Build a Forms Database with a Simple Change to Your Workflow

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

If cheap legal documents are a serious threat to your practice, the solution is simple: stop charging for documents. Or at least stop wasting a lot of time (and your clients’ money) recreating documents over and over again. To do this, you need to build a forms database.

Here is the easiest way to do that.

From now on, every time you start working on a document, whether it is a cover letter or a motion for summary judgment or a member control agreement, start drafting it in your Forms folder. If it is the first time you have started working on that form, create a new folder inside Forms (you would create a Non-Disclosure Agreement folder for that form, for example).

Don’t start with the stuff that is unique to your client. Start drafting the generic stuff. If you are working on a memorandum, for example, start with the standard of review. Or if you are working on a simple will, start with the bits that rarely change, and leave blanks for client-specific things like the names of guardians.

After you have done all the generic bits you can, copy the document to your client file and start working on the client-specific bits.

Everything starts out as a form, in other words.

The next time someone hires you to create a similar document, start in your Forms folder again and see if you can improve on the form you drafted the last time around. After a few repetitions of this, your form will start to look pretty close to the finished product. Do this with every document you create and before long you will have a forms database. Whether you use your forms with document assembly software or leave them right where they are, you can stop wasting time creating the same document over and over again (and charging for the time it takes you to do it).

Featured image: “Illustration of Flat New Folder Vector Open Folder Symbol Background” from Shutterstock.

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  • Alex

    I started doing this 2 years ago when I switched to subscription based model. I don’t think I’ve had to create a document from whole cloth in 6 months now that I have a form database that covers 95% of what all my clients need.

  • Save the form as a “template” in word. When you click on the template, a .doc copy opens ready to go, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally writing over your template.

    For settlement agreements, start with a super duper “master” agreement that has everything under the sun, and then delete the unneeded stuff. This has the side benefit of working as a “checklist” so you don’t forget anything. (Really helpful with divorce settlement agreements and the like)