Successful law practices require a great deal of creativity and insightful analysis. However, many legal documents use legal principles and precedents that require similar language. The documents are then customized for the client’s specific circumstances.

Often documents, particularly contracts, contain clauses that are pretty much the same from one to the next. As a result, lawyers often depend on previously drafted documents as a basis for some of their work.

While reusing previous work can be smart and efficient, there are inherent hazards. Let’s look at some common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Voice, Formatting, Grammar and Brand Consistency for a Professional Image

You may not think of legal documents as being part of your law firm’s image or brand, but in fact, anything seen by clients or the public is part of your brand.

Brand is not just limited to your logo or the style of your website. Each firm should develop a consistent voice and a style. If you copy and paste from Office documents you didn’t draft, you will want to both rewrite and reformat them to match your firm’s usual style and language.

Be particularly careful when cutting and pasting from email, because email programs can drastically alter formatting, even if you are copying from an email that you yourself wrote.

Grammar discrepancies can also trip you up when you copy and paste clauses. For example, if the previous contract referred to two people and the current contract refers to one, it’s easy to make grammatical mistakes.

Legal Document Metadata and How to Delete It

You may think you can avoid formatting and style issues by starting with a previously penned document, stripping out the language you don’t want, leaving in a few clauses, and writing new language where appropriate.

However, this just creates a different hazard: metadata. It is dragged from the old document to the new one, whether it’s in Word, PowerPoint, Excel or even editable PDFs.

It doesn’t matter if you delete everything in a 20-page document except one golden clause – if you don’t take the steps to remove the metadata, it will still be lurking underneath. Metadata that could remain includes author, date, firm name and more. This can be particularly embarrassing if the metadata refers to another firm.

Related post: We give you three reasons why leaving metadata in your documents could be dangerous for your firm.

Removing Metadata from a Word, Excel or PowerPoint File

Microsoft Office gives you a way to delete a lot of hidden data:

  • Open the Word document, Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation and open the File
  • Make sure you are in the Info
  • To the right, you will see some rather large boxes and one will be labelled Check for Issues.
  • To the right of that is text that says Inspect Document in Word, Inspect Workbook in Excel or Inspect Presentation in PowerPoint.
  • Click Check for Issues and then click Inspect Document underneath – a long list of the types of data you can inspect will appear.
  • Check the box next to each type of data you want to permanently delete.
  • Click Inspect, and after the process is complete, click Remove All.
  • Save your work.

This process will permanently remove all the selected inspected information from your document.

Alternative Method of Removing Metadata from Word, Excel or PowerPoint Documents – and PDFs

An alternative method to delete metadata from an Office document or to delete metadata from a PDF is to do the following:

  • Locate the file in Windows Explorer.
  • Right click on the file.
  • Locate Properties near the bottom and left click.
  • Click on the Details
  • Click on Remove Properties and Information at the bottom of the dialogue box.

Be aware that names of menus may vary somewhat depending on your software version.

How to Delete Hidden PowerPoint Slides

This isn’t metadata, but a PowerPoint presentation may contain slides you don’t see. To delete these, follow these directions:

  • Click the View menu at the top.
  • Now click Slide Sorter.
  • Simply select the slides you would like to delete.
  • Right-click to bring up options, then left click on Delete Slide.

Effective Metadata Deletion Tools for Law Firms

Office documents are not the only documents that contain metadata. If you want to double-check that the metadata you deleted is really gone, including metadata in images and email, you may want to consider one or more of the following tools:

  • com is a free tool that removes metadata from images.
  • Metadata Cleaner helps you to clean unwanted information attached to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
  • Metadact cleans metadata from email and attachments.

Consistency Through Templates

If you’re going to reuse documents, make sure to remove the metadata based on the steps listed above.

However, an easier solution is to use firm-branded templates in order to maintain consistency, as well as avoiding any chance of metadata being left behind from document to document.

Our software solutions include firm-branded templates, as well as many other legal formatting tools to save your firm time and money.