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Ever Wonder How HotDocs Got Its Name?

Leonard DuCharme

June 01, 2011

For our first blog, we wanted to provide some HotDocs trivia. Over the years, the name "HotDocs" has inspired some interesting comments, to say the least. Here's the story of how we came up with the name:

When Marshall Morrise offered me a job at Capsoft, I was two weeks from finishing grad school. Back then, the company was four guys in a utility closet they'd rented from Folio in north Provo, UT, a stone's throw from Cougar stadium. I was the fifth, wedged in between Brad Halversen to my left and Bill Drew to my right, all of us working on folding tables acquired from a surplus auction. It was a humble beginning.

I was there when the first logo was designed, there when CAPS 1.0 was released, there the day we moved from the closet to an actual office building, and there the day Matt Morrise came up with the idea for a nifty little Windows utility--document automation lite done right inside a word processor. Sounded like an okay idea to me . . . a bridge between CAPS for DOS and CAPS for Windows, but nothing more than that. Let's just say I hadn't yet caught the vision of what was about to happen, which is now documented history.

A tiny part of that history you may not know, though, is how HotDocs got its name, which is something else I witnessed first hand. We were nearing the release of 1.0 and still didn't know what to call it. I had offered a number of great alternatives, my favorite of which was Phoneme (a "phoneme" is the smallest phonetic unit in a language). Didn't bother me that it sounded a lot like phony. I was the only one, though, and got shouted down.

Kent Lundin, the company's marketing thought leader, was the one who imposed order, proposing a formal name selecting process, complete with codified guidelines and rules to which everyone must agree, the most troubling being this: "No matter what name the process yields will become the name of the product, whether anyone actually likes the name or not." Sounded dangerous to me--a trapeze without a net--but I was outnumbered.

It began with a brainstorming session staged in the downstairs marketing room in the Sage Center. We all shouted out names, and among the mundane and strange, Matt Morrise, tossed out "HotDocs." As a group, we narrowed the brainstorming list down to maybe twenty finalists and published a survey for each:

          "On a scale of 1 to 10, how memorable is the name?

          "On a scale of 1 to 10, how descriptive of the product is the name?"

You get the idea.

For each contender, the score was then tallied, and the results were published. Of the surveys completed by all the Capsoft employees, the name HotDocs had not come out on top a single time. It had barely nosed into the top three on a handful of surveys. But when all the scores from all the surveys were added together, HotDocs was the winner. "There has to be a mistake," was a common refrain, followed quickly by "let's do it over."

Larry Farmer, a Capsoft founder and one of the earliest pioneers in the field of document assembly, was concerned that the name sounded too much like hot dogs.

But Kent insisted that was a good thing: "They may malign it. They may make fun of it. But they'll never forget it," was his point. And the thing is, Kent was right. Two years later, HotDocs was one of the most recognized brands in the US legal market, and today its reach extends far beyond that.

Comments

As I remember the top choice was SmartDocs, but it was already registerd by someone else.

That's interesting Matt. I had no idea.

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