Westlaw Form Builder?

Last week Thomson Reuters announced the launch of Westlaw Form Builder:

Westlaw Form Builder has been launched—an online document assembly tool that helps attorneys find, assemble and review legal forms with greater speed and accuracy. Attorneys can access more than 20,000 forms anytime and anywhere they have an Internet connection. Forms are customizable, continually updated by Westlaw editors, and have links to WestlawNext to validate citations. Client data can be stored and re-used for future forms.

And the Westlaw Form Builder home page adds the following:

20,000+ official and lawyer-tested forms come from well-known, highly respected sources and authors, such as:

  • McKinney’s for New York, Trawick’s for Florida, and ProDoc and West practice series titles for various states
  • Alan S. Gutterman for business forms
  • Ronald L. Lipman for estate planning forms
  • Official USCIS forms for immigration, with commentary by Austin T. Fragomen Jr.

Isn’t it time to streamline document assembly?

I assume that Westlaw has simply made its existing inventory available online. In other words, when it comes to contracts on Westlaw Form Builder, here’s what I expect:

  • The forms won’t use language that complies with a rigorous style guide.
  • Instead of being “modular,” the forms will consist of different product lines developed independently of each other.
  • The technology is presumably adequate, but it won’t compare to ContractExpress.
  • Any given form will offer you a small fraction of the kind of customization and guidance offered in Koncision’s confidentiality-agreement template.
  • It won’t always be clear whether the credentials of whoever is behind a given form will be sufficient to allow you to give that form the benefit of the doubt.

Although plenty of people might find Westlaw Form Builder useful, I don’t expect it to be a game-changer. But I haven’t tried it; if you think I’m mistaken, let me know.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

6 thoughts on “Westlaw Form Builder?”

  1. Ken,

    This got me wondering. Is the objective of your posting to advance your general cause or to put down the Westlaw service? If you haven’t tried it, why do you assume that the technology is merely adequate and that it won’t compare to ContractExpress?

    The development of offerings based on document automation is an interesting topic, and it’s another market where the dynamics of having more than one ‘format’ is playing out. History tells us that the most adept solution won’t necessarily become dominant – arguably because marketing prevailed. However, in the document automation product arena, it might be observed that nobody has made much of an impression with marketing so maybe usage will actually evolve to favour the naturally strongest format.

    Irrespective of the quantity -v- quality debate, it must surely be acknowledged that proliferation of content is a powerful force. One can adopt the stance of preferring to have a few really good templates rather than a mass of templates but it’s going to take more than an NDA template to seriously advance that proposition.

    • Charles: My only aim was to note the arrival of a new document-assembly offering. I’m familiar enough with West products to be able to suggest what one might expect from West Form Builder. I make it clear that I haven’t used the product, and that I’m prepared to be proved wrong. So I think this post is unobjectionable.

      I’m sure I could have arranged a trial of West Form Builder, but I’ve found West’s form contracts to be sufficiently pedestrian as to make a trial a less-than-compelling proposition.

      I note in the post that people might find West Form Builder useful, but it appears to be very different from Koncision, so I don’t consider it a competitor. Whether Koncision succeeds or fails will depend on its own merits and whether the market is capable of responding to it.


  2. Ken, I ran across this opinion piece from you this morning while doing another search. Since you mentioned my name I thought I’d check in and see if you’d had a chance to actually look at the product and, if so, whether you’d like to chat about how things stake up against your own offering. Let me know. In the meantime, other readers should check it all out for themselves. Best to all, Alan S. Gutterman (agutterman@alangutterman.com)


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