A recent set of articles published in the February issue of Trusts & Estates discusses the pros and cons of using Document Assembly Systems (referred to in the articles as "DAS"). The articles are nicely presented as a Point/Counterpoint feature. In the first article (the "Point"), Jonathan G. Blattmachr and Martin M. Shenkman discuss the advantages of using DAS in an estate planning practice, ultimately reaching the conclusion that DAS are a must for estate planning attorneys, because they offer the consistency and efficiency needed to stay competitive in the market. In the “Counterpoint” article, Douglas J. Paul warns of the dangers of using DAS in an estate planning practice, primarily focusing on the concern that attorneys will become overly reliant on DAS, rather than applying their own expertise in planning and drafting documents for clients.
Certainly, it goes without saying that my colleagues and I appreciate and share the views expressed in the Blattmachr and Shenkman article. However, what may come as a surprise is the extent to which we respect and welcome the objections and concerns discussed in the Paul article. It may be tempting for those of us in the DAS business to sweep the counterpoint article under the rug, or argue that it reflects an outdated view that will be irrelevant in the near future. Yet, the truth is that Paul raises reasonable points that should be in the mind of any good attorney considering the use of DAS in practice. In fact, I venture to say that those of us in the industry are intimately familiar with the concerns raised in the Paul article, because we face them every day, in addressing the questions of prospective customers, and in the decisions we make regarding our systems and the documents within them. The Trusts & Estates articles shed light on these concerns, creating a welcome opportunity to address them in an open forum. In this post, I will discuss how the concerns raised by Paul, though valid, can be addressed by selecting the right system for your practice.