Creating legal forms can be a tedious task. In this post, we break down the industry-leading legal form creation software options and what sets each one apart from the others.
Drafting legal forms can be a tedious and time-consuming task. In this post, we break down the industry-leading legal form creation software options and what sets each one apart from the others.
Legal form software, a subset of document automation software, is used primarily to create digital versions of legal forms. Legal forms are usually pre-structured documents with a defined template that have little to no variation from document to document. Examples of legal forms may include court-mandated documents, government PDFs, company formation related documents, releases, tax-related forms, and intake forms. Legal forms software not only digitizes reusable forms, but helps create a better client experience, all while helping to create a more efficient practice. Key benefits include:
Data management: Legal form software can help track, collect, manage, and reuse client data, whether it’s allowing for faster input when filling out forms, saving and managing data once forms have been completed, or reusing for other documents. Automated workflow capabilities offered by legal workflow software platforms and integrations with data or document management systems make this process more effective.
Standard, up to date forms: Legal forms software can assist in creating forms that can be accessed throughout the organization. This helps ensure that forms used are standardized, compliant, and up to date.
Better client experience: Clients are better served with digital, easy-to fill forms. Software with client questionnaires make the intake and form filling process even smoother - a guided questionnaire can collect the information, input it into the form, and quickly generate completed forms. Client portals or self service areas allow for faster access and an individualized experience.
Increase efficiency by automating routine workflows and tasks: Oftentimes, legal forms software will allow you to automate key workflows, such as intake, approvals, signatures, and transfer of data, helping to save time and focus on more substantive work.
Gavel is the premier form building tool for the legal industry, and it blends a truly robust system with a modern and easy to use interface. When creating your own forms, Gavel’s simple UI makes it easy to navigate the platform, all while providing a number of useful features to create custom forms and advanced workflows. Gavel's legal form software also has powerful logic capabilities that customize which fields are displayed based on user input. Features include lists, nested repeating items, and advanced calculations. Both Word and PDF documents (including court and judicial forms) can be uploaded, automated, and generated through Gavel. Once ready to populate, Gavel has the ability to create guided interviews for clients to share information. For the user who prefers to leave workflow and form building to the experts, Gavel also has a team of vetted freelancers (available for hire by the hour).
Gavel’s Data Manager allows users to store, manage, search, transfer, visualize, and re-use data between forms and workflows without the need for any third party integrations. Gavel also allows for collection of e-signatures and centralized document storage. The tool has Clio and Zapier integrations and public API for additional integrations and workflows.
Once ready, form documents can be accessed by clients through a client portal created for specific clients or integrated into websites. Each instance of Gavel can also be white labeled, i.e., further customized to reflect the law firm’s logo and brand instead of Gavel’s–creating a bespoke solution for the firm.
Gavel’s help and support features are unrivaled, with a comprehensive Learning Center and unlimited live customer support.
Though originally a document automation platform, Smokeball now serves as a practice management software with automation capabilities. Its features make it best for a form-heavy legal practice that needs document management.
While you can build your own form templates in Word or the platform itself, Smokeball’s key feature is its extensive legal forms library The library houses more than 20,000 federal, state, county, administrative, as well as practice area specific forms, for a number of different practice areas, including insurance, tax, real estate, and personal injury, among others. Integration with the document management system means that data from any matter entered into Smokeball’s system can be integrated into the form. Smokeball also has e-signature integrations to allow for creation, population, and signing all through one platform.
Smokeball’s newest functionality is the addition of a client intake form to allow for firms to easily communicate with and obtain data from clients. Still, there is unfortunately no client portal for clients to access or self service any forms.
PatternBuilder (previously AfterPattern) is a document automation software, recently acquired by NetDocuments. The connection with the document management system (DMS) makes it a powerful solution, allowing you to pull data from the DMS and work with its other offerings, including its security and compliance tools.
Initial forms can be built within the firm’s instance of Microsoft Word. PatternBuilder allows you to export external data tables to populate forms and documents within the platform. Specifically, its ‘auto-build-my-document’ feature allows you to take data from pre-filled PDF documents to create a database of information and then use that to populate the forms built or automated in the application. You can also ‘auto-build-a-database’ to save inputted information.
PatternBuilder also allows for the automation of third-party PDF forms, including commonly used government and PDF forms. Once forms are built, PatternBuilder allows for the creation of multiple workflows, including intake for information, approvals, sending for signature, etc. for end to end process automation. With this functionality comes a steep learning curve, and the ability to build and use multiple tools means that users have to learn to use all of those tools.
Lawyaw is a simple, easy to use form and document building tool. Lawyaw’s key feature is its up-to-date libraries of official jurisdiction-specific court forms, which can be populated with client specific information, making it a win for litigation-focused attorneys. Once forms have been created or customized, the platform does not have the ability to generate and send client-facing questionnaires for easy populations of forms.
For those looking to build their own forms, the user-friendly interface and short learning curve allow lawyers to start building templates within the platform. Though feature-light, Lawyaw allows for reuse of cards and fields of prior templates to quickly create new form templates. It can also convert Microsoft Word documents into forms. Lawyaw also provides an e–signature tool to send documents for signing right from within the platform.
For those looking for a free option to build a few forms, Jotform’s Form Builder allows you to build free forms within its platform. The drag and drop functionality and multiple question and answer types allow for custom form creation, though notably some users have called it clunky. PDF and Word documents can also be uploaded to the platform to create form templates.
Jotform also has a library with customizable forms. While they do have some legal forms, all aren’t legal specific but still may be useful in automating parts of the firm’s practice. Once generated, forms can be stored as fillable PDFs or embedded into a website. Jotform allows for a number of integrations, including with payment platforms and e-signature providers.
The free version of the tool only provides email support, FAQs, and user guides. A dedicated support team only comes with the enterprise plan.
Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all “best” option that works for each business or organization. While the solutions shared above are some of the best in the market, it’s best to evaluate each tool with your specific needs in mind. Consider:
We can help you figure this out - just sign up for a demo of Gavel and learn if it suits your needs.
We’re biased, but Gavel is our winning option for building legal forms. Built by and for lawyers, at Gavel, we understand your specific needs and use cases, and our aim is to make it easy to get as much of your process automated as possible. If there is logic you want embedded into your documents, we can likely do it.
User-friendly platform and features, robust functionality, and a marketplace of pre-built applications makes Gavel a great option for many organizations.
As our clients say, “This is the best software ever. I think every law firm in America should use it.“
If you’re ready to start building, get started with a free trial of Gavel today.
Document automation is the process of creating documents from a set of rules. If you can identify rules for the templates you draft using "if this" - "then that" statements, it will help generate error-free documents in a fraction of the time. Modern solutions like Gavel use AI to make your automation process seamless.
The best document automation software for you depends on what you want to do with your documents. If you’re a lawyer with clients, you need complex workflows. If you’re building processes for some internal enterprise, your needs are different.
Looking for the best Clio integrations to scale your practice? Review our breakdown to discover which integrations will help you save time, better serve clients, and scale your practice. Try our top recommended Clio integrations within each bucket to help your small or solo firm grow more efficiently.
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