Jan 30, 2019
Document assembly refers to using software to draft documents on the basis of a template. For example, your template document may include "blank spots" for date, address, contact info, etc -- document assembly allows you to fill these blank spots more efficiently than doing a simple "find and replace" with Microsoft Word.
This article concerns a specific kind of document assembly software: one that allows you to build public-facing document assembly apps.
A public-facing document assembly app is an online questionnaire that collects information that is then used to draft a document.
Here are some examples:
Public-facing document assembly apps are an effective and low-cost way to generate new leads for your law firm. This is especially true if your firm serves individuals, families, and small businesses. These clients are unlikely to immediately recognize that their issue is legal in nature. This means that they will begin their search for help not by asking "which law firm should I hire?" but instead by asking the far more practical question "what should I do now?" This question is driven by specific, real world events; it is not an abstract query. Here are some real examples:
Not everyone who asks these questions will hire a lawyer. However, everyone who asks these questions wants to take action, and some people who take action will eventually recognize the need of hiring a law firm. By providing these individuals with a document assembly app that allows them to take immediate action in response to their "what should I do now?" question, you increase the likelihood that they hire you down the road.
Find a document that helps someone take action during the early stages of their legal issue (when they're asking themselves "what should I do now?"). This is the most difficult step.
Build an online questionnaire that allows someone to input their information and assemble your selected document(s). The following platforms allow you to do exactly that:
You can use your questionnaire to help the public assemble Word documents, PDFs, or both. The exact process is different across each platform. Here is how authoring a questionnaire to assemble a PDF works in Community.lawyer:
First, upload your PDF in the App Builder, draw fillable fields, and assign variables to each field:
Then, write your questionnaire to collect information from the public:
Lastly, test your new app to make sure it's usable and user-friendly:
Share your document assembly questionnaire online, ideally on a single page website that you've built solely for this purpose; this makes it more likely that your app will be discovered by someone searching for a practical, actionable next step.
If you build your app on Community.lawyer, you'll get a free standalone website with which you can share your app:
The key to sharing your app effectively is contextualizing when / how a member of the public, who you've never met, should use the document your app will help them assemble.
Follow up with everyone who uses your app to simply ask how their issue is progressing. Bonus points if you can automate this communication with a service like Lexicata (read more about how Lexicata can help you with automated email marketing).
Document assembly is no longer just for internal process automation. Solo and small law firms are building public-facing document assembly apps to connect with prospective clients. Building your own app is an easy and inexpensive way to differentiate your firm in the eyes of the public.
You can build and test your app for free with Community.lawyer.Get started