2 Reader Question: Getting changes to the Normal template to “stick”

In response to my last post, I got this comment from a reader:

I am so tired of having to fix [settings] with every document. I also clicked on “new documents based on this template” and it did not stick on future documents. I was able to change my default font and that ridiculous 1.15 line spacing. I work in academia and they still always want 1″ margins all the way around and I got so frustrated with Word’s default left and right margins of 1.25. I finally fixed that but I cannot remember how I did it.

Dolores hits on an important point: clicking the radio button next to “new documents based on this template” in the Modify Styles dialog box doesn’t always make the change “stick” to the Normal template, so you’re sometimes stuck revising settings like default paragraph spacing and margins repeatedly. (I say “sometimes” because whether or not a setting sticks seems to be pretty random.)

So why does this happen, and what can you do about it? Keep reading →

8 Why using Microsoft Word’s Normal template is like matching socks

My brother's a pretty frugal guy. While I'm the sort of person who just walks in the store and buys something, he comparison shops, uses coupons, haggles with sellers, and just basically gets a better deal than I do. (He's the family accountant. I'm the writer. It makes sense.)

So when he told me he'd thrown out all his socks and bought all new ones, I thought he'd lost his mind. Until he told me why.

Basically, he spent money to save time.

You see, he'd gotten frustrated with one part of his morning routine: matching socks. He'd sift through his sock drawer, one sock in hand, looking for another one just like it. Morning after morning, looking for a sock with the same color, same markings, same brand.

Until he just got fed up, threw the whole lot of them out, and bought a bunch of new ones, all the same brand. (He still got a good deal.) Now he just goes to the drawer, grabs two blue (or two black) socks out, and he's done.

What the blazes do socks have to do with Microsoft Word?

Keep reading →

The “I’m SO not a computer person” guide to computer security

Computer security used to be something you left up to professionals. You know, you hire an IT guy or gal, and they take care of securing everything for you.

That was back in the day when your boss provided all your technology. You used a computer someone else owned hooked up to someone else’s network, then went home to watch a TV that had a tube in it. Those days are over.

They’re over because you’re bringing your own smartphone and/or tablet to work and toting a laptop home and using the now ubiquitous “cloud”. Welcome to the age of BYOD.

All this means you need to take more responsibility for securing your data, especially if you have an ethical responsibility for client data (which, if you’re a legal professional, you do).

Fortunately, data security is not as daunting as it sounds, especially when someone like Sam Glover at Lawyerist breaks it down for you in his new guide, 4-Step Security Upgrade.

And when I say Sam “breaks it down”, I mean it. This 35-page guide shows you how to do the essential stuff in under an hour, including:

  • Encrypting the files on your hard drive (I didn’t know it was that easy)
  • Surfing safely on wi-fi (if you don’t know what “sniffing packets” is, then I suggest you don’t go to Starbucks again until you do)
  • Using two-factor identification for logging into key accounts (these days, you need more than a password to be safe)
  • Managing your passwords (that’s plural, people — do NOT use one password all over the flippin’ Internet!)

Lawyerist’s 4-Step Security Upgrade is a critical investment in peace of mind — yours and your clients’. Click here to check it out.
(No, I don’t make any money off this. Sam’s a friend, and this is a good resource. I did, however, get a free review copy.)

1 The 4 Biggest Time-Saving Microsoft Word Features You’re Probably Not Using

Learning Microsoft Word can seem a daunting task. So many features! Where’s the best place to start?

If you want to boost your productivity in Microsoft Word fast, you really need to master these four features first. Learning how to leverage these can shave seconds or even minutes off repetitive daily tasks, which adds up to getting more work done daily (or even leaving the office at a decent hour!).

Here are the four best areas for you to spend a little self-education time, before you’re subjected to one of those legal technology audits you keep hearing about.

Keep reading →

5 7 Ways To Screw Up A Table of Authorities

When I first got my Roku box a few years back, I spent an embarrassing amount of time binge-watching the dizzying array of streaming video I suddenly had access to. One of my early obsessions was a video series on Chow.com’s Roku channel called “You’re Doing It All Wrong“. (I do love me some food porn.) Thanks to that series, I now know what’s wrong with most people’s mashed potatoes (not boiled long enough), how to pan fry bacon properly (look for the bubbles), and why sushi chefs laugh at me (only noobs dunk the entire roll in soy sauce and then cram it in their faces with chopsticks).

I’m pretty sure the owners of Chow.com have the phrase “You’re Doing It All Wrong” trademarked or something; otherwise, I’d steal that phrase for an article series. And I know just where I’d start: Tables of Authorities.

Microsoft Word’s Table of Authorities feature isn’t exactly known for its user-friendliness. Nobody’s ever said the word “automagically” about it. And more than one enterprising software vendor has found a lucrative niche making an easier-to-use interface for TOAs.

I’ve had to use this feature myself on several occasions recently, and I’ve rediscovered seven ways you can easily (and thoroughly) screw up a Table of Authorities. (Need a TOA refresher course? Click here to learn how to mark citations, then click here for instructions on building the TOA itself.)

Keep reading →

Reader Question: How to get footnote citations to show up in Table of Authorities

Julie contacted me recently with a real puzzler:

I am working in Microsoft Word 2010.  For some reason when I am marking a citation, it will not include the case from a footnote in the Table of Authorities.  It will pick up a statute or rule, but not [a case from] the footnote.  Any suggestions??

Ooooookaaaaay. Something’s really amiss here. And what made it more puzzling was, when I tried to replicate her problem on my own computer, mine worked just fine. (I actually kind of hate when that happens, because then I really feel stumped.)

Turns out, though, this a real problem that Microsoft knows about. Fortunately, it has a real solution.

Keep reading →

Easy-to-read file folder labels for trial exhibits using Mail Merge

One firm I’ve been working with has been in “trial mode” for a couple of weeks now. Thankfully, I wasn’t directly involved (I’ve seen the looks on the faces of the people who are, and I don’t want that), but I did pitch in where necessary. And “where necessary” included helping a secretary with making file folders for 100+ trial exhibits. The one requirement the paralegal had was the trial exhibit numbers had to be large and easy to read.

Thankfully, the trial exhibit list that was e-filed with the court was done in the form of a table. So that made it easy to use Mail Merge to create the labels, because we had a ready-to-use data source.

Keep reading →

How to recycle your [legal] briefs safely

In my observation, if there’s one thing you lawyers love, it’s repeating yourselves. No, not when you speak (except when you walk around the office repeating the same war story about your latest court appearance to anyone who’ll listen); it’s when you write. Y’all recycle so much old material from briefs and other documents, it puts Ed Begley, Jr. to shame.

Some of the problems with all that cutting and pasting are pretty obvious—another client’s name being left in (oops) or funky formatting that doesn’t match the new document. But others aren’t. What sort of evil stuff lurks in that text you just pasted over from your last magnum opus? And how’s it going to undermine your next court filing?


This post won LitigationWorld’s Pick of the Week Award 7/15/2014!
Click the image above for more details.

Keep reading →

Keeping Word Commands at Your Fingertips

When Microsoft Word 2007 came out, users lamented the introduction of the Ribbon. Replacing the familiar menu system of Word 2003 with a newfangled, visually-oriented system of buttons and drop-downs went over like the proverbial lead balloon. It all came down to one thing: "How am I ever going to find anything on here?"

Nobody wants to waste time scrolling through a menu system looking for commands or functions they use frequently. Here, I'll show you three methods for keeping your most common commands within easy reach so you can create documents faster and with less frustration.

Keep reading →

Google Docs user alert: You can now use Pleading Paper there, too!

Quick shout-out to The Droid Lawyer, who has somehow come up with a working template for pleading paper for Google Docs. It’s specific to California, and it costs $10 (as of the time I’m hitting the Publish button), but if you have to do pleadings in this format, it’s arguable worth more than $10.

Of course, if you’re sticking with Microsoft Word, you can always take my free Pleading Paper e-course (which includes links to the current Microsoft templates and shows you how to use and alter them) by clicking on this link right here.

Buy a plugin, help a child

I’ve been an admirer of Standss – Outlook Productivity for a while now, but I wasn’t aware of their pro bono work, particularly the project with a children’s hospital. Standss has developed a database to help ensure that children in Fiji affected by Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) get the antibiotics they need (provided free by the Fiji government) on a regular basis. The database helps track an affected child’s course of treatment by reminding parents that antibiotics are due:

We approached the Children’s Hospital in Suva with the idea of creating a database that allows the hospital to track compliance down to the individual patient level. The aim of the database is to identify children who are not complying with the medical treatment necessary to control the disease. This enables the hospital to identify which patients are missing injections and to intervene early by calling their parents.

The first version of the database has already been developed is currently being trialled at the main Children’s Hospital in Suva. We hope to eventually link this system to mobile phone companies so that parents get reminded of as their children’s appointments (by SMS text) are due. This should further increase compliance while reducing the workload of the overworked nurses and doctors at our hospitals. The data from the database will also be submitted to Government to aid with decision making that will hopefully save unnecessary operations, cost and even lives.

Click here for more information on the project. (You’ll notice, as you scroll down, that these kinds of charitable endeavors are something Standss engages in frequently; other projects including supporting a home for the elderly and helping children with school supplies.)

We’ve spent a lot of time and emotional energy in the United States arguing about health care in recent months, with little to show for it. Here’s an opportunity to support a program that actually seems to be helping children live longer, healthier lives while conserving resources. Find a plugin of theirs that solves your biggest Microsoft Outlook problem and help fund this worthy cause!

5 How to create numbered headings using Styles

I seem to make my best discoveries about Microsoft Office when I’m annoyed. (See my last post, for example.) It’s that kind of annoyance that says, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” For some reason or another, this time it was paragraph numbering. But not the normal kind where you have the paragraph number indented about half an inch on the same line with the start of the paragraph. The document I was working on (a will) had the paragraph number floating centered above the paragraph. While I was drafting the document, I just knew the attorney I was working for would be moving paragraphs all over the place, and I didn’t want to stop to renumber them when he did.


This post won BlawgWorld’s Pick of the Week Award 3/10/14!
Click the image above for more details.

I remembered one of the paralegals I work with telling me that it was possible to embed numbers in Styles. So I went nosing around in Styles, looking to modify my Heading 1 so that it had an automatically incrementing Arabic numeral and a period, like so:

Keep reading →

16 In praise of text expansion (or, how to keep from typing the same thing 100 times)

Here in the last several weeks, I've been busy. And when I say "busy", I'm not talking your run-of-the-mill "I have a nice steady flow of work" level of busy. I'm talking "so overloaded I'm farming out scut work to other people", "oh my gosh, I just had that piece of paper in my hand a moment ago", "I wonder if I can still get that Xanax prescription filled" level of busy. It was insane.

So naturally, I was looking for every time saver I could get my hands on. If something could save me even a few seconds (especially on a repetitive task), it was worth it.

One of the things I found myself doing was typing the same long complicated phrases over and over and over again. I don't know about you, but I don't exactly love typing. (As proof of that, I'm using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this article. I'm all for letting the computer do the work.) And when my brain gets a little overloaded and the pace starts getting on my nerves, my already sketchy typing skills go to pot. So I have no patience whatsoever for typing the same long complicated phrase 100 times.

So if you find yourself stuck typing "Brief in Support of American Amalgamated Consolidated Widget Corporation's Second Amended Motion for Leave of Court to Conduct On-site Inspection" for the umpteenth time, I'm going to show you how to get out of all that repetitive typing. It's a concept called "text expansion", and you don't even need extra software to do it (although there is software that will do that).

Keep reading →

A Complete Novice Explores E-Discovery

I’ve been a technology addict for going on three decades now, starting with a beginner’s programming course on an Apple IIe. I’ve been the one, particularly with law firm environments, who’s ended up teaching others how to use technology. But lately, I found myself bumping up against my limitations in one area: e-discovery.

Considering the way that things are going in the legal field, let alone the larger world, that shouldn’t be too terribly surprising. It’s tough to find anyone these days who doesn’t send most, if not all, of their communications through a smart phone, a tablet, and/or a desktop computer. And who doesn’t have at least one social media account?

In recent weeks, I’ve had to do things like research video codecs, explain how an expert witness could examine a damaged hard drive without altering the data, and interview vendors to see who’s best qualified to mine social media data. Even five years ago, I might never have done any of those things.

One thing I’ve noticed in crawling the Internet looking for information on these topics is how much the various resources assume you already know. (The phone calls with the social media vendors were particularly humiliating for me. I lost track of how many times I said, “I don’t know — I’ll have to get back to you on that.”) That’s why I was grateful to get a heads-up from the folks at TechnoLawyer’s LitigationWorld newsletter on the release of their “Quick Start Guide to Mastering Ediscovery.” When they say this guide is for beginners, they’re not kidding. It assumes nothing about your prior knowledge of technology. Even the most basic terms like “byte” are defined (handy for conversations with the, ahem, technology-challenged among your co-workers).

The “Quick Start Guide to Mastering Ediscovery” is free to TechnoLawyer members. Click here to subscribe to their incredibly valuable free newsletters and get free access to the Guide in the TechnoLawyer member library.

(Photo credit: Tim Simpson http://www.flickr.com/photos/timmy2s/8331089314/# under Creative Commons license)

2 Reader Question: How to embed the current paragraph number in your text

One reader who works in insurance defense law (a woman after my own heart — so do I) asked me this question recently:

In a case where I am automatically numbering the beginning of each paragraph (sometimes up to 100)...and then have to refer to the same paragraph number in the text (e.g., 1. Deny the allegations contained in paragraph "1"), how can I get the number in the text to match the corresponding number of each specific paragraph so that if I have to delete a paragraph, I will not have to go into every paragraph to change the text to say responding to paragraph"2" to correspond with the actual numbered paragraph? I know it has something to do with using fields in the text.

Again, a woman after my own heart. She's trying to automate something to minimize the amount of repetitive editing she'll have to do as the document changes. I like people who think ahead like that.

And she's right: it does have "something to do with fields in the text." But which one is appropriate here? The answer may surprise you ... and you might find a use for it in your own documents, too.

Keep reading →

Reader Question: Copying WordPerfect footnotes to Microsoft Word

You know how I’m always telling you that the best way to get your old WordPerfect text into a new Microsoft Word document is to just copy it over? Well, that’s not always the case. Sometimes Microsoft Word doesn’t “translate” WordPerfect text into just the right Microsoft Word equivalent.

Take, for example, the problem posed by this reader:

When using footnotes in a document, if I copy footnotes from WordPerfect and insert them into a Word document, the numbers do not change. Is there any way to make the numbers follow the number sequence in the document. Sometimes there are as many a 100 footnotes with dozens of different numbers — which need to be dealt with individually. Is there any way to make the numbers change and follow sequence at one time? I’ve tried everything including Ctrl-A (in the footnote draft, in the body of the document), but nothing works.

It took me a few minutes of experimenting, but I came up (I think) with the perfect solution. It’s one you’ll need in your toolbox if you ever have to copy footnoted content from old briefs, etc.

Keep reading →

2 Why hanging indents are beautiful things

Okay, The Guru has a confession to make: I used to be afraid of hanging indents.

This, of course, is silly. Of all the things in the world there are to be afraid of — snakes, heights, public speaking, thermonuclear war, global economic meltdowns — hanging indents are pretty innocuous. But I did, until fairly recently, go through a period where I avoided doing hanging indents because I kept getting confused by them. (More on that later.)

Some of you are asking, “What is a hanging indent?” It’s a style of paragraph indentation that has the first line flush with the left margin but indents all of the subsequent lines in the paragraph, like so:


(If you had to write term papers in APA Style in college, you recognize the format.)

Now you’re asking, “So what’s so scary about a hanging indent?” and “Why should I care about ’em?” Let me explain.

Keep reading →

How to start an autonumber sequence at >1

Recently, I’ve gotten several questions from users who love the paragraph autonumbering technique illustrated at my post “How to automatically number your discovery requests … in 5 keystrokes,” but they need to start the numbering sequence above “1”.

So, I’ve updated my original post at the bottom to show everyone how to use the “/r” switch to start the numbering sequence at 2, 3, or whatever number you need.

Click here, then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to check out this new trick!

Announcement: Two bonus lessons added to WordPerfect Lover’s course

In reviewing the WordPerfect Lover’s Guide to Word course, I decided that the course wasn’t really complete without lessons on how to print labels and envelopes. So I’ve added those two lessons as bonuses, bringing the total number of lessons to ten.

What does the WordPerfect Lover’s course teach?

  • Understanding the Microsoft Word Ribbon interface
  • Navigation and Views
  • Creating and saving documents
  • Opening and editing existing documents
  • Character formatting
  • Paragraph formatting
  • Page and document formatting
  • Printing and finishing your document (including metadata cleanup)
  • NEW! Printing envelopes
  • NEW! Formatting and printing labels

All current and future course enrollees who complete the first eight lessons have access to the two new lessons at no extra charge! Just my way of doing some continual improvement of the offerings here at Legal Office Guru.

For more information about the course, click here. If you’re already enrolled for the course, go to your Account page (click here) and log in to see your new lessons.
(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/floeschie/4345518893/)