A lot of SYNTAQ users use the platform to automate the production of legal documents, i.e. contracts, trust deeds, company constitutions, powers of attorney and Wills.
Once you get the hang of it, legal documents can be automated through SYNTAQ very quickly. This is because most legal documents follow a familiar structure. So once you understand how to automate each of the common components of a legal document, you can move through the automation process very quickly. In fact, you can automate a standard legal document in well under an hour.
Before starting it is critical to think about what sort of document you are automating, and in particular, what ‘participants’ will be involved in the legal documents, and what ‘roles’ those participants will be playing. This is because there are 2 broad approaches to automating a legal document – and choosing the wrong approach for a particular document can make the automation a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
Documents with a distinct number of roles
The first approach relates to documents that have a distinct number of roles, and for which the same party is not likely to be involved in more than one role. For example, a Loan Agreement has a Lender and a Borrower. In this case, the Lender is not likely to also be the Borrower!
With this type of document, the best approach is to make a separate form to gather the details of each role, e.g. Lender, Borrower, Guarantor, etc.
For each role, you use a form on which you would gather the details of the parties performing that role. In most cases the parties will either be an individual or an entity (i.e. a company). (In each case, the individual or entity may be acting in some capacity, e.g. as trustee for a trust).
The user can then work through the form, filling in the details of the participants performing each role.
Documents with a distinct number of participants
The second approach applies to documents that have a distinct number of participants, each of whom are likely to play more than one role.
For example, in a Trust you may have an individual who acts as a Trustee, a Beneficiary and a Guardian. The same individual may also be a director of a company that acts as a Trustee.
If you have a separate form for each role (like under the first approach), and a party is involved in more than one role, then the person filling out the form will need to re-enter the name of the party in a number of different places, i.e. once on the Trustee form, once on the Beneficiary form, and once on the Guardian form, etc. This can be frustrating for the person using the form. It also means that the person building the form needs to create a lot more fields.
With this type of document, it is much more efficient to have a separate form for each type of participant, i.e. an individual and a company, and then to have a number of checkboxes for each participant to indicate what roles they are playing. The person filling out the form can then enter the details of the participant once, and tick a number of checkboxes to indicate each of the roles they are involved in. This means the forms are simpler, and people can fill out the forms more efficiently.
This structure can be a little unfamiliar to people who are used to filling out forms that are structured around roles (rather than participants). However, once you get used to filling out this type of form, you will find that they are very efficient, and speed up the form building and form filling processes considerable.
Why is choosing the right approach so important?
Which approach you take, i.e. the roles approach or the participants approach will have a profound impact on how you must mark-up your document templates and design your forms.
With the roles approach:
- Your template will consist of a number of distinct table repeats based around each role, i.e. an individual repeat and an entity repeat for each role; and
- Your forms will have a separate page for each role, and will have an individual repeat and an entity repeat on each page (i.e. one of each type of participant for each role); and
With the participant approach:
- Your template will consist of the same two table repeats around each role, i.e. the same individual repeat and an entity repeat for each role, but with an IF statement for each role; and
- Your forms will have a separate page for each type of participant (i.e. individual and company), and then a number of checkboxes within each participant to select which roles they are performing.
If you choose the wrong approach it is not the end of the world, and the document will still work. However, the automation process, and actually using the forms, will just be more complicated than they need to be.
We note that some people who automate documents always default to the roles approach, i.e. having a separate form for each role. They do this so that the person filling in the form understands what roles are involved, and can enter the details of each participant performing each role. They can mitigate the problem of having to enter the same details more than once by enabling an ‘autofill’ function so that previously entered data can be re-entered in other places throughout the form. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but we have found that using the participant approach where appropriate, can speed up the building and filling in of the forms.