Simple Tips To Create Professional Legal Documents Faster
At Infoware our goal is making document creation faster and easier for legal professionals. Our legal document assembly experts have compiled a list of their top 9 best practices when working with Microsoft Word.
These tips will help you save time creating and formatting legal documents.
1. Paste unformatted between documents
When you cut/copy text from a document, you’re not only taking the words with you, but the formatting as well. This include the styles, direct formatting and language codes. So when you paste all of that into your document, it can create issues with your formatting. However, if you paste unformatted, you’re just bringing the text over. Even if you need to reformat that text, you’re in control of the formatting and not the other way around.
2. Start from a template
It may seem simpler to start a new document from an existing one, but it could actually cause more issues. It’s easy to miss document properties, as well as data fields where client information is held, which can lead to confidentiality breaches. Starting fresh from a template ensures that it is a clean document and up-to-date.
3. Use styles instead of direct formatting
Word documents contain styles, whether it’s from native Word or a customized set that is designed for your firm. Styles are easy to apply and control, unlike direct formatting, which can cause problems in a document. Styles allow the user to reformat any size document in minutes, from spacing to font to pagination.
4. Understand your show/hides
Show/hides are non-printing characters that appear in a document, such as paragraph markers (¶) and spaces (·). When the show/hide feature is turned on, these characters control how the document is spaced and paginated. So, if you’re having any document formatting issues, turn on the show/hides to see what your formatting looks like “under the hood” in order to fix the problems faster. Some users even keep them on all the time – it’s the little paragraph marker button (¶) at the top of any Word document.
5. Learn shortcut keystrokes for faster editing
Constantly taking your hands off the keyboard to point and click with your mouse can add up to a lot of time. Save this time for more important tasks by learning basic keystrokes:
- Ctrl + X = Cut
- Ctrl + C = Copy
- Ctrl + V = Paste
- Ctrl + Shift + V = Paste unformatted
- Ctrl + Z = Undo
- Ctrl + Y = Redo
- Ctrl + S = Save
We’ve compiled several advanced keyboard shortcuts for lawyers in a previous post. Even knowing these basic ones will help you become more efficient when creating your legal documents.
6. Optimize the Quick Access Toolbar
The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) sits way up at the top of Microsoft applications. Click the drop-down menu and select Show Below the Ribbon so that it’s more accessible. Right click on any frequently used tools and add them to the QAT – this saves you the trouble of flipping through different ribbons. Customize the QAT by clicking on the same drop-down menu and choosing More Commands.
7. Use Quick Parts for common text
All legal practice areas have common text that is used over and over again. Instead of constantly going back and forth between documents to paste that text in, use the Quick Parts feature. Located under the Insert tab, Quick Parts allows users to store commonly used text by template for easy organization. The Building Blocks Organizer within Quick Parts is a general space to store commonly used text no matter which document is open.
8. Let the document work for you
There are a lot of tools in Word that automate editing functions so you don’t have to worry about them. Important ones for legal professionals are cross-referencing and the table of contents. These tools keep track of the text locations for you so that you don’t need to keep changing the pagination. Some other helpful tools are Keep with Next and Page Break – let these tools automate your document to save yourself time and frustration.
Related Post – In law, the slightest mistakes can have the biggest negative ramifications. Read our post to see how you and your firm can avoid the common errors made when creating legal documents.
9. Use system-based fonts for all templates
While using a non-Microsoft font might look great, not everyone receiving the document will have that font installed. Therefore, it’s important for document standardization to stick with Word’s own fonts.
For more information, stay tuned to the Infoware blog and refer to our resources section. We also urge you to learn more about how our suite of legal document creation software has been tailored to enhance Microsoft Word for legal professionals.