Does your organization want to use online document assembly to make filling out forms and drafting documents faster and easier? The information below will help you get started.
- What Is Document Assembly?
- Learn More About LawHelp Interactive
- Connect with the Community
- Start Your Project
Very simply, document assembly software drafts documents based on how a person answers a set of questions. Usually, the answers can be saved, so they can be reused to complete related forms and documents. One well-known example of document assembly software is TurboTax, a commercial package that helps complete tax forms.
Several excellent articles on document assembly are available online:
- FYI: Document Assembly - ABA Legal Technology Resource Center
- The Future Is Now? Document assembly technology is gaining traction. - Michael Mills, Kraft & Kennedy
- Web-Enabled Document Assembly as a Disruptive Technology - Darryl Mountain
LawHelp Interactive is a national initiative that helps poverty law and court access-to-justice programs implement online document assembly projects. It is a project of Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit committed to increasing access to justice with technology, in cooperation with Ohio State Legal Services Association and is supported by the Legal Services Corporation, the State Justice Institute, and state courts in California, New York, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
Participating programs use HotDocs Corporation's HotDocs software, and optionally the Center for Access to Justice and Technology's A2J Author, to create document assembly content from their forms and documents. Templates are uploaded to the LawHelp Interactive system and made available to advocates, pro bono volunteers, and self-represented litigants through legal aid and court websites.
To learn more about LawHelp Interactive, check out
- LawHelp Interactive - LSC Resource Information
- Help Yourself - Law Technology News
- Online Document Assembly - National Center for State Courts' Future Trends in State Courts 2008
If you are wondering what other programs are creating with document assembly, here are a few examples:
- Colorado Legal Services' Court Forms Online
- Idaho Legal Aid Services' Interactive Forms
- Illinois Legal Aid Online's Automated Form Library
In addition to overseeing the technical infrastructure necessary to offer online document assembly content, Pro Bono Net also offers local partners assistance with collaboration building, content development, outreach, and evaluation. Contact Claudia Johnson, LHI Program Manager, for help at email@example.com.
Community is central to the LawHelp Interactive program. People who work on local projects often come together to share experiences and lessons learned about content development, project management, coordination and partnership building, outreach, and evaluation. Connecting with this community is easy: join an e-mail list or attend the community calls or trainings.
- Document Assembly Developers List. This e-mail list is for people who are working with HotDocs and A2J Author. Members receive about 80 messages a month.
- LawHelp Interactive Announcement E-mail List. This e-mail list is for people who are interested in announcements about the community but do not want all of the technical information about HotDocs and A2J Author that is sent to the Document Assembly Developers List. Members receive about 10 messages a month. Note: Every message that goes to this list also is sent to the Document Assembly Developers List.
- Community Calls. Monthly, the community meets to talk about programmatic and technical issues. These calls are typically on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 2:00 pm Eastern. To find out when the next Community Call is, look at the calendar.
- Trainings. With funding from LSC, OSLSA and Pro Bono Net sponsor two in-person trainings each year on how to use HotDocs, LawHelp Interactive and A2J Author. You can find information about in-person trainings via the Training link above while online trainings are posted on the calendar.
As you work on your project, use the resources on the DA Support Site to help it run smoothly. Community members have posted these resources to help you, and you are also encouraged to post materials.
A few items to point out:
- Module 7: Deploying Automated Forms for Access. These slides and comprehensive speakers' notes provide in-depth information on document assembly, its impact, how to establish a project, and best practices. While the materials focus on establishing an initiative to support self-represented litigants, programs working on initiatives to support advocates will also find them helpful.
- Project Evaluation Reports. Several projects have posted their evaluation reports, which can help you identify tactics worth replicating as well as potential pitfalls.
- LawHelp Interactive's Contributor Portal. The Contributor Portal contains all of the content that has been posted to LawHelp Interactive. Once you sign up as a Template Provider and are approved, you can browse the content, test interviews, and download files to replicate.
- Uploading Content to LawHelp Interactive. The A2J Author project has drafted instructions on how to upload both HotDocs templates and A2J Author modules. You must be an approved Template Provider to upload content to LawHelp Interactive.
- Use this compilation of LHI Developer Resources from Capstone to find answers to all things HotDocs. In addition, if you are purchasing a HotDocs license and are working with an eligible legal services organization, you may be qualify for a large discount for the license. A description of the Charitable Organization Program is available here: http://www.probono.net/link.cfm?20847. The contact person for the program is Krista Pueblo. Her number is 801-615-2200 and her email is Krista.Pueblo@hotdocs.com.
You'll need to join this DA Support Site to access the posted materials.