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

Amy was the automation manager in charge of document development at her old firms, including Goldberg Segalla, a 20-branch, 400-attorney firm in Buffalo.  While there, she led the transition from WordPerfect to an automated system using the best-available platform, at the time: HotDocs. Amy spent a year in a locked room, learning to design, build and maintain her firms’ template libraries.

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”

Kim Mayberry:

The client on the other end that was seeing this did not realize how hard that was going to be in another system, or could not be done in another system.

Lowell Stewart:

The core principle is you really shouldn’t have to do anything more than once.

Michael Lane:

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

Michael Lane:

Hi, welcome. Thanks for joining us. My name is Michael Lane, I’m the director of sales and marketing at Knackly. And I am your host as well. With me, of course, our Knackly founders, Kim Mayberry and Lowell Stewart. Hello guys.

Lowell Stewart:

Hey.

Kim Mayberry:

Hello. Excited to be here with you.

Michael Lane:

Great, me too. So I get asked nearly every day, what’s different about Knackly? What do you guys bring to the table? So I thought this podcast is about us. It’s about our place in the universe, the differences between Knackly and pretty much everyone else, and maybe even present our case for why we exist. Cool?

Lowell Stewart:

Cool. Yeah, that sounds good.

Michael Lane:

Cool. And let’s start with generalities, Kim, kick it off. What is document creation and automation software to begin with? Give us the lay of the land, as it were, and how we fit in.

Kim Mayberry:

Yeah, I think of document automation software in kind of couple of different ways.

Kim Mayberry:

One is, is kind of a macro on steroids where you can go through, enter your information and all that information gets put into your document. Kind of in a general sense, that’s how I think of document automation software and generalities. But then when you start to break down the market and what’s out there, I see three kind of different tiers of document automation that’s been produced by the different vendors out there. Tier one is I would say is simple mail merge, but it integrates like with a Cleo or something like that, where really all I’m doing is I’m inserting names of people. I may have a little bit of conditional logic, but very limited ability. Then we go to a tier two level, which is, I can do some conditional logic, I can do some lists.

Kim Mayberry:

So if I have multiple children that I need to put into a document or multiple people in a document, I can actually list those people in the documents. And I can do conditional logic where I can say, if this, then do this, that was really a tier two level. If you think of people that are in the form tool Documate, I kind of classify those ones in there and there’s other ones in there too, but kind of give a broad look. Then you get into a tier three and really I can do all the things in tier one and two, but I can do complex calculations. I can, I can do lists within lists. So if you have complex signature blocks where you have a company that you need to have certain individuals sign on behalf of that company, multiple individuals, and you have multiple companies, then that’s where you would get lists within lists.

Kim Mayberry:

You can start doing multiple documents at once. And really in that space you’ve got the hot docs, and the express docs, and there’s some other ones out there as well. And then really you look at those, the tier ones are quite easy to get into and use. Tier twos, it starts to get a little bit more difficult as far as learning how to do it. In tier three, in today’s market really it’s complex to get in it. And certainly where I came from before Knackly, we were doing consulting and all of this stuff that we do was in the tier three area. And what I found over time is that it just seemed like it was too hard to do these things that should really be simple to do. We’d have to go through these complex iterations to get the data that our clients wanted to have.

Kim Mayberry:

And it just seemed like we should be able to have it easier to automate, which is kind of the Genesis of Knackly, In my mind, there’s certainly other things that we’re going to talk about today. But really how do we make it so that a really create a new category, almost like a hybrid that allows someone who really needs the features available in tier one to easily get in, but they have a system that can scale with them all the way up, and that’s really what we’ve done with, with Knackly.

Michael Lane:

So as their needs grow, we can grow with them?

Kim Mayberry:

Right.

Michael Lane:

The system doesn’t get overly complex as their business becomes more mature and their needs increase.

Kim Mayberry:

You’re right. Exactly.

Michael Lane:

You know, one of the things we talk about a lot is we brag about how, how fast we are, how Knackly is quicker and faster than others and saves our customers more time.

Michael Lane:

Can you put some handles on that statement, Lowell? What about Knackly is faster? Is it a technical advantage, or do we just streamline a process better or, what’s our secret?

Lowell Stewart:

Well, fundamentally it’s about the approach that we take to document automation. One of the core principles of Knackly, and this sounds a little too simple, but it’s really true in the core principle is, you really shouldn’t have to do anything more than once. It’s not just about avoiding repetition, but it’s about when you specify that a certain paragraph should be in your document or shouldn’t, let’s milk that decision for everything that we can. In Knackly, you don’t specify your interview logic one place, and then your document logic someplace else, you just specify at one place and it’s taken care of everywhere else.

Lowell Stewart:

So cumulatively, a lot of little changes where we don’t make you do things in place A and then again in place B, cumulatively, that adds up to a lot and ends up saving a lot of time. We see this in when the user enters data, we don’t make you then regenerate that data into different shapes. If it needs to be in a different shape to put into the document, or needs processing or calculation, you can manipulate the data in place and use it just like you need it without having to make copies of it. We really focused on eliminating the redundancy that happens when you’re automating these things, and it ends up making very much more maintainable systems. That was awkward the way I worded that. But you end up building a system that is not only faster to build, but easier to maintain because you’re doing less work and the system is doing more of the work for you that normally you’d have to think through on another tier three platform.

Lowell Stewart:

I like Kim’s description of those tiers, but I kind of think what we’ve built as a tier four here, where now the system is your biggest partner in automation. And when you learn these fantastic automation tools that we’ve got, you are able to be so much more productive because you’re leveraging them to the Nth degree. It’s great.

Michael Lane:

How about a concrete example of something that you would not have to replicate from one project to another?

Lowell Stewart:

Sure. To start with the very architecture of the system, when you’re building templates, you’re doing it all in your browser. And so, first of all, right at the file level, you don’t have to duplicate files on everybody’s system. Everyone is working from the same set of files together. That saves a ton of time.

Lowell Stewart:

Let’s say you have a table full of States, every time you want to have someone choose what state an addresses in, you need a table of States. There’s other solutions out there that you just copy and copy and copy and copy, every one of those variables will have its own little table of States. And if you somehow, two months in realize that you misspelled Wyoming, you’ve got to fix that in 50 places. In Knackly, you just define one table of states and you use it everywhere. And if you need any additional information about each state that you may need, in some situation, you can just add it onto that table. And it’s a central resource becomes something that you build on top of. So once you’ve done something once, you just reuse it.

Michael Lane:

You’re describing a toolbox.

Lowell Stewart:

Yeah. And Knackly gives you a great toolbox, but essentially, the more work you do in it, you’re building your own toolbox of customized tools that you can then leverage to do the next project faster.

Kim Mayberry:

You know, this actually happened for me within the last week. I was working on a project for a client and they say, “Hey, I’ve got this list of information that I’m entering in for this particular situation.” In some cases, I just want to use one or two of those pieces of information for another situation. And it was like, Oh yeah, in Knackly that’s easy. A minute later, it’s implemented and ready to go. If I were in my previous life, if we were to do that, that would have been a 20 minute process. And we would have had to think about it and reiterate it. It just made it so much easier. I re-fell in love with Knackly at that moment. The client on the other end that was seeing this did not realize how hard that was going to be in another system, or could not be done in another system, cause the tier one and two systems don’t do that. That’s just not an option. And I was like, “this is just so cool”. It was amazing.

Michael Lane:

Excellent. All the groups say that the first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge you have one. So how can we help firms who may not even know that they need this solution or something like ours? How does a firm know that they’re running into these problems and that they should look at a document automation solution?

Kim Mayberry:

Yeah. Great question. You’re sitting at your desk, you’re always clicking on that find and replace button all the time, and that’s what you do all day. You do that a lot during the day. Hm, maybe there’s a better way to do this and document automation and Knackly can help. Or you don’t really know, which document should I use now? Because I had five other clients and now I’m having to go out and search which one was the closest one that matches this new client?

Kim Mayberry:

And that’s another reason why you’d want document automation. The root of it is, is that they lead to errors in the document that you can potentially miss. The other thing that it leads to is that you figure out “I need to be more efficient”. I mean, if you look at the market today, there is pressure on everyone, whether it’s legal, it’s corporate, any industry is having pressure to say, “we’ve got to be more efficient”. It’s getting to the point that you can no longer think in the legal sector that I can continue to just bill hourly. And someone’s going to pay me $300 to $500 an hour to be a word processor. That’s just not going to happen because people are starting to figure that out. And probably the third area that it leads to is the ability to train new staff and making it easier. Because really with what we’re able to do with document automation, we can create an intake process where we can ask them questions dynamically to get to the right questions, and that’s a whole lot easier to train on, and faster. So, those combined really are the reasons why people need to look at document automation. One, they want to be more efficient. Two, they want to get rid of errors in their documents. And three, they want to be able to easily train staff.

Michael Lane:

What kind of firms are the best candidate for Knackly? Who can benefit the most? Large, small, solo practices? Who can we help the best?

Kim Mayberry:

We’re seeing the gamut. As a company, you don’t really want to target everyone, but we’ve got small firms on it, we’ve got corporations on it. They’re using it to produce their sales contracts. We have large firms using it. Really, it comes down to, are you doing transactional documents that are very similar regularly? That’s kind of what it is. Those are the types of people that need to use it. Whether you’re family law, if you’re in the law side, estate planning, bankruptcy, litigation, we’re getting more people asking about that as well, because they’re figuring out that they’re sending out all sorts of letters and they could automate that process a lot faster.

Michael Lane:

I’ve run into that too. Back to your tier concept, many customers land in one, find out that it fits them for the moment, but doesn’t work out later. And then they have to switch out to a new system. Or they don’t, and they have work arounds that annoy them for the rest of eternity. But Knackly fits in regardless and grows and scales, as you said before.

Michael Lane:

Once a, once a customer comes on board, let’s go through what they can expect from us. What’s the onboarding process, what resources do we make available, and what kind of memberships does Knackly provide, Kim?

Kim Mayberry:

So, we’ve got a couple of different levels. We’ve got what we’re calling “DIY”, where you’re just coming in, you’re using our training materials. We got learn.knackly.io, we’ve got knowledge base out there, training videos, a lot of ways for you to get in and learn how to do it. The second level is that we have a couple of different jumpstart options, which is where we’re going to guide you through the process. We’re going to take our over 20 years of experience in actually generating and creating automated documents, and we’re going to give you that knowledge through the process of the jumpstart.

Kim Mayberry:

So we’ve got that. And that’s where you’re still automating documents yourself, but you’ve got someone to guide you through the process. The third option is our professional service team, where you say “you know what? I just don’t have time to do this. I need someone else to help me”. From professional services, we can go through, look at the project, and give you an estimate on how much it’s going to be. So really the gamut on what makes the most sense for you.

Lowell Stewart:

That’s right. I mean it’s certainly with different people preferring different styles of learning as well. You can take advantage of that. For example, use professional services to build a couple of documents, and then when you’ve done that you have all of that intellectual property there, you can look through exactly how they made that work, and then you can tackle the next one. Learn from the pros.

Michael Lane:

So Kim, if folks want to give us a shot, take a look at us, what options have they got?

Kim Mayberry:

Really, we’ve got two options. One, we have our tryout on the website. You want to go in and actually get it, dive into it, and actually start using it. That’s a great way to go. The second option is that we’ve got a walkthrough where we can get on basically a demo of how the product works, talk about your situation and how it will fit. And really those are our two options, hands-on versus guided. It’s kind of up to what you want to do and how you want to approach it. And you can do that at our website at knackly.io, you’ll see the links up at the top, whether you want to do a tryout or a walkthrough.

Michael Lane:

Excellent. That’s what I was going to suggest next, Knackly.io. We recommend everybody take a tour and visit us there. We look forward to it. In the meantime, I guess that about wraps it up for this episode. We appreciate you hanging out with us and we look forward to the next time together. In the meantime, be safe. See you guys, thanks again for joining us.

Lowell Stewart:

You bet, bye-bye.

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 knackly.io. Thanks for joining us. We’ll catch you again soon. Meanwhile, be well and be kind.