Building Beautiful Guided Interviews

Guided user interviews are software tools and applications that allow your clients to self-complete and generate even complex automated legal documents, for both transactions and litigation.  Guided user interviews can also be used as the foundation for “expert systems” for clients, which provide clients with custom legal information particular to their unique needs.  

Clients appreciate what they can efficiently achieve through guided legal interviews and automation and, at the same time, these tools allow lawyers to grow their businesses, generate new forms of revenue through productization, and increase their business leads. So what do you need to think about before you get started? At Documate, guided interviews are our specialty, so we made a list of the five most important considerations when building our guided interviews.

1. Tools – use the right guided interview app

While they are intuitive to the user on the screen, guided legal interviews are complex decision trees behind the scenes.  As such, you’re going to be spending a lot of time building them and making sure the functionality is robust, so the right tool matters when creating them.  

Factors to consider when choosing your automation tool include the ease of use – is it easy to understand what you need to do when you log into the builder application? Equally (or even more) important are the depth of mapping, the ability to add complex nested logic inside of your documents, and the ability to do complex calculations. It should be easy to run and test your workflows, come back to them, and iterate quickly so that you can implement client feedback from your user testing. If you have many forms, does the vendor have consultants who can help you automate?

2. Scope – what’s the big picture of the interview?

Each guided legal interview should have clear goals and objectives.  Before you start building, ask, “what’s the purpose of the end product arising from the guided user interview?”  From the client’s perspective, the client wants a guided legal interview that will be manageable, and will efficiently accomplish or solve something.  From your perspective as a lawyer, you want to identify all of the information that your guided interview needs from the client to produce an accurate and complete legal document.  But you also want to make sure that what you’re automating is rules-based and done at a high volume, so that your first area of automation is one that will bring value to your firm. Starting with the big picture helps you cover all the facts in a way that works for both you and your client.

3. Research – decide what the interview will (and won’t) do

Build your interviews with a specific user in mind. Each guided legal interview is designed to generate a particular legal document or provide information on a particular legal issue.  This is where your user personas will come in handy. A given guided interview can’t be all things to all clients at the same time.  As such, research and decide at the outset what the guided user interview will, and will not, cover. Start with a limited scope, and expand as you gain users. Let your users guide where you go next.  

For example, while guided legal interview systems can easily handle complex legal issues (both transactional and litigation), some subject areas, such as complex criminal cases, may not be a good fit for an end-to-end platform.

4. Develop – map out the individual interview steps

As stated, behind the scenes, guided legal interviews are decision trees.  Accordingly, organize and mock up the guided interview structure by identifying each question necessary to gather each fact that determines the issues, sub-issues, and ultimate work product content of your client’s automated document.  Which legal outcomes are dependent upon which facts?  

As you break down the analysis and organize potential outcomes into discrete questions, you’ll have the start of the back-end decision tree that will, through an intuitive front-end interface, lead your clients through their guided user interviews.

5. Purpose – what is the goal of each question?

When creating guided legal interviews, the words of each question matter.  This is for the sake of ease and clarity as your client interacts with the guided user interview.  You’ll want to start with gateway questions that will screen ineligible users out upfront. Keep the reading level to 6th grade and below if possible to provide the most accessible platform for potential users. (Though this will obviously vary depending on who your user will be.)

Well-written guided interview questions are necessary for legal accuracy and completeness for two additional reasons: (1) the completed automated document will only be as accurate as the facts your client enters, and (2) your guided user interview questions have to be up-to-date in order to continuously reflect any changes in the relevant substantive law.

Examples of what client-facing guided interviews can do

It helps to see how small firms and solos use guided user interviews to create end products like “expert systems” and automated legal documents.  You can see some great case studies here.

For example, LCN Legal, a small firm with international reach, uses guided legal interviews and document automation to help clients navigate the law of transactional transfer pricing.  Similarly, Hello Divorce, a legal platform, uses guided user interviews and document automation to help clients achieve DIY divorces.  FreshLease likewise uses guided interviews to help their clients create DIY leases.  Other examples are Lawvex and HelpSelf Legal, which use guided legal interviews and document automation in both DIY and access to justice contexts.  

The guided interviews and resulting end documents for these organizations were built using Documate, a tool that allows lawyers to build complex workflows, including client-facing guided interviews and document automation tools, in order to automate documents for their clients. 

Guided legal interviews are the questions that lawyers ask their clients every day. They allow lawyers to leverage their expertise and time through technology and automation, and clients appreciate the benefits.  Together, guided legal interviews and document automation let lawyers better serve their clients and grow their business at the same time.