Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA) provides assistance to citizens unable to afford legal representation or that do not have access to the resources required to manage their own legal affairs. Established in 1969, Legal Aid SA also makes legal information available to the public through the Self Help Portal on their website, further enabling citizens to manage their legal matters.
As Legal Aid SA is a non-profit public entity, it’s important that the processes and systems the organization use are as efficient as possible. The creation of legal documentation is extremely time consuming, therefore, it is imperative that document production has a minimal impact on Legal Aid SA’s resources to allow their team to focus on helping those in need of legal assistance.
Prior to using HotDocs, Legal Aid SA employed a manual process to produce a high volume of legal documentation across the organization’s national footprint. The process involved creating a set of approved Microsoft Word documents as templates and relied on the staff located across Legal Aid SA’s 135 offices who produce the documents to select the right template from a shared document library. This process was extremely labour intensive and relied on over 60 managers to check documents for errors and the correct formatting. This made controlling the content and design of documents extremely challenging.
Problems with this system soon arose, such as staff retaining their own version of the templates on their desktop, leading to inaccuracies and inconsistencies in documents content. Ultimately, staff were using different documents that did not contain the correct information and formatting; including headers, footers, branding and spacing.
Legal Aid SA identified that the organization must take control of their documentation by establishing a process that would ensure consistency across all documents and eliminate the risk of staff copying and pasting inaccurate and outdated information.
As well as using HotDocs to produce their own documentation, Legal Aid SA wanted to further empower South African citizens by not only providing access to legal advice, but providing them with the ability to produce their own legal documents.
HotDocs worked with the organization to define their documentation requirements and develop a HotDocs solution that would allow Legal Aid SA to produce documents with zero risk of errors and ensure consistency across the full range of their documents.
Our product specialists trained five of Legal Aid SA’s staff members to become the document authors who would be responsible for the creation and management of Legal Aid SA’s HotDocs templates across a number of locations. That’s a team of 64 managers reduced to a team of 5, allowing the remaining 59 managers to focus on helping the citizens of South Africa, rather than creating and checking documentation. The HotDocs solution provided was also configured to produce documents in both English and Afrikaans.
HotDocs provided Legal Aid SA with additional functionality in the form of a publishing license, which gave the organization the ability to create a portal that would allow individuals whose location wasn’t close to any Legal Aid SA offices to use templates to create their own legal documents. This functionality was added to the Self Help Portal on Legal Aid SA’s website which, prior to this new feature, only offered legal advice.
Legal Aid SA chose HotDocs due to the software’s scalability and aptitude to handle complex documents. Since the organization launched HotDocs, Legal Aid SA has seen a dramatic drop in the resources required to produce documentation and now has over 250 staff using HotDocs.
Thanks to the HotDocs interview, Legal Aid SA no longer has to re-enter client information when going through multiple cases. All staff have to do now is input the information once and all the relevant documentation will be generated. Previously, Legal Aid SA would have to enter information each time a new document was needed for a case. With HotDocs, Legal Aid SA staff enter the information once and multiple documents with many purposes can be created, with some legal cases requiring as many as 20 documents, this saves a substantial amount of time.
Since implementing HotDocs, Legal Aid SA has greatly improved the quality of service they provide, while being able to do much more with the same resources. The organization officially went nationwide with HotDocs in February 2017.
HotDocs will integrate with Legal Aid SA’s Line of Business (LOB) systems, which will include integration with the organization’s bespoke Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and in-house Content Management System (CMS). This integration will pull information straight from these systems to generate documents, removing the need for manual entry or entering case data multiple times.
Feedback from Legal Aid SA users includes:
"HotDocs is a great innovation. It makes it so easy to create pleadings."
"This is great! No more typing the same information over and over again."
"HotDocs has turned us into the Starship Enterprise of legal aid. Legal Aid SA is taking legal aid where no legal aid organization has gone before!"