Illinois Bar Journal

The Magazine of Illinois Lawyers

January 2016Volume 104Number 1Page 28

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ISBA

IllinoisBarDocs: ISBA’s Affordable Forms

By
Timothy A. Slating

Takeaways

  • IllinoisBarDocs is a cloud-based document assembly system powered by HotDocs software. The system will run on PCs, Macs, and Internet-connected mobile devices. Users will not have to purchase, maintain, or update any software.
  • The legal forms included with IllinoisBarDocs were drafted by subject matter authorities throughout Illinois. When it first launches, IllinoisBarDocs will include Illinois statutory power of attorney forms, real estate forms, and family law forms that were drafted to comply with the recent rewrite of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. New forms and practice areas will be added on an ongoing basis.
  • ISBA members will be able to access IllinoisBarDocs for either a low or monthly or annual subscription fee. The fee covers access to all of IllinoisBarDocs' forms and unlimited use of the document assembly system. There are no hidden fees.

The ISBA is launching a fully automated document assembly system built on a library of Illinois-specific legal forms drafted by members.

artwork for articleWhat if creating legal documents was as easy as doing your taxes with TurboTax or other interview-style tax-preparation programs? What if your forms system generated the right document based on the client information you input - even if you otherwise don't know which form you need?

What if it was cloud-based, so you could access it from any device and didn't have to install and maintain complicated software? What if it remembered key data about your clients across forms, so you didn't have to enter information over and over - or remember to remove it, as can happen (to your embarrassment or worse) with fill-in-the-blank form templates. What if it updated forms in response to changes in the law?

And what if it cost less per month than buying lunch each day?

This January, the ISBA is releasing IllinoisBarDocs, its new low-cost member benefit. IllinoisBarDocs is a fully automated document assembly system built around a set of Illinois-specific legal forms. It uses cloud-based software, which members can access via the HotDocs Market (https://www.hotdocsmarket.com/) for either an annual or monthly subscription fee. IllinoisBarDocs will allow you to work faster, more accurately, and more efficiently. It gives you a critical competitive edge in an increasingly challenging marketplace for legal services.

The game-changing power of document assembly

IllinoisBarDocs is powered by HotDocs' industry-leading document assembly software. In simple terms, the software generates a complete legal document based on specific information you supply. You're presented with an on-screen interview that poses questions to gather the information necessary to generate a finished legal document, not unlike familiar tax preparation software.

The completed legal documents IllinoisBarDocs generates (1) include all the necessary information related to the client and the matter, (2) omit irrelevant provisions, (3) ensure pronoun agreement throughout, and (4) add the proper case and court caption (if applicable). The completed document is delivered to you as a fully editable Microsoft Word file. And to make subsequent editing as easy and error free as possible, those Word files are optimized with embedded formatting and document automation features.

For example, let's say you're editing a real estate contract that was generated with IllinoisBarDocs and you need to delete a paragraph. The remaining paragraphs will not only renumber accordingly, but any internal paragraph cross-referencing also automatically updates to reflect your edits.

The Word files are also preformatted to include necessary page breaks and keep all section headings with their text, among other things. The Word files generated by IllinoisBarDocs are as user friendly as possible.

Once you complete a form's interview session in IllinoisBarDocs, you have the option to download an answer file in addition to the completed legal document. This answer file includes everything you entered during the interview and can be saved and re-used later for other documents.

For example, suppose you generate a document for a particular client and save the answer file. The next time you do work for that client, you can upload the saved answer file to prepopulate answers for the second interview (e.g., the clients name and personal information, court and case caption, and the like). This not only saves time, it helps ensure accuracy.

Quality content, including family law forms tailored to the new IMDMA

When it first launches, IllinoisBarDocs will include a library of real estate forms, family law forms, and the Illinois statutory short form power of attorney forms. The bulk of IllinoisBarDocs' real estate forms were donated by Richard Bales, a long-time ISBA member and recognized authority on Illinois title issues. Gary Gehlbach, of the Dixon firm Ehrmann Gehlbach Badger Lee & Considine and former Real Estate Section Council chair, and Heather Fritsch donated the remaining real estate forms. Fritsch, who is a solo practitioner in Sycamore, is the author of the ISBA book Basic Residential Real Estate: From Contract to Closing. A full listing of IllinoisBarDocs' forms will be available once it is live at https://www.hotdocsmarket.com/Marketplace.

Acquiring the family law forms for IllinoisBarDocs was a more-complicated matter. As a result of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act's (IMDMA) complete rewrite, which went into effect on January 1, forms needed to be drafted quickly to comply with the new statutory regime.

This work was done by an ad hoc committee of members from the ISBA Family Law Section, led by past Family Law Section Council Chair Kelli Gordon of Springfield. The result is a set of basic family law forms that fully complies with the revised IMDMA.

The Illinois short form statutory power of attorney (POA) forms round out IllinoisBarDocs' initial offering. Both the POAs for healthcare and property will be included, as well as their accompanying certifications of authority. When users generate these POA forms, they'll have the option to produce customized versions or ones that look exactly like the statutory short forms.

After the initial launch, new forms will be added to IllinoisBarDocs on an ongoing basis. New practice area form sets will be added and new forms will be added to the existing practice area sets. The forms will be updated on an ongoing basis to account for any changes in the law.

Access IllinoisBarDocs from anywhere

IllinoisBarDocs will be available on the new HotDocs Market website, along with legal form products from other bar associations and legal publishers. Once you purchase your IllinoisBarDocs subscription and create your online account, all of your interactions with the system will be via the HotDocs Market website.

To create a legal document, you'll simply log into your account with your username and password, select the form you want to create, answer the questions to the form's interview session, wait a few seconds while the software generates your completed document, and download the form and its answer file to your computer. The only software you need on your computer is Microsoft Word, which allows you to open, review, and edit the document after you've downloaded it.

Because there is no software for you to install on your computer, IllinoisBarDocs is truly a cloud-based system. You don't have to purchase, update, or maintain any specific software on your computer. And since IllinoisBarDocs is a cloud-based system, you can access it on any device that connects to the Internet - a PC, a Mac, a tablet, even a smartphone.

The game-changing nature of the HotDocs Market and its cloud-based approach really come into focus when you consider the lengths you once had to go to reap the benefits of HotDocs. In the past, users had to first buy the software. Then they faced the daunting task of converting their existing documents into form "templates" that work within HotDocs' system.

The three traditional methods of doing this are learning how to create the templates and interviews yourself, which takes weeks if not months; hiring an expensive consultant; or buying expensive templates from a commercial publisher. After that, your system would be up and running - until a change in the law required you to edit your templates, requiring more effort and expense.

While a fully implemented HotDocs system has always provided the efficiency gains it does today - and lawyers in states like Iowa have been using it to their advantage for years - it's easy to see how the necessary investment of time and money dissuaded many would-be users. By building IllinoisBarDocs and making it available as a cloud-based system, we hope to change this paradigm for our members. The ISBA is compiling the legal documents, creating the templates, and updating them as the law evolves. All you need to do is pay a relatively low-cost subscription fee and enjoy the benefits of a powerful, easy-to-use document assembly system.

Friendly pricing

IllinoisBarDocs will be available to ISBA members for an introductory, limited-time subscription fee of either $150 per year or $15 per month. Your subscription fee covers unlimited use of IllinoisBarDocs and all of its included legal forms - there are no hidden fees. The system will also be available for $600 per year to attorneys who are not members of the ISBA.

For updates on IllinoisBarDocs, visit http://www.isba.org/forms/illinoisbardocs. The official launch date of IllinoisBarDocs will be announced to all ISBA members through various channels.

Timothy A. Slating
Timothy A. Slating is the ISBA's Assistant Director of Publications and the project manager for IllinoisBarDocs.

tslating@isba.org

ISBA RESOURCES >>

Trent L. Bush, Implementing Document Assembly Software in Your Practice, Standing Committee on Legal Technology (Mar. 2015), http://www.isba.org/sections/legaltechnology/newsletter/2015/03/implementingdocumentassemblysoftwar.

Ed Finkel, Feeling Secure in the Cloud, 103 Ill. B.J. 20 (Jan. 2015), http://www.isba.org/ibj/2015/01/feelingsecurecloud.

Ed Finkel, The Powerful Practice Technology You Already Have, 102 Ill. B.J. 428 (Sept. 2014), http://www.isba.org/ibj/2014/09/powerfulpracticetechnologyyoualread.

Trent L. Bush, Document Assembly Software 101, Standing Committee on Legal Technology (June 2012), http://www.isba.org/sections/legaltechnology/newsletter/2012/06/documentassemblysoftware101.

Maria Kantzavelos, Taking Your Practice to the Cloud, 100 Ill. B.J. 188 (Apr. 2012), http://www.isba.org/ibj/2012/04/takingyourpracticetothecloud.

Don Mateer, Using Technology to Avoid Malpractice, Standing Committee on Legal Technology (Feb. 2012), http://www.isba.org/sections/legaltechnology/newsletter/2012/02/usingtechnologytoavoidmalpractice.