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Law and Order: Best Practice Legal Template Management

By Templafy | 11. May 2017

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Law firms create and revise documents all day, every day. This means A LOT of documents. Contracts, briefs, pleadings, memorandums, resolutions, trusts – the list is never-ending. But how efficient is your document creation process? And do you and your firm trust it? 

Document administrators, knowledge managers and law librarians are tasked with arming legal teams with the most up-to-date, best practice document formats and content. From that base of legal template management and boilerplate management, the lawyers do their magic and use their professional judgement on adjusting and building the documents for each specific matter. This process helps share the firm’s knowledge base and streamlines document creation.

However, while this works in theory, we all know that in practice this can be a headache if your systems and processes aren’t up to the challenge – particularly if you can’t make agile, precise and dynamic updates across your precedents and templates. Lawyers will very quickly lose faith in an out-of-date precedent system and will avoid using it all together.

Too many documents, too little time…

Quick and easy document creation is crucial to keeping your law firm running at the speed your clients need and expect from modern offices. Legal administration teams are central to this.

How does your law office usually create legal documents? Do lawyers and support staff spend hours crafting new forms from scratch for any kind of document they prepare for clients? Or, to save time and stay on top of heavy workloads, do they create Frankenstein documents by copy-pasting sections from several old documents? 

Rather than setting up documents from square one every time they’re needed or manually piecing them together somehow in a hasty mix-and-match attempt, automating document creation can be a true time saver, freeing up valuable resources for other important tasks instead of formatting legal contracts.

Using templates and forms with up-to-date and best-practice pre-filled details, content, and features helps win back countless office hours usually spent on assembling documents while improving consistency, accuracy, and the overall quality of your legal work.

So far, so simple. The trouble is, how can you maintain the wealth of your legal templates and keep them current during a crazy-busy day without spending hours of manual work tracking down legacy content and being reliant on IT staff to update boilerplate text?

Knowledge managers and document admins, good news afoot: With a cloud-based template management system implemented into the daily office workflow it becomes easy to gain back control and manage your firm’s legal documents in real time for everyone who uses them while keeping the constant flood of knowledge in check – all without having to resort to IT each time pieces of information need to be updated.

Keen to learn how? Here is the scoop.

Document assembly – “never re-key what you can automate”

Formatting legal documents is a complex process, and formatting issues are incredibly common due to the nature of the work. Fixing format inconsistencies can easily become exasperating for anyone working on a document, wasting valuable time and manpower.

Document assembly software and other legal document management solutions provide centralized access to compliant, firm branded templates for general correspondence, precedents, and other documents frequently used in your law office.  

What’s more, those systems usually include useful tools that speed up the often frustrating, time-consuming process of inserting boilerplate text and paragraphs, and help prevail over typical formatting hitches. At the least, most of the programs will let you add variable fields in documents based on information held in your database, like party names and addresses.

Sounds fabulous? Well it is. And yet, adopting a document assembly software doesn’t necessarily mean daily workflows have overcome productivity roadblocks or are operating optimally just because law offices have a system in place that eliminates the need to reinvent the wheel each time a document is created.

The template challenges for knowledge managers

The same question remains: How can knowledge managers administer the abundance of legal documents in the firm and make sure that boilerplates are up to date? How should templates be distributed so everyone has access to them? And how do admins know the templates are actually being used by the lawyers and legal support staff?

A firm might have four estate planning attorneys, each of whom is using a different contract template. Not necessarily because it is the best and most current template cleared by the knowledge manager or other staff responsible for in-house document management, but really only because they’re familiar with it and have been using it forever.

With a multitude of documents and forms to manage, most law offices without a template management strategy organize their documents and templates based on client or matter with a couple of standard folders, some sub-folders, and probably one or two others because they didn’t quite fit anywhere. The system seems to work – everybody at the firm knows it, and everybody knows where the documents are saved.

But for template negligence…

Now comes a cautionary tale using the “but for” test:

Imagine that two new paralegals join the firm. As they bring in new clients and matters, they start drafting and saving documents their own way to fit their purposes. Soon, the practice management system which has worked so well up until now starts to crack and come up against a host of problems – staff goes on vacation, people leave the firm, and someone else has to take over the case or help out in trial. You know how it goes.

Now, no one at the office can seem to find the documents they need anymore. All of a sudden, there are templates in multiple forms and different versions saved in places no one would ever find, leaving staff puzzled over which documents to use. Pressed for time, some might end up digging up old document templates saved somewhere on their PC, unaware that information might have already become obsolete or, at worst, is erroneous.

A good lawyer will of course always check that a boilerplate is best-practice. But sometimes they just don’t and huge errors can emerge. An entire firm’s reputation can suffer from something that could have been helped by an effective document creation and template system.

But for a lawyer negligently using poorly managed template or document system, the firm’s reputation would not have been injured.


How a cloud-based dynamic template management system can help manage legal templates for everyone in the firm

For knowledge managers, staying on top of the documents that are in circulation at the firm and keeping information in legal documents accurate is a constant battle.

Particularly when depending on IT resources to update content, document admins oftentimes find themselves limited in their flexibility to implement changes immediately when they become necessary and deploy updated documents to staff in real time – a problem that exists with most on-premises practice management tools.

Dynamic cloud-based template management solutions such as Templafy can help harness the benefits of your legal templates more effectively. As it automates the most tedious aspects of managing, updating, and streamlining your legal templates across the office, it saves time and hassles while keeping documents safe, accurate, and compliant.

What’s more, rather than relying on the help of IT experts, document admins can carry out template updates in minutes with just a few clicks and roll them out to the whole firm instantly, ensuring lawyers and support staff always have the most current templates and other content assets at hand – online and locally through the intuitive Templafy interface.

Keen to learn how Templafy can help your law firm automate template creation while removing IT involvement? Schedule a meeting with one of our consultants to see our tool in action: 

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