We are going to continue to build on the theme of using your practice management system (PMS) for more than just time and billing functions. In our last two articles, we talked about leveraging the calendar in Clio or in your own practice management system (PMS) to schedule calendar events and working with Clio’s custom fields. By taking advantage of these time saving features, you also utilize more of your PMS that you are already paying for every month.

The next way to leverage Clio more is the use of document templates/document assembly in your firm. Before we dive into how this works, let’s talk about what it is. Document assembly is the process of pushing data from your Clio account into document templates that the firm can use over and over. Let’s revisit our estate planning practice and see how this document assembly process works.

There are two parts to the document assembly process, beginning with Part One – The Data in Clio. Let’s revisit our estate planning law firm as an example. While helping a client with an estate plan, the firm gathers all of types of information about the client; from contact information like name, address, email, phone numbers, etc. to specific information about their matter (usually gathered in the custom fields that we talked about in our previous article) like beneficiaries, life insurance policy numbers, social security numbers, etc. All that information is gathered and stored in your system. The picture below shows you a few places where that data can exist in Clio.

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Now that we have our data in Clio, we turn our attention to the second part of this process, Part Two – the document templates. These document templates can be created for any type of document that is used more than once. From engagement letters to certificates of service to wills and estate planning documents, document templates are any document that you use over and over and over in your practice. Those documents should be created as Clio document templates (see below), typically started in Microsoft Word format.

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The purpose of a document template is to create a document that is designed to look exactly like a finished document but designed where all the information will change from one client/matter to another. A template creates less errors in a final document, creates a consistent look and feel for all your documents across the firm, and saves time.  Document templates make a firm more efficient by having a repository of forms that everyone in the firm can use and create documents in seconds rather than hours and minutes. 

Using your data and your PMS, the document template process is not complicated. The firm creates the document template in Microsoft Word and then adds merge fields from Clio to the template, including custom fields. Then, you upload your template to Clio and run your merge between Clio and your document and voilà, document complete. For step by step instructions, please check out this Help article here.

Don’t get me wrong, the document template process is not quick and easy. It can be time consuming at the start, but the effort that is put up front in creating the templates and making sure they work is worth the time. Document assembly is the biggest time saving feature that firms are not taking advantage of right now, and  more information can be found on creating document templates in Clio here. Most practice management systems will have some type of document assembly process and I encourage you to take advantage of this useful feature. 

If you are not leveraging document assembly in your practice, check it out. For even more customization and improved document assembly, also check out Clio‘s new acquisition, LawYaw, that can help you build even more robust templates quicker and easier and increase your use of document assembly in your practice.

Happy assembling!

Pegeen Turner
Legal Cloud Technology

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