Possibly the number one complaint we hear about the legal tech hype bubble is that without the rose-tinted glasses, most “new” legal tech is actually old tech in a shiny new case.
Document automation, for example, can be traced back to the 1970s.
So, when we tell you that Josef’s new document editor is a world first, and represents a truly novel approach to document automation, you should be skeptical. But on this one, we’re going to back ourselves.
In his book, The End of Lawyers: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Richard Susskind lists document automation as one of the 10 “disruptive technologies” that is altering the face of the legal profession.
And yet, if you ask a lawyer – in-house or at a law firm – what they know about document automation, you might well be met with a blank look. Some of them might have filled in a questionnaire to generate a document or two. But almost none of them have built an automated document template themselves.
It was when we were trying to understand why – talking to lawyers and automation experts about what was holding them back – that an idea started to form.
If documents are the primary work product for most lawyers, and most legal documents originate in some sort of Microsoft Word template, why don’t lawyers have a product that makes it easy for them to build automated templates themselves?
The answer, like most things in business, comes down to the three Ps: people, process and product.
Document automation involves the production of a document (or document set) that is populated with data drawn from an external source, like a database or a questionnaire. Historically, there have been two main forms of document automation.
The first is web-based document automation, where you draft a document online. The user experience is often smooth and modern. So far so good! The problem, though, is that you can’t simply upload or download a Microsoft Word document while retaining the formatting. So although web-based document automation can be used in other industries, it’s not much good for a busy lawyer whose documents need to be perfectly styled.
The second option is Word based document automation. While using a Word document as your template is a great way to protect your styling and formatting, it presents a different problem for a lawyer. To populate a Word document, the lawyer would need to learn to “code”. See the example below for how complex even a very simple automation function can get.
This is an example of the code required for even simple document automation using a traditional Word editor.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: on the one hand, web-based document automation provides a great user experience but can’t handle complex Word documents; on the other, Word-based document automation offers a terrible user experience (for anyone other than a coder), but protects the formatting and styling in the source document.
This was the problem that we set out to solve at Josef.
We wanted to build a web-based document editor that provided a beautiful user experience, without compromising the styling or formatting of a Word document, no matter how complex. An editor that allowed a lawyer to upload a Word template and apply logic or insert responses without using a single line of code. An editor that was so simple to use, that any legal professional could take the Word templates that they work with every day and transform them into dynamic, bot-powered automation tools.
In other words, we set out to take the best of web-based document automation and combine it with the best of Word-based document automation to create a beautiful document automation experience for the modern lawyer.
And that’s exactly what we did.
Josef’s new document editor is revolutionary, not because the technology is new, but because the way it comes together on our platform represents a watershed moment for the three Ps inside a legal team.
For the people, the opportunity to create perfect automated Word templates is now available to everyone, not just the specialists. For the process, the ability to upload Word documents and apply automation in a beautiful user interface dramatically shortens the time it takes to create an automated template. For the work product, both lawyers and clients share the benefits of consistent and efficient legal document production.