Archive: May, 2007

The Problem With Black Box Document Assembly

One of the favorite excuses for not using a document assembly system is that users don’t trust it. It’s too much of a black box. The system makes you answer a bunch of questions. You wait… The system spits out a document. And that’s that. Bad luck if you want to know why clause 8.3 is twice as long as it was last time you used the system. Bad luck if you were wondering what happened when you said “yes” to question 11.

With this in mind, making document assembly less like a black box, and more transparent to users, has always been a high priority at Exari. And with Exari V5, we take several steps forward on this front.

First, we’ve added a dynamic progress meter that shows you a list of topics to be covered during the virtual interview, and which topic you’re up to at any point in time. If you make choices that change the flow of the interview, the progress meter updates itself, showing any new topics and removing any that are no longer relevant. It also shows a running tally of how many questions you’ve answered, and how many remain.

Do Lawyers Need More Money?

The world’s first law firm IPO happened this month, when Melbourne-based personal injury firm Slater & Gordon listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. And unlike the earlier attempt by Integrated Legal Holdings, this float went off without a hitch. Indeed it went off with a pop. Shares were up 40% on their issue price by the end of the first day, and have gone up considerably since then.


So… what do they need the money for, and will other firms follow?

Of the $35M raised, $15.4M is earmarked for marketing and acquisitions, suggesting a roll-up strategy where Slater & Gordon consolidates itself as the dominant player and major brand in the personal injury niche (and possibly others).

Another obvious use of funds would be to invest in systems that allow the firm to lift its productivity and develop innovative service offerings.

As to whether others will follow, the consensus in the UK seems to be that top tier magic circle firms won’t (“we don’t need no outside capital”), but mid tier firms doing “commodity” work like mortgage processing and debt recovery probably will.

Bruce MacEwan has a neat summary of reactions to the float, including this quote from Blake’s John Atkin:

The partnership model is very unsophisticated… You have to pay the profits every year for tax reasons, which doesn’t encourage long-term investment or thinking—but that could be possible with a different structure.

With longer-term thinking, and the capital to support a longer-term strategy, change may be coming to the business of law. For mid-tier firms in particular, this is both a threat and an opportunity. But it won’t be an opportunity forever.

Sexy Documents?

Hard to believe, I know. But the conclusion of Roberta Gelb in a recent article, Beware the Hidden Costs of Bad Formatting is that document formatting is not sexy. That said, it may save you money. Possibly lots of money, if Roberta’s sums are to be believed.


The bottom line? Larger firms can probably save hundreds of thousands of dollars of wasted (unbillable) time if they adopt a smarter approach to document formatting. Not to mention lower rates of blindness and insanity, as their lawyers spend less time poring over fat documents, checking and re-checking all the cross references (Roberta overlooks this bonus in her article).