Enterprise-level Document Assembly for Small Firms

A new cloud-based document assembly system aims to offer solo and smaller-firm lawyers a tool on a par with the enterprise-level system the company already markets to large firms and corporate legal departments. Called ContractExpress.com, the new Web-based software-as-a-service was launched this month by the London-based company Business Integrity, which modeled it on its enterprise-level document assembly program ContractExpress DealBuilder.

ContractExpress.com is notable for its simplicity. Templates for various types of documents — leases, contracts or any standardized legal document — are stored in workspaces accessible through a Web browser. To create a document, simply choose a template. A series of questions will prompt you for the information needed to fill in each of the template’s fields. Workspaces and templates can be shared with other users.

The templates can be set up so that fields are filled in by specific answers to questions (such as a party’s name) or by alternative blocks of text depending on the answer given. Fields can be made compulsory or optional. Once you’ve completed the questions, the document is generated and appears in your workspace. Click its name to download and open it in Microsoft Word.

You create these document-assembly templates within Microsoft Word and then upload them to the site. When you first register for ContractExpress, you are prompted to download a Word add-on called ContractExpress Author. This is the tool you use to create templates using a simple menu that lets you choose and insert fields. You can also insert fields manually simply by enclosing them in curly brackets.

One limitation of ContractExpress.com is that this authoring tool only works in Word 2007 and only on Windows computers. If you have an older version of Word or if you are a Mac user, you are out of luck.

The site offers a 60-day free trial, so you can try it and judge for yourself. Once the trial expires, the cost to use the service is $195 per user per month.

For smaller-firm lawyers, ContractExpress has two obvious advantages. One, it is easy to use and makes it easy to create templates. Two, because it is based in the cloud, there is no software to install and maintain. For a lawyer who generates even a modest number of standardized documents, this is a system that could pay for itself.