Appendix C: Variable Naming Conventions

Whenever possible it is best to use some sort of convention for naming variables in your A2J Guided Interviews®. Using a standard convention is even better. Using a convention helps you keep track of what the variables represent, thus making editing and troubleshooting much easier.

Using a standard helps others also. Through the use of the LHI server, Guided Interviews and templates are made readily available to other organizations. Leveraging and combining the work of others with your own corresponding template or Guided Interview, whatever the case may be, is much easier where variable names are consistent. Furthermore, as time goes on, the possibilities for integration of Guided Interviews with document e-filing and case management system integration increase. Integration with these types of systems involves the transfer of data using XML standards. In the event an XSL transform for a particular A2J Guided Interview has already been built to correspond to a particular system, a lesser amount of modifications to that transform will be necessary as additional A2J Guided Interviews are designed, so long as those Guided Interviews have used the same naming conventions for variables.


Suggested Variable Naming Convention


The examples in this Appendix were formulated by consulting formats developed by Marc Lauritsen of Capstone Practice Systems and Jeff Hogue of Legal Aid of Western New York; the LSXML schema, a standard for exchanging information between different law-related software; and, some peer review by other developers.


Variable Formatting


In general, variable names are formatted with a capitalized first word, normal spaces, and then two capital letters at the end. These two capital letters tell everyone what kind of variable it should be: Text, Number, Multiple Choice, etc. For example, the variable you assign to capture the client’s first name should be called [Client name first TE]. TE stands for “text”. If you use a proper noun, though, capitalize the proper noun, e.g.,   [Landlord is Massachusetts corporation TF].


Variable Suffix


The variable types and corresponding suffix conventions you will use most often in A2J Guided Interviews® are:


Variable Suffix

Variable Type




Use for the vast majority of variables. Numbers are usually stored as text variables unless used to calculate something.

Ex: Client name first TE or Client postal code TE





Multiple Choice

Use when you want the end-user to pick a single answer from a list or series of “radio buttons”. (Note: Use true-false variables when you want to allow the end-user to select more than one choice from a list.)

Ex: Client state MC



Use when a specific date is captured.

Ex: Client birth date DA



Use when the result can only be true or false.

Ex: Print bad conditions factsheet TF might be set in an A2J Guided Interview® to decide whether or not to print a certain factsheet with the output.



Use when the variable is used in a math equation.

Ex: Client asset amount NU



Used in HotDocs® templates, NOT in A2J Guided Interviews®. It is most often used to combine other variables.

Ex: Client name full CO

Can be set to equal = Client name first TE + Client name middle TE + Client name last TE


Community Standard Examples

The following are examples of variables widely used within the document assembly community.

Client Information


The Client is the person who will be filing the pleading, or the “person served.”  Only programmers see this variable name, so we use Client, understanding that we don’t mean a client of an attorney.

Variable Name


Client name first TE


Client name middle TE


Client name last TE


Client suffix MC


Client address line1 TE


Client address line2 TE


Client city TE


Client county MC

(If client might be from another state, this can be Client county TE)

Client state MC

There is a standard external file called ussstates.xml

Client postal code TE

This is the zip code, but postal code matches the xml lingo.

Client address CO

HotDocs® variable that combines the address info

Client phone home TE

Today, cell and home phone are often the same

Client phone cell TE


Client phone alternate TE

Phone that belongs to family or shelter

Client marital status MC

We need a standard list of status choices.

Client mailing address line1 TE


Client mailing address line2 TE


Client mailing city TE


Client mailing state MC

There is a standard external file called ussstates.xml

Client mailing postal code TE


Client birth date DA


Client email address TE


Client has children TF

True/false variable that is set to true if client has children. Generally, this should mean client has children in the financial household, since this variable might be used for eligibility in some interviews.

Client is married TF


Client primary language TE


Client ethnicity TE


Client citizenship MC

USA, for example. Oddly, LSXML uses a 3 letter code for countries. A standard list is needed.



Adverse Information


When there is only one opposing party, use Adverse as the tag for the opposing party. If you have more than one opposing party, identify them by role: [Undertenant name last TE], etc. We are not creating standards for all of these potential roles.


Variable Name


Adverse name first TE

Could be the soon-to-be-former husband

Adverse name middle TE


Adverse name last TE


Adverse suffix MC


Landlord1 first name TE

If it is possible to have two adverse parties, identify by role. (Linda and Lenny Landlord both brought the eviction proceeding)

Landlord2 first name TE



Spouse Information


Variable Name


Client is married TF and     Client is divorced TF      

If using a multiple choice option, then use:                                           Client marital status MC

Marital status.

Spouse name first TE

The spouse name variables follow the same convention as the client names.

Spouse birth date DA


Spouse gender MC


Spouse information dialog CO

HD only


Child Information


Variable Name


Children NU

Number of children in the household. If you need a different count, such as minor children or children not in foster care, use a different variable.

Child name first TE

Same convention as the client name variables.

Child gender MC


Child state MC


Child birth date DA


Children dialog title CO

HotDocs® only



The default questions in a new Guided Interview in A2J Author® use variables according to this convention. Keep in mind, however, that the standard naming convention issue has yet to be settled, and we expect that standards acceptable to most developers will change, even if only slightly, from what is suggested here. As this Authoring Guide is a living document, it will be revised as needed in accordance with standards ultimately accepted by the authoring community. To ‘stay tuned’ to the standards conversation occurring most frequently on the Document Assembly listserv, request a subscription to that list at the following location: