuck with only your phone, iPad or browser. But I don’t think you’ll be doing any of the real heavy lifting online any time soon.

Hopefully that answers the question for now.

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