According to the American Bar Association (ABA), drafting is a “mission-critical function” for all law offices. Your legal documents should capture your practice’s intellectual capital and set it apart from other competitors. While drafting methods have remained relatively unchanged for decades, the increasingly hyper-competitive legal market has forced attorneys to seek out and adopt new legal technologies to streamline their drafting processes.
Below are just a few tips for how attorneys can harness these new technologies in order to streamline the drafting process while retaining document integrity.
1. Collaborate in the cloud.
Many practices still use desktop-based systems, like Microsoft Word, to draft their client documents. However, creating and sharing documents that are located on an individual computer means attorneys waste precious time and energy sharing and searching for files (and double-checking that they have the most recent version of a document). While this process may have been the best option for attorneys in the 1990s, today there are better choices for drafting legal documents collaboratively. One such option is using a cloud-based system (e.g., Google Docs or another third-party provider) rather than a desktop-based system (e.g., Word). The cloud offers the following advantages:
- It is more cost effective. Rather than purchasing physical servers in-house, attorneys can rent cloud-based data storage space. And because these systems update themselves, attorneys do not need to worry about maintenance costs.
- It provides greater flexibility and scalability. Because documents are stored in the cloud, the on-demand virtual space allows users to access documents on any device, at any time, in any place, making collaboration easy and immediate.
- It is more secure. Cloud-based systems are often better at mitigating cybersecurity risks because they have dedicated full-time, in-house IT staff. This allows attorneys to focus on their legal practice rather than on maintaining their IT system.
The cloud is rapidly overtaking traditional in-house systems as a scalable and cost-effective solution for many legal needs, including drafting. One such drafting system that utilizes the benefits of the cloud is Wealth Docx®. By storing all estate planning templates on a third-party server, estate planners can easily access, safely save, and collaborate on a variety of estate planning documents from any device.
2. Ditch the “find and replace” method.
You are getting ready to sit down with a client and discover an error while double-checking the client’s estate planning documents—the name of a previous client whose planning document you used as a template remains in the document. Maybe you now have to call the client to delay the meeting to fix the error. Or maybe the client caught it while signing the documents. Whatever the scenario, it is familiar to many estate planning attorneys.
The “find and replace” approach—in which an attorney modifies an existing document by finding certain text and replacing it with revised text for a new client—has many disadvantages. As the drafting method with the highest margin of error, whether it be by omission (leaving out important information) or inclusion (leaving in something that should have been removed), it is highly recommended to avoid this approach whenever possible.
Attorneys can reduce their workload and the potential for a malpractice lawsuit and breach of attorney-client privilege by utilizing up-to-date legal document templates to draft their estate planning documents. Although storing and updating these will and trust templates themselves is possible, it is very time intensive. The alternative is to outsource this work and use drafting software like Wealth Docx, which provides an array of estate planning document templates that are constantly monitored and updated by in-house legal experts. The drafting process is then automated: Upon answering a series of on-screen questions about the client, the document is auto-populated with the information selected during the interview process.
3. Integrate your systems.
Many practices rely on a patchwork of legal software solutions to run their business—one for their practice management system (PMS) and another for document preparation. This often means that attorneys must enter client information multiple times, which wastes time and jeopardizes accuracy.
Integrating the various software systems used across a practice saves time by reducing the need for duplicate data entry and minimizes the risk of drafting errors. Integration allows a practice’s PMS and drafting software to talk to each other, meaning attorneys only need to enter client information once. This information can then be transferred from one software system to another.
Attorneys who use PracticePanther or Clio can now integrate their PMS with their estate planning software if they use Wealth Docx. By linking the two systems, users only need to enter new information into PracticePanther or Clio, and then all client information can be transferred seamlessly into Wealth Docx.
Users can specify which informational fields they want to sync, including names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. Information can be tailored further by creating custom fields in Clio, such as gender, which can then be mapped to specific fields in Wealth Docx. After your preferences have been saved, the information can be synced. Before syncing is complete, changes can be accepted or denied, allowing Wealth Docx users to have full control over what information is brought over from their PMS.
To learn more about Wealth Docx and how to integrate it with your PMS, click here.