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Legal Document Automation Tool Survey

Last modified Mar 8

The study can be downloaded here.

Introduction

Legal departments in companies and government agencies are creating large amounts of legal documents every day. In many cases this process is still heavily dependent on the manual labour of lawyers and support staff. Time and resources are lost on assembling each document by copying text blocks from existing documents and manually looking up the correct document structure.

The term Document Automation describes the trend of applying software solutions to automate the generation of documents. In most cases legal documents are highly structured and the decision which paragraphs are included depends on strict rules that have been defined in advance.
The underlying logic for the document structure is usually modified only when the law changes. For this reason, there is a high potential to use document automation in the legal domain.

The market for software tools for document automation consists of many vendors that offer tools that can automatically generate documents. Some of them solely focus on document automation while others integrate this functionality into a platform for automated business processes.

The goal of this Legal Document Automation Tool Survey is to evaluate and compare tools to give practitioners interested in introducing document automation to their organization an overview of the market. Tool vendors are provided with requirements for document automation tools in the legal domain. For this reason, the study does not contain a ranking with clear winners and losers but a scorecard based on the requirements and corresponding scenarios that illustrate their practical applicability.

 

Evaluated Tools

  1. ActiveDocs Opus
  2. Berkeley Studio
  3. dox42
  4. Lawlift
  5. Legito
  6. Logiforms
  7. Nintex Workflow Cloud
  8. Precisely
  9. SmartDocuments
  10. Templafy
  11. Windward Report Designer
  12. Woodpecker
  13. XpressDox

 

Classification of Tools

From the technical requirements perspective, we classified the thirteen tools into 3 groups:

Non-technical-user-oriented: tools in this category do not require users to have prior technical knowledge of software development, database, or spreadsheet for generating documents. Users can quickly and intuitively create templates, configure where dynamic data are displayed in templates, and command the tool to generate corresponding documents. These tools are Logiforms, Legito, Lawlift, Woodpecker, Precisely, and Templafy.
    
Technical-user-oriented: These tools require certain technical experience to use document automation features such as configuring dynamic elements in templates, inputting data sources, defining conditional logic and mathematical formulas using programming languages. Advanced users can quickly learn or leverage features of tools in this classification, yet for non-technical users, it can be considerably challenging. ActiveDocs, dox42, SmartDocuments, Windward, and XpressDox belong to this category.
    
Workflow-based: Users define workflows to configure their document automation process, declare template location, create a questionnaire, update dynamic elements in templates based on answers from the questionnaire, and generate documents. Although the modelling process can be an intuitive visualization for non-technical users, the actual configuration of workflow content requires certain technical knowledge, so it can be difficult at first. This issue can be addressed with the help of documentation and frequent usage of the features. Nintex Workflow and Berkeley Publisher belong to this group.

 

Performance Evaluation

We evaluate 13 tools based on core document generation functionality as well as on supporting features, that are built around the document generation engine. The core document generation functionality is depicted in 8 distinct evaluation criteria:

Template Structure

The criterion Template Structure evaluates how well document templates are structured and integrated with user inputs. The template structure should be unambiguous, easy to change and give as many options of formatting as possible while maintaining a previously defined style. It is important that dates can be displayed in a localized format inside the document.

Template Creation

The criterion Template Creation evaluates the process for creating a new template or updating an existing one. In particular, the possibility to conduct actions such as creating or updating templates, reuse of templates or export features are evaluated.

Document Generation

The criterion Document Generation evaluates the process of manually generating a document from the user’s perspective using a previously created template. The evaluation focuses on the number of steps to generate a document and on the important options for the file export.

Conditional Logic

The criterion Conditional Logic evaluates how powerful conditional expressions can be and how flexible they can be used inside templates. A conditional expression in this context consists of a comparison of user inputs with static values or other user inputs. The conditional logic has to be able to model the dependence of one conditional expression on multiple user inputs by chaining comparisons with logical operators. Available operators for comparisons should depend on the data types of user inputs to prevent invalid expressions.

Mathematical Formulas

The criterion Mathematical Formulas evaluates what kind of mathematical calculations can be included in templates. Formulas have to support basic arithmetic operators such as add, subtract, divide, and multiply and should support operators using strings and dates as input. The correct usage of operators should be unambiguous and users should be able to debug formulas. 

Statistical Formulas

The criterion Statistical Formulas evaluates the utilization of more advanced statistical operations such as exponent, logarithm, ceiling, floor, or square root in order to handle very sophisticated use cases.

Documentation

The criterion Documentation evaluates how good the available documentation supports non-technical users during their learning experience. The evaluation focuses on the completeness of the documentation, intuitive structuring and the availability of search tools. It is also considered whether examples and videos are available to the user as an illustration of how particular features work.

Usability

The criterion Usability evaluates the user experience from the perspective of non-technical users. It does not evaluate if functional tasks can be accomplished but how intuitive the process is for the user. This includes but is not limited to clean and concise user interfaces, intuitive designs of menus and user dialog windows, easy navigation between functionalities and not overloading screens with too much information. We conduct the usability evaluation based on the 10 usability heuristics for user interface design, proposed by Jakob Nielsen.

 

The following bubble chart provides a brief overview of our evaluation based on the core functionality:

Feel free to check out our published study to dive into the more comprehensive evaluation of the core functionalities as well as the supporting features.