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The Mechanics and Management of HotDocs Projects Capstone Practice Systems Alan Soudakoff Marc Lauritsen With help from Sheila Fisher & Kate Bladow February.

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Presentation on theme: "The Mechanics and Management of HotDocs Projects Capstone Practice Systems Alan Soudakoff Marc Lauritsen With help from Sheila Fisher & Kate Bladow February."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Mechanics and Management of HotDocs Projects Capstone Practice Systems Alan Soudakoff Marc Lauritsen With help from Sheila Fisher & Kate Bladow February 13, 2007

2 The session An introduction to HotDocs projects involving online templates for use by self-helpers, clients, volunteers, or staff. Our emphasis will be on the management issues in such projects.

3 Our agenda today 1st half hour Introduction – history, concepts Example of how NPADO works Show & tell – creating and testing a template that will run on NPADO Mechanics of loading and linking

4 Our agenda today Next 40 minutes -- choosing documents to automate -- choosing between rtf and pdf formats -- understanding the target audience -- working with substantive experts -- marking up documents -- testing templates -- revising templates -- staffing and outsourcing

5 Our agenda today Last 20 minutes More suggestions and resources for effective template projects Questions and comments

6 Introduction Basic concepts The national server Applications (users/uses) Example

7 Quick review: Document Assembly Sometimes called... Document automation Computer-aided drafting Think TurboTax Typically found in... Word processing applications Case management systems Fillable forms

8 Basic Concepts Templates – model documents Variables – whats different? Facts, choices Calculations - numbers, dates, texts Logic – what goes where? Conditional/optional pieces Repeated sections Interface - questions and guidance

9 Template + Answers = Document

10 Important differences Templates | Answers | Documents Interview | Assembly RTF templates | PDF templates Desktop HotDocs | Online HotDocs

11 National Public ADO (Automated Documents Online) The national ADO service Template providers Advisory group Pro Bono Net LSCLexis Self-help users Advocate users Statewide websites Courts Clients A2J

12 Uses Document focus Word processable documents Graphical forms, PDFs Personalized instructions Interview focus Dynamic questionnaires Intelligent checklists Analytical advisors Eligibility assessment Hotline scripts for call center staff

13 Users Self-helpers (unrepresented) Clients (partially or fully represented) Legal services staff advocates Hotline staff Volunteers, pro bono counsel Law school clinics Other nonprofits

14 How it works... An example











25 Alternate front ends Native HotDocs – out of the box I-CAN! A2J




29 Show & tell

30 Choosing documents to automate Wheres the need/opportunity? How much will the template help how many people how often? Advocate or pro se? One document or document set? Team characteristics: experience, skills, enthusiasm Best to start small Degree of existing systemization (models, checklists) or automation Depth of needed programming

31 Selection processes Show & tell sessions Small group brainstorming Candidate project write-ups Review and ranking

32 Continued …

33 Choosing between rtf and pdf formats RTF pros Easier to author Editable results Shorter results RTF cons Editable results Harder to handle graphical elements Harder to maintain fidelity to court forms User may lack Microsoft Word PDF pros Fixed format Appearance fidelity PDF cons Authoring can be more complex Result cant be contracted or expanded Dealing with overflow Extra expense of PDF Advantage Performance issues on Server

34 Understanding your audience Possible audiences Client or self-helper Staff advocate Volunteer advocate Literacy and language issues Computing skills Access Addressing two audiences in one template

35 Action plans Discuss and document key issues before starting, e.g. Purposes Scope & Features Document to prevent scope creep Save some features/docs for Phase II People and roles Schedule

36 Predictable variation (at some level) Continued …

37 Working with substantive experts Involve them early Expect delays Expert tasks mark-up docs clarify logic draft prompts test, test, test create guidance Clarify expectations and deadlines Help them understand Whats In It For Me?

38 Marking up documents A tool for clarifying and communicating requirements Remember, markup is a means to an end, not an end in itself Best practices: Educate those doing the markup on how it will be used Set simple, clear standards Provide example markup Expect imperfect compliance Accept legacy markup Redline samples to surface variations Use spreadsheet for variables Iterate with prototypes

39 Continued …

40 Variable List to Accompany Markup

41 Testing templates Testing components as you go Testing parts of a template Testing a whole template Testing in online emulation Testing on NPADO Create different answer files for all key permutations of answers Involve other people as beta testers! Ask beta testers to save and share answer files with you Ask beta testers to be as specific as possible in describing problems

42 Revising templates Dont try to do everything in Phase I Encourage and respond to feedback Track needed changes Update templates on NPADO

43 Staffing and outsourcing In house approaches Need for dedicated time Choosing the right people Contractors Using HotDocs certified consultants Consider using for ad hoc issues Need for project manager Students Private bar resources (technical and substantive)

44 Managing yourself Dont put it off Start small Keep at it Schedule time to do this Arrange for quick feedback Ask for help

45 Links & contact info (then click on document assembly) (excellent tutorials and knowledgebase) For donated copy of HotDocs Pro (2 per state), check with your statewide website committee (and if they dont know, or download a free 30-day copy from

46 Questions?

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