Dorna Moini, CEO of Documate, Created the Time-Saving Tool of Your Dreams
Divorce is emotional, confusing, time-consuming, expensive, and above all else — stressful. While no one can wave a magic wand and make divorce easy, we can (and should!) be cost sensitive and efficient — harnessing technology and modern techniques to save our clients money and time. This interview is part of Divorceify’s Innovator Interviews, a series sharing the stories behind today’s most cutting edge tools and approaches to divorce.
Dorna Moini is a lawyer who got fed up with the routine and paper-heavy parts of legal practice and came up with a creative solution — Documate. Documate’s software empowers lawyers to streamline routine parts of their practice with the creation of customized clickable divorce forms. Divorce professionals could use Documate to gather information before an initial consultation, to automate the collection of court required biographical data, to help clients complete budget worksheets, to guide clients through journaling their emotions, and so much more. Dorna created a tool that is user-friendly, price sensitive, and designed for professionals in solo practice (not just big law firms with big budgets). In this interview, Dorna shares Documate’s story.
What is Documate?
Documate is no-code document automation software. The web-based and mobile-friendly platform allows anyone with template documents or forms to easily create a document assembly workflow that generates their documents.
Users start by setting up their questions (like on Survey Monkey or Typeform). Then, they load their template documents (Word documents, .docx, or PDF forms). And they connect the questions to the documents. We’re built on the powerful Docassemble backend, so customizations are unlimited – you can add jumps, conditions, signature collection, complex calculations, and formatting specifications.
Lawyers can typically set up simple document assembly workflows in less than 10 minutes, and they save up to 90% of the time they previously spent on these documents.
What is innovative about Documate?
We believe in empowering lawyers and professionals to bring their ideas to life. You don’t need a huge IT staff to use our software. Document assembly software is not new – companies like HotDocs and Thomson Reuters Contract Express have been doing it for years. But they assume that you’re a large corporation with a development team. Our software is being used by solo practitioners, mediators, legal aid, and paralegals, just as much as it is by large corporations. We aim to democratize development.
How does Documate help divorce clients or divorce professionals?
Divorce professionals can use our platform to automate their practice, whether it’s divorce court forms, marital settlement agreements, or another document-heavy area.
In short, we allow anyone to create a “TurboTax for Divorce” without needing to write any code.
Then you can share what you create by embedding it on your website or sharing the link with divorce clients in order to automate and speed up the process. Some clients use our platform to send their clients an online intake form, which then fills out all of the initial divorce paperwork right off the bat.
Why did you start your company?
We started Documate to help legal aid, and we still serve that community for free. According to the Legal Services Corporation’s last Justice Gap Report, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans receive inadequate or no legal help. As a lawyer working pro bono with domestic violence survivors, I realized that technology could help bring us closer to closing that justice gap, making the legal system accessible to more citizens. We initially launched a domestic violence platform (under our former name, HelpSelf Legal), which is still being used by legal aid and domestic violence shelters in California.
But then we thought, what if we can help every lawyer do the same thing for any type of case in any jurisdiction. And that’s why we built Documate’s document automation software. Our hope is that it will enable lawyers to provide more legal services to the middle class, who has been left out of fully accessing their rights in the legal system.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
When we started Documate, we knew we wanted to help legal aid, but we didn’t want to rely on grant funding to keep the lights on, so we came up with a product that we knew would be valuable to a broader market. Now our clients span beyond the legal market into areas like medical, finance, and insurance. I particularly urge those who are trying to do good to first find a sustainable model. One of our biggest challenges early on was determining the best structure for the company.
What has been rewarding about bringing your idea to life?
We love all our clients so much, but it’s particularly rewarding to help our legal aid clients. A few weeks ago, I spent all of a sunny Los Angeles weekend helping a legal aid organization create an expungement platform. A week later, I got a group call from their entire floor telling us about how they were able to serve 10x the normal number of clients they serve at their clinic. There’s no better feeling than empowering people who have devoted their careers to public service.
Do you have any advice for others that have an idea for an innovative product or approach, but don’t know where to start?
Start with a problem you’ve experienced. Then, allow yourself to be comfortable with uncertainty and rejection. If you know the problem and need firsthand and have done your user research, you know there’s a market out there for your product. But the beginning is hard. You’ll talk to 100 people so that one will say yes. Listen to their reasons for saying yes or no. And if you become resilient in that process, there will be a turning point where people are knocking on your door instead of the other way around.
How do you bring joy into your workday?
My team and our clients. Our whole team strongly believes in easy-to-use technology as the means to transform the legal system. And a sincere thank you or success story from a client constantly reignites our fire as we expand.
And of course, our office pup Lola, a rescue bull terrier. We think she’s really just here for the free snacks and paid leave that are standard with a startup job.
Do you have a mantra or piece of advice you have received that helps you get through difficult times?
After Disney World was completed, a visitor said “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” the creative director of Disney Studios replied “He did see it. That’s why it’s here.”
“Rebooting Justice” by Benjamin Barton and Stephanos Bibas – I recommend it to everyone. It presents heartbreaking data on the current access to justice crisis. But it also provides hope with several proposals on how we can use technology and institutional reform to support low- and moderate-income people navigate the legal system (with parallels to the health care system).
I also loved “Behind the Cloud,” Marc Benioff’s book about building Salesforce, because of the similarities between their platform as a service and our plans for workflow management. And, because he’s a genius at marketing.
Favorite TV shows?
I didn’t have a TV until this year, and the only TV I’ve watched in the past year is a few episodes of Chef’s Table. But my amateur tip: Watch the episodes on Milk Bar or N/Naka. They make me hungry and inspire creativity and ambition at the same time.