The life of an attorney can be very fulfilling, but it can have many difficult days and nights filled with deadlines creating legal documents, demanding clients, and paperwork. All that work piling up can give Mount Everest a run for its money. It doesn’t help that mainstream media tends to portray attorneys as professionals with an army of legal secretaries or paralegals to help them fight cases.
If you are a solo attorney or work as an associate for a small law firm, you know this could not be farther from the truth. The reality is, attorneys often work alone and put in long hours. In some cases, the pursuit of meeting tight deadlines can affect the quality of the legal documents created.
Unfortunately, creating a legal document that contains typographical, grammatical, or formatting issues can be detrimental to an attorney’s reputation. In extreme cases, can even cost him or her their license to practice law.
In the interest of maintaining your reputation and track record of success as an attorney and legal document professional, here are common mistakes that you should be aware of:
Does 1 through 20 or 50?
Typographical errors negatively impact the clients’ perception of the attorney or legal document professional. It creates an impression of carelessness, reduces credibility, and can hurt the attorney’s or legal document professional’s reputation. Your clients will start to think, “If there are typos in my lawyer’s legal documents, what other mistakes are hurting my case?”
Typographical errors can be often overlooked when creating legal documents. These mistakes can result in misleading or factually inaccurate information being filed with the court. This can be detrimental to a client’s case. Creating legal documents with such errors can be rejected by the court and cause deadlines to be missed. It also costs the attorney or legal document professional more time and money to prepare and file an amendment just to fix the errors.
Crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s
When creating legal documents, the correct use of spelling, grammar and punctuation are imperative to ensure no ambiguity in the document exists. In civil, family and criminal law matters, legal documents can be deemed “unintelligible” by the court and opposing counsel if they contain too many grammatical errors.
Furthermore, if attorneys or legal document professionals submit too many documents containing spelling, grammar and citation errors, they risk being suspended from practicing law or ordered by the court to take legal writing courses.
Get acquainted with that red pen! Manually proofread!
It has become commonplace for attorneys to create legal templates for pleadings, such as contracts, leases, business agreements, and estate planning documents. All too often these documents are used and reused as building blocks for legal documents in newly-acquired cases. However, these templates can often contain minute typographical errors, outdated information, or irrelevant case law that spell-check will not identify.
It is important that the attorney or legal document professional manually proofreads the legal documents to ensure that all materials and information pertaining to the prior case are removed. Pay close attention to party names, case numbers, citations, and case law prior to sending the documents to the client, or worse yet, prior to filing them with the court.
Line them up!
A consequence of recycling legal documents is misaligned text to pleading line numbers. When content is copied from one legal document to another, often the source formatting from the prior legal document creates a misalignment of the text. This causes your legal document to look cramped. While variances exist across different jurisdictions, a legal pleading usually consists of 28 lines, and every line of text should correspond with each line number (i.e. you should not have text in lines 1.5, 2.5, etc.)
Another consequence of recycling legal documents is incorrect margins. Double check to ensure your margins are correct. If you are unsure about the formatting of your legal document, refer to the rules of court for the jurisdiction you are filing in.
For further insight, read our previous blog post “Why Reusing Old Legal Documents is Dangerous to Your Legal Practice” and how legal template software can help your practice.
Invest in Legal Document Software
Creating legal documents just got easier and error-proof!
Typographical and grammatical errors in legal documents can have detrimental consequences to attorneys and legal document professionals; and with today’s technological advancements, there is no good reason to recycle legal documents. These bad habits can lead to legal malpractice and disbarment. It is well worth the financial investment for attorneys and legal professionals to utilize a document automation and assembly software like Infoware’s Word LX™ legal document software to mitigate errors, increase productivity, and most importantly to ensure they are providing their clients with the best legal representation possible.
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Legal document software like Infoware’s Word LX™ provides legal professionals with customized, firm-branded templates and powerful editing tools that are proven to significantly increase productivity and enhance the legal document creation process.
Infoware’s legal document software prompts the legal professional to enter case-specific information and automatically generates the requisite legal document template in Microsoft Word. In the legal industry, where billable hours are “the bread and butter” of a law practice, having document automation software applications like Word LX™ that speeds up the legal document preparation process also increases profitability.