I need some high-level help. I have been a Mac user for a long time. Like @MacSparky, I am an attorney. I am also a recovering IT consultant/software developer/project manager and did that for 13 years before going to law school.
For about ten years, I have been using document automation software on Windows called HotDocs. I have created my own custom Word and PDF templates and a sophisticated design of the data needed to drive those templates. I have spent many man months on them over the years and they have served me well. But I really need a replacement. HotDocs is the main thing that is keeping me running Windows. Everything else I do is on the Mac.
I want to ditch HotDocs and Windows and go 100% Mac for my law firm. I don’t believe there is a single product that will do everything I need. I’m hoping the community here can help point me in the right direction–help me figure out what products will work together to form a complete solution for my clients my staff, and me.
Here are the biggest issues I have with HotDocs:
- The software is Windows only
More if interested
The desktop version is long in the tooth
Their web-based solution has been in development for years and is terrible–it doesn’t even have feature parity with the desktop version
The software company has been purchased by a large company (Abacus) and they are jacking up the price a LOT (about 600%)
The future of the product is uncertain - Abacus is pushing people to a virtual desktop solution, which I have no interest in. I have spoken with VPs at the company and my confidence in the future of HotDocs as a standalone, affordable product for small law firms has not improved.
I’m looking for one or more products that can work together to replace what I do with HotDocs. Here are my thoughts/needs:
I am not opposed to using a combination of different systems/products/services. I’m not opposed to using AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander or the like. If I need to do Mac scripting/automation, I’m fine with that. But, I would prefer to keep the bulk of the system in the cloud. However, I don’t want to have to build/operate/maintain my own server(s).
I haven’t found any one product that fills the bill on the Mac/Web. Most tools I have seen just do mail merge. Some are really ugly and not something that I can make client-facing. I also need more than just text substitution. I need to build documents/forms that are smart.
The solution should ideally have a web-based forms/questionnaire-type system input of data. However, everything about the solution doesn’t necessarily need to run in the cloud. The forms/data backend needs to be password protected and secure. It needs to be able to support client-facing entry and editing with the ability to save progress and come back to it later. The forms need to be dynamic–changing the questions based on other answers. My staff and I then need to be able to access all data for all clients. The forms need to support look-ups, repeating fields without a pre-defined number of those fields, e-signature, and they needs to look professional. So far, Cognito Forms seems like a possible candidate for the forms piece, data access and storage, but not the document templates.
The system needs to output to Word, but if it can also deal with PDF documents (adding data to a PDF form as well as outputting PDF), that’s a big bonus. Documents need to be able to dynamically adjust by looping through repeating fields–some of that data might end up inline and some might end up in table format.
Document generation needs to be able to be scripted. This is not a simple mail merge system. My current forms use IF/THEN statements, text transformation, scripting, math, date calculations, loops through records. There are scripts that call other scripts. There are nested forms within forms as well.
If anyone can offer advice, I would greatly appreciate it. I feel like I have been spinning my wheels for a long time trying to figure out how to piece this together at a high level. I’m hoping that maybe you have seen products that could form a viable solution. Or maybe you can think about the same products in a different way than I have. Hopefully, we can find a solution that is less than the $60/user/month that Abacus wants for its fewer-features-than-the-desktop cloud offering.
Thank you in advance for any contributions to the discussion!