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  • Fixing funky text spacing in Word
  • Making your Outlook emails un-ignorable
  • Autonumbering discovery requests … in five keystrokes!
  • Using and formatting a Table of Authorities or Table of Contents
  • Setting tabs without tearing your hair out
  • Using Sections to customize headers, footers and page numbers

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The 4 Fastest Formatting Fixes I Know

Woman tearing her hair out in frustration

Hands down, the biggest complaint I get is that Microsoft Word seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to formatting. People swear they did nothing more than breathe on their document, and things went completely wonky!

Of course, without actually standing over their shoulder and watching them work, it’s really impossible for me to know exactly what happened. A lot of times, there’s a pretty easy File > Options tweak that could prevent similar snafus from happening again. (And don’t even get me started about why you need to learn to use Styles.)

But in my experience, most people aren’t particularly interested in trying to figure out how it happened. They just want to fix it and move on.

So for that crowd, I’ve put together a two-minute video on the four fastest ways I know to basically nuke your formatting so you can start over. You can basically choose among these:

How to choose among these 4 techniques? Click to find out –>

Copying vertical columns of text in Word

If you’ve ever had information typed up like this:Information typed in tabbed columns… and only needed to copy the stuff out of one column, you’ll love this tip.

Say, for example, you needed to just get the dollar amounts and copy them someplace else.  If you’ve got a whole list of these, you might think you’ll either have to type this up again, or copy-and-paste each amount separately.

Au contraire. Trust me, you’ll love this trick!

[click to continue…]

Referencing the previous paragraph number with SEQ

I’ve been trying to solve a personal problem for a long time.

No, this blog hasn’t suddenly turned “confessional”. No TMI here.

The problem I’m referring to is this:

See that “3” that’s boxed in red above? That’s my problem. I wouldn’t say it’s the bane of my existence, but it still bugs me.

You see, I do a lot of Answers to Complaints in my day job. And I don’t know how you do it where you practice, but in our area, there are always sort of “catch all” paragraphs in the Complaint that we just answer with a standard “yeah, we’re just going to repeat our answer to all the above paragraphs without actually repeating it” statement.

That paragraph in the answer always starts with a reference to Paragraph 1 and ends with a reference to the immediately preceding paragraph. And if I’m using automatic paragraph numbering, that ought to be a breeze, right? If those paragraph numbers are driven by fields (which is all automatic paragraph numbering is), then I should be able to calculate “current paragraph number minus 1”. I’ve learned how to insert the current paragraph number into a paragraph. Why not the previous one?

Except … no. At least not according to the Microsoft MVPs I spoke to:

Click here to find out how I solved it –>

Why do lawyers resist document assembly?

This post was originally published in September, 2015.

If you have any interest at all in the intersection between technology and lawyering, you should really check out this week’s podcast over at Lawyerist, where Lawyerist’s Sam Glover interviews Dennis Kennedy of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Some of the conversation goes where you’d expect—document review, artificial intelligence, technology versus offshoring, what really constitutes “lawyering”, etc.—but then around the 13:37 mark, the conversation turns to a subject near and dear to my heart; namely, document assembly (which Kennedy apparently has had extensive past experience with).

Although Sam’s not entirely convinced of its value (at one point protesting “I am perfectly capable of automating documents, but in my own practice, I almost never bothered, because it would have only saved me 30 seconds”), Dennis Kennedy responds with what I think are some critical insights:

I think you always have to have volume and … repeatability. And so the best thing is to identify where those things make sense. So I sort of have a couple of principles on document assembly I always think about, that have been part of my learning. I think when you say, ‘What I want to do is find a way to generate the finished document all at once,’ I don’t think you can win with that. So my goal was always to say, ‘Can I use document assembly in a way that generates a really good first draft?’ And by taking the standard to that [level], I think [document assembly] can be really helpful. Although you still have to have volume and repeatability.

Kennedy mentions using Word’s Quick Parts to assemble interrogatories, as an example:

Then I also think there’s this other piece of document assembly that in ancient days people used to call ‘point and shoot’ document assembly, where you’d say, ‘I have this clause file‘ (which, you know, a lot of lawyers think they have or have but they don’t really use) … and whether that’s using, you know, the smart insertion (I’ve lost the name of it off the top of my mind, in Word [Ed. note: Quick Parts]) or whatever where I can go, like, BOOM. I just use a hot key or I click a menu option and I pull those standard clauses in, and I can kind of assemble pieces of documents and other things on the fly to customize them because I do have repeatable components even if I don’t have repeatable documents. So if you said, ‘I’m using document assembly, say, for interrogatories or that sort of thing in a litigation practice,’ you can say, ‘Oh, I see how I can use document assembly for the container of those questions and if I could kind of point and shoot to the questions I want to include, then I’m going to have standard approaches, and that gives me that really good first draft that I can work with.’ And I know I have all the basic stuff, so then instead of saying, ‘Have I included all 30 of these questions or have I remembered everything that should go in here based on my memory,’ it’s all in there and you look through it and you say, ‘Oh, in this case, you know what, we need to ask this, we need to do this,’ and then I think you’re adding the value and turning it from a routine exercise into something that’s actually creative for you and helpful for the client.

At this point, Sam asks a pointed question: “So, why is that we’re still talking about this, though? Like, why isn’t it more widely used and why can’t we say, ‘Okay, it’s just a tool like any other, and yeah, of course lawyers should use it, and they are’?”

Sam and Dennis (starting at the 19:47 mark) take a stab at answering that question in their interview. But what do you think? Why do we see so little document assembly in law firms nearly three decades after that technology’s introduction? Do you agree that many lawyers’ resistance is rooted in a misguided expectation of what document assembly should accomplish (produce a final draft rather than a first one)? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments (click through to the full post here).

Formatting Autocorrect Entries

woman holding question mark

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, reader? Seriously, if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t find out about all sorts of things in Microsoft Office.

Case in point: a reader contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me this:

We recently upgraded from Word 2007 to 2013. In 2007 I had set up an auto correct for the term Id. In 2013 I can’t get the AutoCorrect to underline the term. Any ideas?Sharon

Frankly, I never knew you could format AutoCorrect entries. So I took to the interwebs to investigate.

Sure enough, it’s possible to teach AutoCorrect to correct both the spelling and formatting of an entry. But there’s a trick to it.

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