Reviewed: An In-Depth Look at HotDocs Software for Law Firms

There are three major challenges that every law firm faces. Everyone worries about how to increase revenue or how to retain and grow their client list.

Then there are the challenges that are specific to small law firms. Chief among those is how to improve productivity and efficiency while controlling costs.

Using HotDocs Software is one way solo and small firms are leveling the playing field. Further, they’re doing it without having to become computer experts.

Billable hours

Yale Law School estimates that every 10 hour day you put in as a lawyer results in – at best – 7.5 billable hours. That may seem a reasonable number to the average lawyer at a big firm, but if you are working solo or in a small firm of two to nine attorneys you may be right in thinking this is a stretch goal.

Forget the idea that lunch can be eaten somewhere other than your desk, and that “breaks” occur naturally when the copier runs out of paper. If you were one of the 55% of lawyers working solo or in a small firm in 2017, you know where your time is really spent.

You’ve probably spent a minimum of three hours preparing documents for every billable hour you’ve had. Some of your more complex contracts, motions, briefs, etc. can take days or weeks of painstaking assembly and proofing.

Document Complexity

What makes a document complex doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the subject matter of the document. The devil, as they say, is in the details.  

Every document your firm creates must be customized to meet the client’s specifics.

Most firms have created “templates” for the documents they reuse most often. But even these crudes templates take a long time to produce.

Each time you create a new document from your template someone still needs to go through it line by line to make sure the verb tenses, names, addresses and even the gender references are correct. If you are a solo practitioner, that someone is you.

Of course, the biggest waste associated with this kind of template is that mistakes are still likely to creep through. Sometimes it’s just an embarrassment, but sometimes a small mistake can have big consequences.

Document Automation

That’s where the HotDocs software can really prove its value. It automates the creation of documents for you, streamlining your work and eliminating the possibility of errors. No matter what the legal focus of your firm is, HotDocs drastically reduces the amount of time you’ll spend creating the documents your firm and clients rely on.

HotDocs is a document automation tool. It creates highly customized documents from one-page web forms to 100-page briefs. Whether you specialize in real estate, family law, or criminal law or corporate taxation, HotDocs can be integrated with your practice management and document management systems to streamline your entire document flow.

HotDocs Templates

You begin to experience the power of HotDocs, as soon as you start creating templates within it. HotDocs software integrates with Word and Word Perfect.

It can be used to automate the production of any document that uses a standardized format and has standard variables. This includes contracts, bills of sale, trusts, mortgages, and promissory notes.

To create a template you take any PDF document or Word Doc and input it into HotDocs. Then you mark which fields are customizable.

Finally, you mark any field that may need to be changed due to gender, verb tense or math calculations and so on.

That’s it. Your template is now complete and ready for you to begin using.

HotDocs Software Platforms

Your firm can decide whether it wants to use HotDocs as a desktop tool or a cloud tool. Is it important that the software be available remotely or that you be able to create and edit web form templates?

Do you want everyone in the firm to have access to the software or just a few people?

You can also restrict who has access to which templates within HotDocs. There’s no reason your real estate division needs to have access to your small business incorporation forms.

There are two features of the HotDocs software that really demonstrate its superiority over the individual document templates you have been working with.

The first feature is what HotDocs makers call “the Interview.” The second is the way HotDocs handles the creation of multiple documents at one time.

The Interview

The interview is how you turn an hour of document creation into a billable hour.  Once you have a template created within HotDocs an hour of discovery with a client becomes one of your most productive.

Instead of asking a client a series of questions and later inputting the information into an old-fashioned Word template, HotDocs guides your interview. As you work through the document it will highlight the next area that needs customization.

By the time your interview is done, so is your document.

Multiple Document Creation

Describing how HotDocs can create multiple documents at one time is simpler through an example. Consider the documents you would create for a single estate planning client.

There are easily a dozen documents that could be associated with opening one plan, from the Revocable Trust Document to Power of Attorney, Living Will and HIPPA Authorization, Personal Property, and Investment Documents.  

You could spend a couple of hours gathering and setting up all of these documents, or you could spend ten minutes doing it with HotDocs as this video demonstrates.

The Next Steps

Learning to use the software is fairly straightforward, but some of the document templates you may want to create could prove very complex. Associating multiple documents correctly so they can all be created at once makes the learning curve for HotDocs a little steeper.

If you would like to skip the HotDocs software learning curve altogether, here’s where you can learn more about choosing a consultant to work with. They can help you choose the best platform and write all the templates you need to expand your practice, your productivity, and your profits.