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Why do lawyers resist document assembly?

This post was originally published in September, 2015.

If you have any interest at all in the intersection between technology and lawyering, you should really check out this week’s podcast over at Lawyerist, where Lawyerist’s Sam Glover interviews Dennis Kennedy of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Some of the conversation goes where you’d expect—document review, artificial intelligence, technology versus offshoring, what really constitutes “lawyering”, etc.—but then around the 13:37 mark, the conversation turns to a subject near and dear to my heart; namely, document assembly (which Kennedy apparently has had extensive past experience with).

Although Sam’s not entirely convinced of its value (at one point protesting “I am perfectly capable of automating documents, but in my own practice, I almost never bothered, because it would have only saved me 30 seconds”), Dennis Kennedy responds with what I think are some critical insights:

I think you always have to have volume and … repeatability. And so the best thing is to identify where those things make sense. So I sort of have a couple of principles on document assembly I always think about, that have been part of my learning. I think when you say, ‘What I want to do is find a way to generate the finished document all at once,’ I don’t think you can win with that. So my goal was always to say, ‘Can I use document assembly in a way that generates a really good first draft?’ And by taking the standard to that [level], I think [document assembly] can be really helpful. Although you still have to have volume and repeatability.

Kennedy mentions using Word’s Quick Parts to assemble interrogatories, as an example:

Then I also think there’s this other piece of document assembly that in ancient days people used to call ‘point and shoot’ document assembly, where you’d say, ‘I have this clause file‘ (which, you know, a lot of lawyers think they have or have but they don’t really use) … and whether that’s using, you know, the smart insertion (I’ve lost the name of it off the top of my mind, in Word [Ed. note: Quick Parts]) or whatever where I can go, like, BOOM. I just use a hot key or I click a menu option and I pull those standard clauses in, and I can kind of assemble pieces of documents and other things on the fly to customize them because I do have repeatable components even if I don’t have repeatable documents. So if you said, ‘I’m using document assembly, say, for interrogatories or that sort of thing in a litigation practice,’ you can say, ‘Oh, I see how I can use document assembly for the container of those questions and if I could kind of point and shoot to the questions I want to include, then I’m going to have standard approaches, and that gives me that really good first draft that I can work with.’ And I know I have all the basic stuff, so then instead of saying, ‘Have I included all 30 of these questions or have I remembered everything that should go in here based on my memory,’ it’s all in there and you look through it and you say, ‘Oh, in this case, you know what, we need to ask this, we need to do this,’ and then I think you’re adding the value and turning it from a routine exercise into something that’s actually creative for you and helpful for the client.

At this point, Sam asks a pointed question: “So, why is that we’re still talking about this, though? Like, why isn’t it more widely used and why can’t we say, ‘Okay, it’s just a tool like any other, and yeah, of course lawyers should use it, and they are’?”

Sam and Dennis (starting at the 19:47 mark) take a stab at answering that question in their interview. But what do you think? Why do we see so little document assembly in law firms nearly three decades after that technology’s introduction? Do you agree that many lawyers’ resistance is rooted in a misguided expectation of what document assembly should accomplish (produce a final draft rather than a first one)? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments (click through to the full post here).

Formatting Autocorrect Entries

woman holding question mark

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, reader? Seriously, if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t find out about all sorts of things in Microsoft Office.

Case in point: a reader contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me this:

We recently upgraded from Word 2007 to 2013. In 2007 I had set up an auto correct for the term Id. In 2013 I can’t get the AutoCorrect to underline the term. Any ideas?Sharon

Frankly, I never knew you could format AutoCorrect entries. So I took to the interwebs to investigate.

Sure enough, it’s possible to teach AutoCorrect to correct both the spelling and formatting of an entry. But there’s a trick to it.

[click to continue…]

Make up for your bad typing with AutoCorrect

I’ll admit it: I am not a world-class typist. I can do about 85-90 on a good-to-average day, but years of working with word processors has made my error rate a little dodgy.

And I’ve noticed, over the years, that no matter how much typing practice I get, there are a few words I misspell (really, mistype — I actually do know how to spell them!) frequently. That annoys me. A lot.

But taking the advice of my fellow blogger Vivian Manning, I’m going to stop obsessing about typos and let the computer do more of the work for me. Because if the machines can do more work, why not let them? And because not many people know how to get Microsoft Word to correct their common typos, I’m going to show you how. (Because I want you to do less busywork, too!)

[click to continue…]

5 Options You’ll Want to Re-Set in Word

A big part of making Word work better for you is molding the way it works to the way you work. Most users don’t know they’ve got options for how certain features perform. Some things you’ll want to get out of your way, some things you’ll want to make easier to access. Here are my suggestions for changing Word’s defaults to work better in a legal environment:

First Step: Going into Options

Most of the default behaviors in Word are set within the Options dialog box. To get there (a necessary prerequisite for all of the exercises below), go to the File tab (if you’re still using Word 2007, click the Office Button) and click Options.

Once you’re in Options, you’re ready to rock.

Click here to take advantage of these tips –>

In praise of text expansion (or, how to keep from typing the same thing 100 times)

Here in the last several weeks, I’ve been busy. And when I say “busy”, I’m not talking your run-of-the-mill “I have a nice steady flow of work” level of busy. I’m talking “so overloaded I’m farming out scut work to other people”, “oh my gosh, I just had that piece of paper in my hand a moment ago”, “I wonder if I can still get that Xanax prescription filled” level of busy. It was insane.

So naturally, I was looking for every time saver I could get my hands on. If something could save me even a few seconds (especially on a repetitive task), it was worth it.

One of the things I found myself doing was typing the same long complicated phrases over and over and over again. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly love typing. (As proof of that, I’m using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this article. I’m all for letting the computer do the work.) And when my brain gets a little overloaded and the pace starts getting on my nerves, my already sketchy typing skills go to pot. So I have no patience whatsoever for typing the same long complicated phrase 100 times.

So if you find yourself stuck typing “Brief in Support of American Amalgamated Consolidated Widget Corporation’s Second Amended Motion for Leave of Court to Conduct On-site Inspection” for the umpteenth time, I’m going to show you how to get out of all that repetitive typing. It’s a concept called “text expansion”, and you don’t even need extra software to do it (although there is software that will do that).

Click here to find out how to do more typing in less time