Knackly Talks with document automation specialist, Amy Bernardon, about her experiences as a professional HotDocs-developer-turned-Knackly-employee!

Before Knackly, Amy was the manager of document development and automation at her old firms, including Goldberg Segalla, a 20-branch, 400-attorney firm based in Buffalo, New York, and Stark & Stark based in Princeton, New Jersey, here she spent a year in a locked room, learning to design, build and maintain the firm’s HotDocs template library.

Last fall, we took her away from all that and, now, she helps Knackly customers convert HotDocs and Word documents into brand-new, Knackly template libraries!

In Episode 03, we discuss her observations and comparisons of the two platforms. Listen to her describe the time, money and anxiety (yes) she’s able to save Knackly customers, now! If you’re a HotDocs user, you’re going to appreciate this!

Transcript for “Knackly Talks About Knackly: Why We Exist”

Amy Bernardon:

I’m not reinventing the wheel constantly anymore. I don’t have to feel like a power programmer.

Lowell Stewart:

Our primary aim with Knackly was, stop copying stuff and start reusing it.

Michael Lane:

Welcome to the Knackly podcast, where we help law firms make documents better.

Michael Lane:

Welcome, my name is Michael Lane and I’m the director of sales and marketing at Knackly, and I am your host as well. With me, as always, are founders Kim Mayberry and Lowell Stewart. Hi guys.

Kim Mayberry:

Hello.

Lowell Stewart:

Hello.

Michael Lane:

This time we’ve got a guest, this is new for our podcast, and our guest comes to us from the HotDocs world. She is an employee of Knackly, we’re going to let her talk a little bit more about her background and how she came to us, but we wanted to bring her on so that our listeners could experience what a professional in the industry has gone through, when they make the transition from one platform to Knackly. And we’ll talk a little bit about some of the surprises, some of the reliefs that, maybe, she found… And then just talk about what folks might expect from us as they come on board with Knackly. Does that sound good?

Amy Bernardon:

Sounds like a plan.

Kim Mayberry:

Awesome.

Michael Lane:

Amy, this is your first time with our podcast, you are welcome, we are glad to have you. Tell us a little bit about you and your background and your story. What’s your first and last name, to begin with.

Amy Bernardon:

It is great to be here guys, it’s Amy Bernardon, it’s a little tricky for most to take on, but yes, Amy Bernardon.

Michael Lane:

Welcome, so tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background? What’s your story?

Amy Bernardon:

Well, I’ve been working in the legal world for a couple decades or so. Hard to admit, but yes, I’ve been in the world for a while. Started out in the law firms and obviously staying in the legal world here at Knackly, but moving on to the software side of things directly. So I’ve just come up through the ranks.

Michael Lane:

What’d you do over there? And who did you work for when you were in the law field? When you were working for lawyers.

Amy Bernardon:

Well, I started at Stark & Stark in New Jersey and they were a small firm growing into a midsize firm. They were going through a lot of technology changes, if we might say that. It was back in the late nineties that I was working with them, when I started and we went through a lot of technology change. They were definitely a HotDocs firm, in that they had already started to use some of the advantages of HotDocs and some of the… Creating some templates and such and during the technology shift, I went from legal secretary to HotDocs, somehow made that jump. And from there, worked there for many years and got into the case management side of things. So then we went HotDocs with case management, we went WordPerfect to Word, we did all kinds of changes.

Amy Bernardon:

So I’ve gotten a lot of experience in technology and change through working there and learned a lot of great lessons in that process. And then I moved on to a large firm, Goldberg Segalla, that was based out of Buffalo, New York. They were also using the same case management and HotDocs as well. So we transitioned there and tried to get them up and running better and more efficiently with that and then COVID hit and I was found in the pandemic layoffs, and then this guy, Kim, reached out on LinkedIn and said, “Hey, we’ve got this product and we see you have some experience in what we’re doing and maybe you could give it a try.” And here I am.

Kim Mayberry:

You know, the funny thing there is, is that, when I first mentioned it, she’s like, “I don’t know if I really want to do that.”

Amy Bernardon:

True story.

Kim Mayberry:

Which, at some point, you’ve made a little bit of a transition, from, “No, I’m thinking about it, not sure.” And you could probably speak to it more, but that may be burnout on being in the legal space a little bit. And then, I’m guessing, and you can confirm this or disconfirm this, is that you started seeing what Knackly was doing, the idea of being part of something that we’re creating, became a little bit more exciting. So I’ll let you just tell how that worked out.

Amy Bernardon:

Yeah. I think you’re really right on there. I had looked at jobs that were specifically using the HotDocs product, because of course, that’s what I knew, but they were more out of… I really need a job, I got to work, I got to get out of this layoff situation. But I wasn’t thrilled about the idea. There was a lot of… To me, there’s a lot of stress that comes with HotDocs in the production, in both using the product and by the law firms that are expecting the work. And not to say that, that’s wrong of the law firms or anything like that, it’s just… Technology is a weird thing in law firms and they want to use it, but they just want it to work, they don’t want a lot of wait time.

Amy Bernardon:

They just want their investment to show that it’s proving value for them. So the idea of Knackly was, “Okay, it’s along the same lines. Well, I guess I could technically do it because I’m aware of document automation, I’m okay with learning new things. But is that what I really want to do? Is this where I want my career to go? To be automating documents.” So it was a little scary in that sense of, signing myself up for pressure. And then I came on board and there was no pressure, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.

Amy Bernardon:

Everybody’s been great and the learning process has been great and then, of course, once I get into it, I’m like, “Oh, okay, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and take five hours to do this thing I’ve already done five hours somewhere else on.” And all this kind of stuff. And my perception has certainly changed of… Things can be easier, it doesn’t have to be as hard as it was before and it doesn’t have to be as much pressure and stress.

Lowell Stewart:

That is awesome to hear, very gratifying too.

Amy Bernardon:

I can imagine, from your end.

Michael Lane:

From two angles, one, we’re glad… You came on board in what? The fall, right?

Amy Bernardon:

Yep. It was November of 2020.

Michael Lane:

So we’re glad to hear that the atmosphere and environment of the company is that, but also that the… What I’m hearing to tell me, is that the actual day-to-day tools you’re using create you less stress than what HotDocs probably did. Is that what you’re telling me?

Amy Bernardon:

I’m not reinventing the wheel constantly anymore, I don’t have to feel like a power programmer. I can look at Knackly and do something that, to me, is pretty basic, but create something super powerful and I don’t have to keep doing it every time I need something similar. So one of the things that I’m sure you guys have pointed out in documentation and such, are the way you’ve built out models, and those are the biggest time-saver in the world. So anyone familiar with HotDocs, you have to create a variable every time you need a variable. So if I need to track the client, if I need to track the adversary, if I need to track the attorney, if I need to… All these different types of peoples and entities and whatever I’m catching, and I have to do the same coding over and over and over again.

Amy Bernardon:

So maybe that doesn’t sound so bad if I’m adding text variables and multiple choice variables, but now I’m getting into computations because I need it to do fancy things for me. I need it to do pronouns, I need it to do verb tenses, I still have to keep doing that. Knackly? One and done. I do that once and then I use that over and over again in your model. So then I go in and I say, “Okay, now tell me who the attorney is?” Ask all those questions I already put in there, do all those formulas, do all that fancy stuff. Just give me the name and I’ll take care of the rest. So from both a developer point of view and a user, I’m getting so much more bang for my buck here, that I’m able to do things quickly and get them done efficiently, and I’m not taking up more and more and more time. I’m exponentially saving time the more I get into Knackly.

Michael Lane:

So you’re building something that a document is using, a list, a function, and you build it, you use it in that document and then the next time you build a different document with a list that runs similarly, requests a similar set of information, you can go grab that off the shelf and use it again rather than having to write it from scratch again. Is that right?

Amy Bernardon:

Exactly. So everything is just reusable.

Kim Mayberry:

That extends, actually, within the same document. So if you have different roles. So say you’ve got your client, or you’ve got other parties that are involved and you’d need to use it in different ways, it’s not a matter of going through and doing all these complicated looping things that you do in HotDocs. And frankly, other documented systems out there don’t even have these capabilities, HotDocs does, but other ones don’t even have this, that I can reuse data in different ways, that makes it super easy.

Kim Mayberry:

And you referenced the… We usually call them parties, that you can now… I can use this party, object, for the client, the spouse, the children, anybody else that’s involved. And all the information that’s associated with that party, I just reuse it, I don’t have to reinvent it each time, I don’t have to copy it, I don’t have to recreate it. I click one button, I name it a new name and everything that I’ve created for the previous client, is there.

Michael Lane:

Amy, in your old world compared to your new world, is there a way to gauge how much time savings that represents?

Michael Lane:

Can you give us a before and after, if you were to build a document [crosstalk 00:12:00].

Amy Bernardon:

It’s hard to pinpoint but we’re talking hours. Yeah, we’re talking hours. So if you’re looking at anything of any depth… We’re not talking maybe a basic one-page letter, obviously those are even quicker, but any kind of document that you’re looking at, a pleading, a state planning, something… Corporate business documents… You’ve got these tools and you’ve already used them. And the process of creating them, to begin with, is quicker in my estimation, and then going forward with that, you really gain momentum and the coding of the documents just goes so quickly because you’ve already laid that groundwork and that foundation, and you just use it when you need it. And you might find something new here and there in the next document that you need to add, but you’re just building and building and building on what you have.

Amy Bernardon:

And it just goes quicker. What I’m finding is, the more entrenched you are, the quicker it is, and that wasn’t necessarily the case before. You were just constantly building before, it didn’t matter how many times you had done it. And on the side of maintenance of that, is even more huge, so, we’re just talking about starting out in building, but what happens when you have all of these variables and now something changes? Your business moves, the court rules change, something happens that affects either a lot of your variables or a lot of your templates… Do you have to go through every single bit of everything to fix that? Or do you go to one place in the designer, you make a change and boom, you’ve now updated multiple bits of information in one time. And that’s huge, I don’t even know if I could put a time on that. We’re talking days and weeks at that point.

Kim Mayberry:

That was the premise, right? Lowell, when we started out, that was one of the big premises, was how can we change…?

Lowell Stewart:

I’m just smiling here. Yeah, its like… That’s exac… I couldn’t have articulated what we aimed to do with Knackly, better than that, that’s exactly what I wanted to do, from my past, as a product manager at HotDocs and watching people go through that constant… One of the most requested features, was, “Can you give me a way to make another copy of a dialogue and all the variables on it?” And the programmer in me was like, “No, you’re just making a maintenance nightmare for yourself with every additional copy you make of that thing.” And so, our primary aim with Knackly was, stop copying stuff and start reusing it.

Amy Bernardon:

Yeah. I love it, honestly and I think… What a great opportunity that you’ve developed for yourself, to be able to take all of your wisdom and knowledge and experience and go, “Okay, this is the way we really need to make it work.” Because, even as developers of the template and users, we still don’t know what we don’t know, which is always the problem. So even starting out in HotDocs, okay, you learn to do a letter, that’s great. You have your engagement letter, let’s say, that goes out, every single client gets an engagement letter and then you do another letter, and then you do something else. But now, I’m maintaining 20 letters. Now, should I be? That’s the kind of stuff that Knackly is taking care of. That, “Yes, I might have different letters, but because of that design, I don’t have to go to 20 letters and update something.” Knackly knows, it just knows what I need.

Michael Lane:

You referred to coding. Let’s talk about how intimidating this is.

Amy Bernardon:

Nothing, you can come in tomorrow and start doing Knackly. And this is what I’ve learned about being with you guys, is, the support is here and you’re not leaving people hanging. So it’s not, “Here’s Knackly, enjoy it. Best of luck to you, we have some help online, you call us and you meet with us and we help.” But the steps and the courses that are available? You’re able to push out, maybe a little bit simplistic compared to what some of the rest of us can do, but you can push out documents tomorrow. It’s really, I think, developed for a little more common sense type of things, then needing to know more about the programming itself. So it’s not as intimidating, that’s for sure.

Michael Lane:

How long did it take you, back in the HotDocs days, when you were starting out, how long did it take for you to feel competent in that platform?

Amy Bernardon:

Well, I’ll tell you… So when I started with HotDocs, our firm had a consultant come in and train us in our offices, there was three of us and trained us on our documents. And that was what we needed, because what was out there otherwise, was helpful, but it wasn’t going to get us very far. So we spent a week doing that and then, literally, me and one other coworker spent a year, we joke that we were locked up in an office together, but it was an empty attorney office, so we at least had a window. And for a year, we did nothing but churned HotDocs templates.

Michael Lane:

[crosstalk 00:18:28].

Amy Bernardon:

Yeah, and there was a lot of questions involved with that and had we not had access to the consultant, we… Okay, we would have put out some basic documents, they would have been okay and maybe we would have been satisfied because we didn’t know any better, but we did know better, a little bit and we knew we wanted more than basic. So it’s a growing process and as soon as you touch a computation in HotDocs, you need to have some kind of level of understanding of… I don’t know if programming is really the right word, I guess it is in a way, because you have to understand the basics of how that works. And then, even then, if there’s simple computations and complex computations and… It just gets crazy. So, I’ve worked 20 some years with doing HotDocs and I still don’t consider myself an expert.

Michael Lane:

You’ve been at Knackly since the fall, you had no idea about it a few months ago. So how do you feel about that compared to your previous experience? Give us a couple of thoughts.

Amy Bernardon:

I don’t consider myself a Knackly expert either, yet, I’m still fairly fresh, but what I do know already, is such a strong foundation that it’s not going to take years of learning to get to where I feel like I’m on top of this and I don’t think there’s a lot that I’m going to need help on, personally, I’ll be able to help other people reach a high level status of learning in this kind of thing.

Amy Bernardon:

So the learning curve is so much different to me. The hard part for me, coming from HotDocs, was to stop over-complicating things. I kept looking at Knackly and Kim and Whitney were training me and I would try and do something and I’m like, “Okay, I hear what they’re saying, I see what they’re saying. That can’t be the answer.” Or, “That can’t work that way.” Or, “What about this part? How does that work?” And of course they were right, of course what they’re showing me works, but I had to untrain my brain to make life difficult. That, it didn’t have to be that difficult and once that… And that probably took, I don’t even know, a month and a half, two months? For me to really stop over-complicating things.

Amy Bernardon:

And now I’m like, “Oh, okay, let me go back to that first thing I did and just really quickly rearrange that, because that was silly.” Or whatever. So it’s worlds of difference, it should not be intimidating to people. The great thing I’ve also seen is, I’ve been getting to sit in on a lot of jumpstart meetings with Kim and the clients. And the way the clients are thriving in it and some of them are attorneys and some of them are paralegals and legal secretaries, we meet weekly and once they get over that initial learning, they’re like, “Nope, think we’re good. Oh, we have this one new thing that we’ve come across. Okay. Yep, we’re good.” It’s really not complicated in that sense, I think you guys have done a great job at making it a little more common sense and user intuitive.

Michael Lane:

Who’s the best customer for Knackly? Large firms, small firms, does it matter?

Amy Bernardon:

All of them, for sure. The advantages are different. So small firms… If I’m a small firm, I can get this off the ground myself, and I can make this start happening and in a week, I can be using Knackly with my clients. I don’t think it’s a problem for small firms. When you’re ready to take on the technology, it’s going to start… You might start slow with a handful of documents and then you just build, but you get that solid foundation again, and it becomes easier and easier. So as a small firm, when you have limited resources of people and time and whatever, this is very, very doable. As a large firm, it’s great because you have all the resources of the world, typically, right? You’ve got a lot of access to things, but you still have large volume.

Amy Bernardon:

You have rollout issues, you have maintenance issues, you have learning issues and training issues. The time that I think this would take for a large firm to roll this out, is super simplified and not very time-consuming at all. I mean, I’m picturing how I would roll this out at my previous firm and we had over 20 offices in something like eight different States and all this kind of stuff. This is nothing, to roll out to a large firm. And so, if you’ve got resources to create these templates for you, that’s going to happen quickly, the learning curve is going to be easy for that. And I don’t even think those resources need to necessarily be legal minded because I’ve seen both sides of the IT world within law firms. There are some times where there’s a huge advantage to having that legal knowledge to back you up.

Amy Bernardon:

And there’s times in the construction of your network and such, that you need that technical background. This is really something that you could either decide, is a responsibility of someone technical, or maybe there’s paralegals or such within certain practice groups, that are going to do certain documents. So again, because of the learning curve is easy, the rollout is simple, there’s no maintenance of, “Let me download this program, set all these settings, do all these things. Oh Wait, there’s an upgrade, change this…” That’s out the window. And then the training is simple, this isn’t a huge training lift to get out to big firms for the users. So this is across the board, I could see the advantages of any type of practice and any sized firm.

Michael Lane:

Anytime you move to a platform, it’s a big project. So what do we provide folks to move into Knackly that makes it easier? What can they expect in the transition?

Amy Bernardon:

Yeah. And that’s a hard decision to make for sure, because these places have invested time and money and energy into all this. But sometimes you have to learn that you’re doing more damage, not making a change. So Knackly is more open for you, it’s going to grow with you. Of course, one of the benefits immediately, is, there’s a HotDocs converter. So especially if you’re coming from HotDocs, your existing templates can go through this conversion process and then either Knackly or yourselves, run through and update those templates into the Knackly world and tweak them and clean them up and make sure they’re looking exactly how you need them to look on that process, and you’re off and running. The support is there, so I’ve been able to watch some of that conversion process happening as well.

Amy Bernardon:

And there’s a lot of work being done on the Knackly side, which I think is nice for those firms. I think take advantage of that, don’t use your resources for that. Wait until you need them for other things. But the support is there, if you doing it yourself, or maybe it’s a partial split mix of what you’re doing. And then moving forward, going from HotDocs to Knackly as the admins, some things are going to be so much easier immediately. Getting this out to your end-users and maintaining it and that kind of stuff, immediately saving time for you. Learning it? Maybe you’ll be in the same boat as I was, that you need to simplify your brain. But it’s not a huge learning curve, I feel like if I can do it, everybody can do it. I might’ve been doing HotDocs for a long time, but anyone can pick up Knackly. So really, HotDocs are not… This is where you need to go, if you want to grow.

Michael Lane:

And what about the customers that maybe don’t have a platform currently, maybe they don’t have any idea what HotDocs is about. If they’re just working in Word, what can they expect?

Amy Bernardon:

Yeah, absolutely. How many times has Word ever frozen on you? Have you overwritten a document? Have you not copied and pasted everywhere you were supposed to copy and paste, and now you’ve sent out something that’s got a different client’s name in it? Or, whatever these things are. You’re opening up yourself for user error all over the place using Word. And that’s just us as human beings. It just happens because the phone rings or the attorney comes to your desk, or whatever is happening and there’s a distraction of some sort. And now, what you thought you did, maybe you didn’t or, “Oops, I clicked something too quickly and I didn’t need to do that and now I’m stuck.” There’s a lot of stuff like that, just thinking of Word in itself.

Amy Bernardon:

And then you get to the factor of… In Knackly, you’re collecting data and reusing that data. So if my client moves and I run a new document, I have their latest information because I’ve added that information. If I copy from Word, did I grab the correct client address? Did I get the most recent letter? Did I even know that something had changed? There’s a lot of room for error. So, I think that’s one of the benefits of going from Word over to Knackly, besides the efficiency of it. So I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, I don’t have to remember, “Which client did we do this business contract for that had that clause of that thing that now applies to this client?” And I go digging through some type of network or document management system, to maybe hopefully find that.

Amy Bernardon:

Here’s your documents, here’s your legal advice that you’ve prepared based on certain circumstances and you don’t have to take all that time to find all these things or remember all these things.

Kim Mayberry:

I realize that Amy’s on the payroll, right? She’s a Knackly employee, but it was nice to see that some of the premises that we had, when we started Knackly, actually are happening. And so that’s cool and I just appreciate having Amy on the podcast and Amy helping us through this as well.

Lowell Stewart:

I’ve been just a listener for this episode, mostly, but it’s been so fun to listen in and yeah, thank you Amy, for being here too.

Michael Lane:

Thank you, Amy, we appreciate it. Appreciate your contribution to the company as well.

Amy Bernardon:

I’m excited to see how this has grown, I really am.

Michael Lane:

Well, we are right up against our time, but before we go, if you are interested in learning more about Knackly, head to our site and book a quick walkthrough. In under about 20 minutes, we’ll identify your biggest document problems and we’re going to show you how Knackly works through them. You’re going to know right away if we’re a good fit for you and the odds are, you’re going to see that you’re going to save some time, some money and we’ll help you improve your workflows. So head over to Knackly that’s K-N-A-C-K-L-Y dot. I-O, and schedule a quick demonstration with us, we’re looking forward to it.

Michael Lane:

And that concludes Knackly, the podcast. Please be sure to leave us a review and if there’s something you’d like to hear from us, reach out and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and our website, Knackly.io. That’s spelled K-N-A-C-K-L-Y dot. I-O. Thanks for joining us, we’ll catch you again soon. Meanwhile, be well and be kind.