Legal work requires a significant amount of “form filling.” This tends to be incredibly mundane work, on the same level as watching paint dry. But it’s necessary. You could try to push it off to your clients, but they’ll probably get confused and not know what to fill out. After all, they hired you and paid good money for this very reason. Wouldn’t it be nice if PDFs could be filled out automatically by software? Well, it turns out they can. Here’s how to automatically fill out PDF forms in Lexicata.
How to Automatically Fill Out PDF Forms in Lexicata
Lexicata provides a seamless process for capturing data, storing it, merging it into a PDF, and getting the PDF signed by a client via our online form builder and e-signature integration with HelloSign.
In other words, you can use our system not only to fill out PDF forms automatically, but also capture the data you need to input into the PDFs beforehand. To show you how this works, we will walk through the complete process of getting an example HIPAA release form filled and signed out by a client.
Here is what the original PDF looks like:
Step 1: Set Up Your Custom Fields
Before doing anything with the actual PDF, the first step is to create custom fields in your database for the fields you will need to fill in on the PDF form.
For the HIPAA form in this example, you can see there are fields for the patient’s name, date of birth, and social security number, as well as the name and address of the health provider releasing the records.
Names and addresses of clients are already fields in the database by default, but you can create your own custom fields to store the other pieces of information by going to your custom fields page in settings. Here’s how to create a new custom field:
Some fields are best to be organized under the “Contact” and some under the “Matter.” Both types of fields can be inserted into PDF forms, but how you configure your fields will depend on your specific use case.
Generally, contact fields should contain information that is associated with the actual client (things that will never change), while matter fields should be details pertinent to the particular case (which could change if they were to have another case in the future).
Here’s what your custom fields will look like once they have been created:
Step 2: Build An Intake Form to Capture the Data
This step is technically optional. You could just fill out the custom fields yourself, and then merge them into the PDF. However, eliminating data entry can save you a lot of time and money, so we would recommend automating this data entry with our online intake forms.
Using Lexicata’s form builder, you can build an online intake form that has all the required data fields for your HIPAA form. Just click on a field type from the left sidebar to add a question, making sure that the question type you choose matches up with the custom field type (e.g. a “Date” question can connect to a “Date” custom field).
Now that you have an intake form to capture the data you need, you can send it out to the client and have them fill it in for you. This will automatically populate the client and matter information with their answers.
In a way, the client really is filling out the PDF form for you, but just from a more user-friendly (and less error-prone) interface.
Step 3: Build A Document Template from the PDF
Now that we have a way to capture the data (the intake form), and a place to store it (the custom fields), the next step is to set up the PDF Template which will be populated with this data.
This process is easy using Lexicata’s document template editor. Simply upload the PDF and select the fields you want to add to it using the checkbox options.
Next, you will add blank text fields to the PDF using HelloSign’s embedded template creation process (the HelloSign software is built into Lexicata and provided for free with a Lexicata subscription). Simply click to add the fields to the PDF, and then you can drag and drop to position them and resize them if necessary.
Make sure to configure each field so that it says “Lexicata fills it out” (i.e. it will be automatically populated with data from your custom fields). Then map each text field to the appropriate custom field by choosing an item in the dropdown labeled “What text goes here?”.
With your text fields in place, you will also want to add a signature field for the client to sign, and a date field. The final version should look something like this:
Step 4: Send the Intake Form to Capture the Data
Lexicata enables you to send out an intake form via email in just a couple of clicks. The client can then fill it out, and upon submission, the custom fields will be populated with data instantly. Here’s what the intake form looks like for the client:
And here is what the data looks like when it gets submitted back into Lexicata:
Step 5: Merge the Data Into the PDF and Send It for Signing
Finally, now that you have all the data you need stored in the database, you are ready to merge it into the PDF HIPAA form template we created in step 3.
Click “Prepare Document” to start the drafting process, and choose the HIPAA form as the template you want to use. Also, be sure to select the appropriate contact and matter so that the correct data gets merged into the fields.
As soon as you click the “Draft” button, the PDF template will be opened in HelloSign, and it will be populated with the data stored in your custom fields. You can add additional text or signer fields if you’d like at this point, but otherwise you will just click the “Continue” button in order to email the document to the client for e-signing.
Once they have signed, you will receive back an executed, fully filled out version of the PDF via email, and it will also be stored under the matter in Lexicata.
Best of all, now that you have set it up, you can re-use this intake form and PDF template to generate unlimited HIPAA release forms for new cases in the future. It’s as easy as that!
Hopefully this feature can make life slightly easier for you and your staff, freeing up more time for higher value activities than filling data into forms. If you have any questions, leave a comment below!