by ALAN ALBERTS
We get many calls from law firms which want to handle more cases without increasing their staff. One of the best ways is to make document generation more efficient. Most law firms use only a minimal set of the features that their word processor makes available to them. As a result, it takes much longer to produce every document than it should.
It is possible to learn to use your word processor more efficiently. Your word processor has many useful features. Using the macro and merge features can decrease the time it takes to produce a document.
It takes no more than 15 minutes to learn how to create a simple macro and play it back, particularly with a Windows word processor. It is our experience, however, that most law offices are too busy getting the work out to take time to learn how to write complex macros.
It takes a lot of study to do more sophisticated things with the macro and merge features. It may not be worth the effort.
Document generation programs
Document generation programs can do things faster than your word processor. Using a document generation program like HotDocs can save you enormous amounts of time.
HotDocs is published by the Capsoft company. You can use it in any practice area where you have frequently used documents. It is available in both a Windows and DOS version.
You first use HotDocs to create a template. For example, if you want to create a template for a trust, you pull into Word or WordPerfect a trust that you have already created for someone. Then you click on the HotDocs icon.
The existing trust has the names of children in it. You block the names and tell HotDocs that this is where you will want to insert children's names. You do the same with amounts of money, names of trustees, etc.
HotDocs creates the template. The beginning of the template might look like this:
I give, devise and bequeath to <<List of Children>>; <<Trust Amounts>> in trust, until may said <<Child Children>> arrive <<multiple children>> at the age of twenty-one.
Then you ask HotDocs to generate the document. The program asks for the name and sex of each child, the amount that goes to each, the name of the trustees, etc. The program is very intelligent. If you only put in one child's name, you get this:
I give, devise and bequeath to my Son, Alan, One Hundred Thousand One Hundred Dollars and No Cents ($100,100.00) in trust, until may said child arrives at the age of twenty-one.
If you put in the name of multiple children, the computer automatically inserts their names and uses "children" instead of "child" in the document and uses "arrive" instead of "arrives."
You enter the amounts as figures (100,100); HotDocs also spells out the amounts. Pronouns and verb forms agree with the things to which they refer. You could do the same thing using your word processor's macro language, but it would take a lot of learning. The document generation software publishers have done the work for you.
How many more cases could you handle if you could convert 10 unproductive hours a week to productive time?
Alan Alberts' firm, Alberts & Associates, can be reached by phone at 916/621-4447; by fax at 916/621-4472; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.