Podcast #47: Barron Henley on Document Automation

Want to automate your documents? Step one is not shopping for software. Barron Henley talks about how to get started — without purchasing a thing. Before that, we say goodbye to two Dropbox services we loved.

Goodbye to Mailbox and Carousel

Aaron was a big fan of Mailbox, the cutting-edge email app that Dropbox bought in 2013 and basically neglected ever since. Sam was a big fan of Carousel, Dropbox’s photo app that finally made it easy for him to share a common repository for family photos. Well, a week ago Dropbox canned both of them.

(FYI, Aaron and Sam are both test-driving Google Inbox app for email, and Sam is sticking with Dropbox for family photos, but he’s hoping some of the Carousel features make it into Dropbox proper.)

Automating Your Documents


Document automation may not sound like the sexiest topic, but if you have ever accidentally saved over one of your templates, you will be riveted to your headphones while Barron Henley talks about what really goes into document automation (hint: it isn’t necessarily new software) and how to get started.

Thanks to the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College and Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!

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  1. Avatar Blair says:

    Great podcast! It’s motivated me to start taking my templates more seriously. Sam, maybe you’d like to write an article on Template best practices, and link to other Lawyerist articles done about Word, such as the recent article about numbering? Maybe it’s even possible to do a Template for Templates!?

    One thing that popped into my mind and makes me hesitant to invest more in master templates is the idea that maybe I’d like to change the design or formatting of my documents in the future. Is there a way to do a sort of CSS style sheet for Word? Some way I can quickly change all my templates with a few clicks? It would be great to be able to change an element in the header, or switch my body text to .5″ indent instead of .25″, or make my Heading 1 Bold instead of Underlined. Knowing that I can easily change the formatting across all my templates makes it easier to take the plunge. Obviously, I’ll look into it myself, but I thought maybe you might want to write about it.

    Another issue is the best way to do commentary within the document. What’s the best way to insert it so that all commentary can be easily deleted or hidden before document finalization (usually PDFing or printing).

    Additionally, are there more advanced techniques than bracketed terms to do a Find & Replace? Is there a way to flag these fields to make sure they’re not overlooked?

    That’s all I could think of for now. Thanks for the fantastic podcast!

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Is there a way to do a sort of CSS style sheet for Word? Some way I can quickly change all my templates with a few clicks?

      Well, yes. You just need styles. (We’ve got a few other articles on styles that you might find helpful; just use the search box.)

      For fields, using curly braces is a hacky way to do it. You can also use dynamic fields to request information from the document preparer, which works great. (Go to Insert > Field and play around.)

  2. Avatar lisa says:

    There are additional benefits not mentioned in the process described. Determining the best process for completing a document and a decision tree repays the firm many times over.
    The process helps to avoid errors both legal mistakes (oops I didn’t remember/think of) that question. Second the process helps to avoid clerical errors. Finally, the more one cleans a template the less problems one has even if one is still typing over a former document. The use of fewer pronouns which are gender specific is a classic example of something that can be revised and eliminate work.

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