The Australian legal market is well served by document automation software. Our 2021/22 Legal Technology Survey shows that the following products – HotDocs, Contract Express, IdealDocs and Docassist - are the most widely used, although no product enjoys any dominance. However, there are also other products being used, and others that would like to establish themselves in the market. And these include Rulestar, an Australian developed solution.
The founders of Rulestar are David Lipworth and Ben Rosswick. David has a legal background and Ben has a finance background, professions that utilise automated document creation, and they believe that Rulestar is a market-leading document automation platform that enables the automation of complex documents (i.e., documents with complex logic determining their content) without using a scripting language.
While I am quite familiar with document automation solutions I felt that a review would have more credence if I was able to include the diverse and better informed views of a number of people, and to this end I was fortunate enough to have Andrew Elphick, Business Systems Manager, and Steve Norton, Business Analyst, both from Colin Biggers & Paisley, Neil Blum, CIO of Barry Nilsson, Luke Kendall, CIO of Mills Oakley, Damian Della Gatta, CIO of Holding Redlich, and Shirley Hamel, a well-connected Change Management Consultant to legal firms, attend demonstrations of the Rulestar platform.
The consensus view was that Rulestar has a lot to offer as a document automation solution, with Andrew stating that 'overall it is a fine product', confirmed by Luke’s view that 'overall, I felt it was a good product – clearly very feature rich', while Neil also thought that Rulestar was a good product 'with a unique edge'. The Rulestar platform offers a “Companies” feature that enables firms to customise solutions for multiple clients and includes a “portal” whereby an entire library of online questionnaires can be seamlessly embedded in any webpage (e.g., in the law firm’s or a client’s website) with just one small embed code. Shirley thought that the `portal and ability to service the public and or multiple clients with minimal management of documents internally depending on service offering / firm strategy’ was impressive, while Damian liked 'the modern, cloud-based platform, as well as the client focus and Companies offering'.
There was also the view that its current lack of integrations with a major PMS such as Aderant and Elite could prove to be a handicap. Not that Rulestar lacks integrations, as it already has integrations with HubSpot, ActionStep, LEAP, iManage (NetDocuments being built), e-signatures, and payments processing for e-commerce, as well as ABN and ACN lookups. Although Rulestar plans to integrate with Aderant and Elite to meet client demand, the view expressed by Andrew was that any integration would first 'need to be built and demonstrated', a view endorsed by Neil who would prefer not to be an early adopter of any new integration. One question that Damian raised was whether Rulestar 'had a documented and supported way to integrate systems' which he considered a prerequisite prior to further evaluation.
It is not an uncommon claim that an automation solution is code free and can therefore be used by anybody, including lawyers, to create their own workflow or template. Although Andrew acknowledges that `Rulestar simplifies the document automation development process enabling legal teams to build their own templates with little to no coding knowledge required’, he also shares the collective view that most likely only Knowledge Management lawyers and developers will do the building (as the onus on billables for fee-earning lawyers is too great). In Neil’s experience, creating document templates can also be delegated down to PA’s etc, a practice that is working well for SME’s. Luke’s opinion is that, whilst Rulestar makes the automation process simple, still some 'technical clout’ is needed to build solutions of the sophistication that Rulestar demonstrated.
While a group of IT cynics will always question the take-up of new technologies by lawyers this doesn’t diminish the potential of Rulestar. Luke is quite positive when he states that 'The client facing, self-service components (with added monetisation capability) was exceptional. Tailored right, I think there is good scope for this to hit the holy trinity of demonstrating value to clients, allowing clients to self-serve and (ideally) creating further revenue and referral opportunities. The clever logic built into the platform and the various configuration options gave the feel of real-world experience.' Andrew thought that 'The interview capabilities enable clear and concise guidance to the operator removing potential compliance headaches and ensuring accurate compilation of documents. And being able to embed document automation capabilities effortlessly into our own applications is very powerful.'
So, in summary, there was broad agreement that Rulestar is an impressive solution that could easily be used by Knowledge Management teams. Rulestar has excellent functionality to support a range of use cases, with the client-facing use cases being most exciting to the reviewers and well worth a look. And both Ben and David will be at Lawtech Summit on March 10 and 11, so if you are attending then check out their solution.
Authored by: John Duckett