Back to Blogging: How (I draft documents)
In the continuing “Back to Blogging” series, the “How” posts (and there will be more than one) will talk about how I run my estate planning practice. I am not talking about empty platitudes such as “I run my practice with hard work, ethics, morality, etc.” That’s not how.
I mean literally, what are my processes and procedures?
These posts probably will be of interest to very few people – possibly to no one other than me. That’s ok. It’s my blog. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.
Drafting Documents the Right Way
When it comes to drafting estate planning, probate, or other legal documents, everyone uses some sort of form to start out with. Most of the provisions of these documents are boilerplate. However, and importantly, not all. A good lawyer needs to know not only which boilerplate provisions to include and which not to include, but also, when and how to craft the non-boilerplate provisions of the documents.
I know that some law firms use “word processors” to type their documents. The attorneys will give instructions, sometimes through dictation, to the word processor, who will then go through and assemble the documents. This could be a lengthy and time consuming process, and subject to the typos and other errors of the word processor.
I use “assembly programs” to draft my documents. Instead of piecing together old forms and copying and pasting, I enter the data into sophisticated computer programs, answer a number of questions, and the programs assemble and create a will, trust, power of attorney, living will, petition for administration, etc.
I am currently using two different systems. I use Interactive Legal’s Wealth Transfer Planning to draft most of my estate planning documents, and Westlaw Doc & Form Builder (formerly Prodoc) to draft my probate administration documents.
It’s important to note a few things. I never accept any assembled document as a “final” product. That’s what makes an attorney different than a document assembly company like LegalZoom. I don’t sell documents. I sell advice and solutions. I know the questions to ask the client, and how to craft each document for the particular circumstances.
Also, this is not much different from what attorneys without computer software do – they rely on people, and I rely on technology. It’s just that I think my way is cheaper, faster, and more accurate.