Document Automation has Finally Evolved

Document automation is a technology that helps firms increase efficiency and improve client service by automating the creation and management of documents. It has been around for several decades, but in recent years, it has evolved and become more advanced, making it more appealing to businesses of all sizes. Today, document automation works across many different technology environments, such as Word, web, or API, and can be hosted locally or in the cloud. Templates can be launched from within an application or via a website, and assembled documents can be saved to various locations such as a local disk, file server, or document management system like iManage, NetDocuments or SharePoint. In this article, we discuss some of the ways in which document automation is helping firms to increase efficiency and improve client service.



One of the most significant new features in document automation is the ability to use external-facing interviews to reduce costs and speed up information gathering by having clients capture their own information, which is ideal for onboarding. Some firms have even incorporated public interviews on their website to attract new business for the firm. Typically, these interviews produce commoditized documents, or perhaps they collect enough information for the firm to assess whether or not an expert opinion is required, for example with divorces. Some of the larger firms have developed client portals, where their major clients might have their own customized library of templates, which keeps clients loyal. In a few cases, they levy a fee for the availability of the library, and offer it as a commercial service.


Decision Trees

Another new application for document automation is decision trees, where the output of a template is a recommendation rather than a document. Given the power of some of the document management systems today, these decision trees can be really sophisticated. For example, an insurance firm used document automation to automate whether to pay out a claim or not. This resulted in a substantial reduction in people, and it reduced the claims processing time by 80%.


Re-Using Other Data

The top-end document automation systems offer integrations with most popular data-sources, for example Excel, SQL Server, MySQL, ODBC, and Salesforce. This allows them to have a “single version of the truth” when it comes to their data. Information is loaded at interview time, and then merged into the template document. In a few cases, it is even possible to write data back to the data-source, provided the user has the necessary permission. Data-sources can be internal, Cloud-based, or can even be external data-sources such as company information, etc.


Full Integration With Workflow

Firms with development teams can create a full integration with their in-house applications where the document automation system is used purely as an engine. Users typically open up a record in the in-house system, and then select a document from a list of available options. The integration then pushes the data into a templated ID, returning a completed document and saving the output document as an attachment in the in-house application. This simplifies training since users only need to learn how to use a single application. This simplifies training since users only need to learn how to use a single application. Similarly, document automation can be integrated with various workflow systems, where data from the workflow/case management system is merged with a template. Another way that document automation provides workflow is where involved parties are notified automatically via email when a document is assembled, or a decision tree is completed.


Auto Name and Save Location

One system has pioneered the ability to name assembled documents and datasets from information captured in the interview, and to automatically construct the save folder location on the fly. This ensures that documents and re-usable datasets are named appropriately and saved in the correct location every time. CLM has become extremely popular in recent years, where parties collaborate on a contract before digitally signing it and autosaving it to a DMS or CMS. One good example of this is WordTech’s DocMinder. Typically, the first draft of the document is created using a document automation system and then shared with the relevant parties for review and input. Once all parties have agreed on the final version of the document, it can be digitally signed and saved to the DMS or CMS for easy access and management. This process not only saves time and effort, but it also ensures that all parties are on the same page and that the final document is accurate and legally binding.


Assemble to Email

Today most written communication happens via email, so it makes sense that document automation templates can output to the body of an email, auto-populating the recipient, CC and Subject fields on the fly. This saves formatting time and prevents re-capture errors.


Digital Signatures

E-signing is becoming increasingly popular, although vendors complain that few firms implement digital signature software firm-wide since only some people in the firm need to send documents for signature. By identifying signatories and signature points in the document template, it speeds up the process of uploading documents into the e-signing application.



In conclusion, document automation is a powerful technology that can help firms increase efficiency and improve client service. It can be used across different technology environments and can be integrated with popular data sources, in-house applications, and workflow systems. New features such as external-facing interviews and decision trees are being integrated into document automation to reduce costs and speed up information gathering. Additionally, CLM is becoming increasingly popular and is helping parties collaborate on contracts before digitally signing and saving it to a DMS or CMS. With the ability to automate the creation and management of documents, document automation can save time, effort, and money, while also ensuring that all parties are on the same page and that the final document is accurate and legally binding.



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