For many years I practiced law, much of the time as a partner responsible for managing technology. That's where I first encountered HotDocs. Now I help folks (including lots of lawyers) implement document automation. But part of me still sees the world through the eyes of a practicing lawyer. Maybe that's why, when I hear about some new technology that is reputed to be the cure for the world's woes, I'm always skeptical. What I always want to know is "What practical benefits does it deliver?" When it comes to HotDocs, experience makes that an easy question to answer.

High on the list of real world benefits is productivity. The drafter spends far less time preparing documents. This saves labor costs, thus enhancing profitability. This is particularly important if you face price competition or operate in an environment where there are other downward pressures on revenue.

Another major benefit is responsiveness. Whether you are a lawyer drafting a document for a client or a business person preparing a contract for a customer, you can deliver in a fraction of the time it would take using non-automated methods. A faster response makes for a happy client/customer and faster revenue recognition.

HotDocs enhances the quality and accuracy of documents. That means avoiding the embarrassment and cost associated with errors. Cutting and pasting (the usual alternative) often results in problems even the most careful proofreader will miss. The process of turning form documents into HotDocs templates can itself improve the documents. The template author will frequently unearth long-overlooked anomalies in forms.

HotDocs also helps you standardize document content. Logical and business rules, along with approved language, can be stored in a central repository, keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring that everyone is working with the latest language and rules.

Automation additionally enables capturing the expertise and experience of knowledgeable people. This has multiple sub-benefits, including better delegation of tasks to lower-level workers and preserving intellectual capital when more experienced folks leave a firm. The knowledge of a retired senior partner or experienced paralegal will live on in a document drafting system.

Automated drafting frees up the time of professionals for tasks where their expertise is more valuable, such as developing strategy or providing advice. By eliminating some of the humdrum aspects of work, the technology opens the door to greater job satisfaction. This can help an organization recruit top flight employees.

For law firms, developing automated drafting systems can be a marketing tool. Clients want to see that their law firm is cutting edge and is doing work for them in the most efficient manner. They like to see how the firm is going to deliver a quality product with promised speed.

When it comes to practical benefits, HotDocs delivers. Take it from a skeptic.

Bart Earle is Vice President of Legal Systematics and Capstone Practice Systems, who practiced law for 20+ years before becoming a technology consultant.