Updated by Maarten Truyens
Through its combination of a powerful card/question editor and integration with MS Word templates, ClauseBuddy offers a lot of power, yet remains easy to start with.
However, there are also some limitations that you need to be aware of. Depending on your goals and the type of document, one of the two approaches (template-based in ClauseBuddy, clause-based in Clause9) will be preferable.
The template-based approach used by ClauseBuddy is essentially a top-down approach where you start from an existing template and apply some changes in order to arrive at the final document.
Conversely, in a clause-based approach, you split existing templates into individual clauses, store those clauses in a library, and then recombine those clauses into entire documents. This is the approach taken by the Document Assembly editor in the Clause9 product.
Generally speaking, the clause-based approach is more powerful than the template-based approach, with cleaner output and a higher long-term return on investment thanks to the reuse of clauses. However, the clause-based approach also requires more preparation time due to the initial clause-splitting step, and is less suitable for visually heavy documents. As is the case with many things in life, the increased power also comes with a higher learning curve.
Use cases for both products
Both products have a different general audience.
- ClauseBuddy is easy to learn, and allows legal experts to easily automate existing templates (or even simple old files). It is therefore the ideal product for legal teams to start their document automation journey.
- The clause-based approach of Clause9 allows for much more fine-grained control across clauses. Combined with the reusability of a clause library, it offers a refined combination of standardisation, clean legal output, reuse and with extensive customisations. It is therefore the preferred tool for experienced legal teams that want all the power they can get from their automation tool.
However, both products work together seamlessly, so even experienced team that have access to Clause9, will have use cases for the template-based approach of ClauseBuddy.
ClauseBuddy should be the preferred tool in the following scenarios:
- Only limited changes need to be made to the base template — e.g., a combination of some placeholders that must be filled and a few paragraphs that need to be dynamically hidden or partially altered.
- A template is layout-heavy — e.g. contains watermarks, cover photos, many different fonts, floating text boxes, and so on.
- An existing template is chaotic — e.g. contains a bad mix of automatic and manual numbering, or strange font / indentation combinations — but it is simply too much effort to clean up this document.
Conversely, Clause9 should be the preferred tool when:
- Multiple languages are required.
- It must be possible to dynamically alter defined terms and/or grammatical conjugations.
- Clauses must be reused as much as possible across an organisation, avoiding the dangers of copy/paste.
- At least for some clauses, many different alternatives / fallbacks must be dynamically selectable by the end-user
- For several clauses, the end-user must be able to significantly morph the wording.
- Templates contain optional schedules that need to be dynamically included or removed.
- Refined numbering schemes and cross-references are required.
- It must be possible to dynamically change the layout of the template, e.g. to change the look-and-feel for different brands or clients.
- Various dynamic elements exist in the document, e.g. dynamically swappable headers/footers, images, table rows, table columns, etc.
- Advanced customisations with complex Q&A logic are required.
Limitations of a template-based approach
In a clause-based approach, you can easily store different language version of the same clause. The software can then dynamically choose between those different languages when inserting text in a document. Advanced clause-based software such as Clause9 can even output documents in multiple languages at the same time.
In a template-based approach, the layout of the template is usually "baked into" the template. In an advanced clause-based approach, the layout of clauses can be dynamically configured, e.g. to reflect the house style of different clients.
Centrally updating clauses
In a template-based approach, the reuse of clauses implies copy/pasting clauses between documents. This works fine for a limited number of documents, but becomes difficult to manage when hundreds of templates or versions are involved — small discrepancies simply tend to sneak in. In a truly clause-based approach, clauses can be centrally managed and updated.
Limitations of a Word-based editor
Limited real-time interactions
Clause9 offers multiple tools to simulate how clauses interact with each other and reflect changes in surrounding datafields. The antique architecture of Microsoft Word allows very few real-time operations on a document's text.
No multi-document output
Clause9 allows you to export "binders", consisting of multiple sub-documents.
Unique features of Clause9
In Clause9, authors can dynamically configure defined terms. While some work is involved in inserting those dynamic concepts, it brings many benefits, such as dynamically:
- swapping the defined term (e.g., replace "Supplier" by "Service Provider")
- changing the grammatical properties of a term (e.g., change "Supplier" from singular to plural, or — in relevant languages — from male to female or neutral)
- calculating definition lists: removing terms that are no longer used, or inserting terms that happen to only be present under certain conditions
- getting an exhaustive overview of all the articles that happen to use that defined term.
Clause9 can automatically conjugate verbs, adjectives and articles to reflect changes in the defined term they are associated with.
Dynamic legal styling
In Clause9, users can defined different legal styling — e.g. to swap bullets to "inline" enumerations, or to dynamically define whether individual bullets should end on a semicolon.
For many legal experts, ensuring correct automatic numbering is a daily fight with Microsoft Word. Clause9 can ensure that the automatic numbering will always be automatically correct and consistent.
Because Clause9 understands the legal structure of a legal document, it can ensure that cross-references are always correct, even when articles would move around or get dynamically shown or hidden.
Additional features of Clause9
Clause9 is targeted at legal experts that want ultimate control over their documents. It therefore offers a range of additional features not currently offered in Clause9, such as: