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Any nontrivial decision presents a tournament of reasons. Choosing document drafting tools for law practice is a classic case, featuring a complex dance of circumstances, candidates and considerations. This is the third in a series of short pieces about that process. To recap key themes from my earlier posts (Choosing a Document Automation System and Document Automation Choices: Buy or Build?):
Your particular circumstances are critical. A legal service provider choosing a solution for use in a consumer-facing website will have a very different framework of analysis than a solo practitioner providing conventional services in a rural community, or an international law firm with offices in 20 cities. Valid generalizations are almost impossible.
Besides the size of your staff and the nature of your clientele, circumstances like the following may make a big difference in the options you’ll want to explore and the comparative considerations:
At any given time, you’ll likely find a dozen or more plausible candidate solutions. As bewildering as that may be, be thankful that there are so many, and that they differ in so many ways. Long live the differences! The diversity increases the chance of a good match for your particular needs.
My colleagues and I have surfaced hundreds of differentiators as we’ve assessed document automation tools for ourselves and clients. You won’t be able to avoid compiling your own list as you identify features that are important to you. But here are six high-level considerations that almost always need to be taken into account:
As you set forth in the wild west of contemporary legal document automation, be prepared to encounter hyper-enthusiastic salespeople and customers with a cult-like devotion to their chosen product. They will understandably suffer from tunnel vision and won’t be the best sources of objective advice.
For a concise philosophy of legal tech decision making, see “Twelve Mantras for Technology Decisions.” One tip included there is to right-size the process. For a minimal approach in the document automation area, you could just ask around, pick a product, experiment, and be prepared to pivot if things don’t work out. A more moderate approach would have you do research, consult other users, try a few products, and balance pros and cons before acting. If more intensity seems justified and you have the resources, you could form a committee, hire a consultant, do market analysis, document requirements, issue an RFP, meet with vendors, do a systematic ranking, and run a pilot.
In any event, you’ll want clarity about which of your requirements are true must-haves, and which are nice-to-haves. Your circumstances and goals will drive that.
I’ve only scratched the surface of this complex topic. Some closing admonitions:
Today’s knowledge professionals need to make effective use of technology to perform at an acceptable level. Document drafting is at the core of what most lawyers do. The technologies for doing that keep getting more powerful. Tap into that power. However you decide.
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