Do-It-Yourself Document Assembly

Document assembly (or “document automation,” if you prefer) involves the work you do to create electronic documents. As a lawyer, you probably create electronic documents all day long. Some of you do it by hand, from scratch, every time. Others open the first similar document you can find “on the system” and draft away (you shouldn’t do that, by the way).

But useful tools exist to help you design systems and workflows that use pre-existing text, automate conditional text, and reduce data entry and human error. Some of these tools live inside of your law practice management software or elsewhere. Others support your do-it-yourself document assembly efforts. But the DIY options take a little work, and you probably aren’t sure where to start.

So here are three options to get you started with do-it-yourself document assembly.


  1. Difficulty level: Hard.
  2. Requirements: An Amazon Web Services account or similar.
  3. Time to set up: 2-3 hours.
  4. Upsides: Customizable and secure. Docassemble is an all-in-one solution, so your data is stored in one place. You’ll reduce the risk of client data being intercepted in transit from service to service.
  5. Downsides: Requires some programming knowledge and setup of a virtual machine on a service like Amazon Web Services.

Docassemble is a true all-in-one solution for creating an expert document assembly tool. It is a complete “full stack” application that can do anything from simple PDF generation to machine learning. It also boasts a massive amount of documentation. If you only want fillable PDF documents, Docassemble is a bit like driving a supercar to the grocery store. But if you need functionality and flexibility, Docassemble is probably the best tool for the job. And if you’re scared off by setting up a virtual machine, Community Lawyer is a handy service that can set up and run docassemble projects for you.

Typeform + Zapier + Webmerge

  1. Difficulty level: Moderate.
  2. Requirements: Accounts with Typeform, Zapier, and Webmerge.
  3. Time to set up: 1-2 hours.
  4. Upsides: Easy to use and set up, and generally simple for creating basic PDF forms. Can be really affordable (almost free, even), depending on what services you use.
  5. Downsides: Using multiple services means data flow from one service to another. You may want to gauge your risk tolerance for using this system for capturing client data.

Typeform is a survey tool that builds nice, clean, and conversational online forms. Webmerge is a powerful tool for creating fillable PDFs that you can host online. And Zapier is the stationmaster that sends everything where it needs to go. You can create a useful document assembly workflow by chaining these three services together, and can likely do it for free (or close). A critical constraint on this type of workflow is that a small change can mean changing things in three applications instead of just one.

Document Assembly in WordPress

  1. Difficulty level: Moderate.
  2. Requirements: WordPress.
  3. Time to set up: 1-2 hours.
  4. Upsides: A solution that lives on your existing website, assuming you use WordPress.
  5. Downsides: Cost, primarily, although using conditional logic (which this setup requires) can slow things down considerably, which may be bad for your website’s performance and SEO.

If you run a WordPress site for your law firm, you may want to consider your options for hosting a document assembly tool on your site. There are several alternatives for generating PDFs inside WordPress, although most of them require some subscription fee. Two of the most common are Caldera Forms Pro ($15 to $550 per month) and Gravity Forms PDF (free, but requires Gravity Forms at $60/month). These tools run as plugins on your WordPress site, so setting them up is relatively easy.

The “right” solution for your do-it-yourself document assembly depends on your needs. If you only need to automate one or two forms, something like Typeform + Zapier + Webmerge might work really well for you. But if you are interested more complex workflows and being able to customize everything fully, Docassemble may be the best choice. Have a different solution? Respond in the comments!


  1. Avatar Jared K. says:

    In terms of document assembly, I’ve been pretty pleased with TheFormTool Pro. It’s pretty robust yet simple to learn for an $89 lifetime license. It’s essentially a Microsoft Word add-on that makes Word’s inherent capabilities more intuitive/accessible. The problem I have with it now is that I’m trying to establish a system where I can host a questionnaire online, have the client enter the data online, then feed the data into the Word form without having to rekey it all in. I’m currently trying to noodle this through, although I suspect I may have to try a different route.

  2. Avatar Robert S. says:

    I have been using Doxsera DB (TheFormTool) and Pathagoras for the last several years. I think that Doxsera DB would likely meet your needs. You can simply deploy a form online and have it place the data into a spreadsheet. Doxser DB will read the spreadsheet and bring the data in. Doxsera DB does cost $279.00 per year but it is more than worth it. If you already use TheFormTool Pro then the transition should be easy. Good Luck!

  3. Avatar Suze L. says:

    Really helpful post! I’ve been using a tool called Documate ( not .com – i’m always going to the Xerox page!). I like it a lot. I’m not an engineer, but I wanted the functionality of Docassemble, which I had heard about, and their platform helps you create Docassemble interviews on a code-free interface. I used FormTool before, but not only did our firm switch to Macs, but we wanted something that we could send to clients and paralegals who are using it to generate documents for the lawyers or for themselves.

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