Technology has moved on since the days when legislative drafting was done on a typewriter. Here, Propylon’s Engineering Manager and Chief Technical Architect, Kieran Fitzpatrick, addresses why technological advances in the drafting process should never be at the cost of isolating the user.
Years of experience working with document-centric XML applications has shown us that users want an author-friendly way of creating and modifying content. XML provides the rich structure that is needed for legislation. However, XML tools require that the users learn how to use them first before they can draft the legislation. This can be problematic, time-consuming, and isolating for the users who want the tools to help improve process efficiency and reduce workloads – not add to it! The real productivity benefits in drafting do not come from the editing tool itself, they come from allowing more efficient processes for drafting attorneys to find the information they need and enable them to integrate it into their drafts, bills, amendments, and resolutions as quickly as possible.
When it comes to efficient bill drafting, our customers all agree that the most important thing for them is a tool that is flexible, accurate, and that saves them time both in the short-term and long-term. Some of the most common responses we received from customers were:
“The drafting platform and editing tool should respond to and reinforce the legislature and the existing processes, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and productivity.”
“Above all, we need technology that allows us to work better, faster, and with ease.”
“The most important feature in an editing tool is one that works in conjunction with our existing systems so that processes can be sped up, not slowed down.”
Legislatures can draft many thousands of bills at the start of session and as technology improves the expectation is that bills will increase and amendment turnaround time will reduce. Drafting attorneys need to draft with a tool that is natural and familiar to them. This means a tool that:
Provides a free-form, familiar word processing environment, with constraints only added to match the legislative process
Minimizes the need to focus on tagging or structuring content
Provides ease of access to legislation and supporting documents needed during the drafting process
Enables drafting users’ to spend more time on the legislation itself, rather than managing the drafting tool
Allows for unlimited semantic styling that is required for the legislation based on a suite of pre-designed templates
Accommodates for working outside of normal processes when the rules change
Auto track changes to the law and conflicts
Enable the automation of tasks and increase efficiency
Allows the user to customize the editor without affecting the underlying legislation that is created
Ensures agency and member requests can be more easily managed
Our drafting tool provides all of these features. It allows the legislative content to be extracted, transformed, and integrated into an enterprise-wide legislative platform that minimizes redundant data entry and maximizes data re-use across the chambers and drafting bureau. We provide drafting attorneys with a tool that simplifies the drafting process, allowing drafting attorneys to spend their time focusing on the law. It automatically tracks and reports changes to the legislation, enabling efficient management of the amendment process. It ensures a quick and accurate turnaround for amendment reports and new copies of the bill as well providing advanced search functionality and lookup features such as citation reviews. Our tool is designed around drafting attorneys’ standards so that it requires little effort for them to use it. This ultimately makes the transition to an upgraded solution a smooth and seamless one for drafting attorneys and support staff.
“In designing our drafting system with Propylon, it was important to our drafters that the system reflected our styles, processes, and procedures rather than requiring drafters to adapt to system requirements. Propylon worked hard to learn our business processes and develop a drafting system to meet our business needs and make our processes more efficient. However, while respecting our processes and procedures, Propylon developers also were willing to make suggestions, based upon their experience, for creating efficiency in our processes. The implementation of our drafting system has been effective in streamlining the entire bill drafting process for drafters, proofreaders, and editors. It has moved us toward a paperless process that involves the transitioning of electronic drafts throughout the entire drafting and review process. In addition, it has significantly reduced the amount of staff time involved in the engrossing and enrolling of bills through the automatic generation of amendment instructions from a marked-up version of a bill.”