Category Archives for "Featured"

7 The 6 Best Reasons to Use Styles

(Note: this post was originally published July 16, 2015.)

I had a good conversation with Sam Glover on the Lawyerist podcast recently about stuff I wish lawyers knew about Microsoft Office. It was a chance to say some things about how well (read: badly) many law offices use Microsoft Office.

One of those items on my ideal law firm training agenda was Styles. Sam and I are pretty much in agreement on why Styles is an essential Word skill. It’s so baked in, you can’t possible NOT use Styles, but very few Word users in my experience really use that feature well.

That part of the conversation was going pretty well. Then, at around the 13:08 mark, Sam asked me, “What’s the number one reason that lawyers ought to use Styles?”

And I froze. Then I mumbled something about getting all your level-three headings to update all at once.


So, because I can do a do-over on my own blog, here are six reasons I think you really ought to up your Styles game sooner than later.

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2 Table of Authorities – The Ultimate Guide

It’s the one legal profession-specific feature in Microsoft Word. And, judging from some of the requests I receive from my newsletter readers, it’s also one of the most intimidating. It’s the dreaded Table of Authorities.

(Cue: Scary music)

In my experience, few things strike more fear into the hearts of legal support staff than having to put out a brief with a Table of Authorities. (Close second: Table of Contents) I suspect the bad rap TOAs get has more to do with how seldom most people have to deal with them (and thus, how unfamiliar they are) than with any real complexity of the feature itself. In other words, you can do this. And I’m going to help you break this down, step-by-step, starting with marking your citations.

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19 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!

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Formatting Autocorrect Entries

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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5 Make up for your bad typing with AutoCorrect

I’ll admit it: I am not a world-class typist. I can do about 85-90 on a good-to-average day, but years of working with word processors has made my error rate a little dodgy.

And I’ve noticed, over the years, that no matter how much typing practice I get, there are a few words I misspell (really, mistype — I actually do know how to spell them!) frequently. That annoys me. A lot.

But taking the advice of my fellow blogger Vivian Manning, I’m going to stop obsessing about typos and let the computer do more of the work for me. Because if the machines can do more work, why not let them? And because not many people know how to get Microsoft Word to correct their common typos, I’m going to show you how. (Because I want you to do less busywork, too!)

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2 Using Autotext to deal with repetitive text

If you’ve ever typed a really long set of discovery answers/objections, you’ve seen language like this:

“[Party] objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague, ambiguous, immaterial, irrelevant, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence …”

In fact, every attorney I know has his/her own boilerplate discovery objections — full paragraphs containing every possible objection one can make to a discovery request.

You don’t want to type that over and over and over again for 37 different discovery requests, do you?

Good.  I don’t want you to, either.  So I’m going to show you how to get out of it.  Without quitting your job.

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31 Reader Question: How to automatically number your discovery requests … in 5 keystrokes

If your law firm does litigation work, you’ve probably prepared lots of discovery. And you may have wondered if there’s any way you can (a) avoid typing the phrase “Interrogatory No. X” in Microsoft Word over and over again and (b) get that X to be an automatically incrementing number.

If so, the answer is, yes, you can!

One of the reasons I love reader questions is that the best ones get me flipping through my reference books, scouring the Internet, and testing, testing, testing, trying to find a solution to a problem I’ve been wondering about myself (but never got around to examining).

Such was the case with this reader question:

I’ve been searching for the best way to create auto numbering for discovery requests: dare I say in WordPerfect I had the most amazing macros that used “counter” and creating a set of discovery was a snap. I’ve struggled to find something workable in Word. Some people use Discovery Request No. X – Interrogatory; others use Interrogatories No. X, Requests for Production No. X, Requests for Admission No. X throughout a set of discovery. There has to be a way to do this in Word, and I’ve tried several different approaches, none of which worked out that well. Would you please steer me in the right direction? Thanks very, very much.

I tossed back a rather glib answer about using the AutoNumLgl field code to number the discovery requests, and she threw in this little wrinkle: her attorneys like to play mix-and-match with their discovery. In other words, they may put in a couple of interrogatories, then throw in a related request for production, then another interrogatory, then a request for admission that’s related to that interrogatory.

Um. Okay. So they’re going to need three numbering sequences operating independently. Back to the drawing board.

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7 Building reuseable Microsoft Word footers

One of my coworkers called me — for, like, the umpteenth time  — asking me to pull up document 389729 (not its real name) and “do that footer thing” (a.k.a. my famous footer trick, wherein I insert a three-column table into a document footer so the document number is on the left, the page number is in the middle, and maybe the date/time stamp for the latest draft is on the right).

My “footer thing” is getting to be really popular around the office, and I’ll have to show it to you sometime.  But there’s a way around having to build new footers in documents repeatedly.

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4 Want that “15th day of August, 2012” to self-update? Here’s how

If your documents are anything like the ones I’ve worked on over the years, there’s at least one section (the “Respectfully submitted” or the Certificate of Service in pleadings or the notary acknowledgement, for example) that has this in it:


Dated this the 15th day of August, 2012


If you start drafting the document on the 15th but don’t actually file (or sign or whatever) until, say, the 21st or the 30th or, heaven forbid, sometime next month or year, you’re either going to have to leave blanks for the day, month and/or year while you’re drafting or remember to update all those dates when you finalize the document.

But what if you didn’t have to do either one? What if your document was smart enough to do its own updating, based on the date you saved it last?

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3 The four dates you can embed in your Word documents

One of the most fun discoveries new Microsoft Word users make is the self-updating date. You may already know exactly what I’m talking about: you click a couple of times, and suddenly you’ve got today’s date embedded in your document, and it will update itself every time you open the document.

But what if what you want isn’t necessarily today’s date? What if you need the document to reflect the date it was saved, or printed, or created?

The good news is, you can get any of those with a couple more mouse clicks and a little know-how.

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1 How to Keep Obscure (but Useful) Word Commands in Easy Reach

Believe it or not, even with as many commands as are on the Microsoft Word Ribbon, there are some features that are nowhere to be found. Rather than dig through layers of dialog boxes or try to remember obscure shortcut keys, why not add a few essential (for you) commands to the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar? I’ll show you one example, but you can use this technique for any Word function.

Example Command: Adjust List Indents

Most legal users aren’t really happy with the default indentation of the paragraph numbering feature. Short of configuring your own paragraph numbering scheme, though, there doesn’t seem to be much of a way around it.

You can adjust the default List Paragraph Style’s indents on-the-fly by right-clicking on the paragraph number and choosing Adjust List Indents. But you’d have to know that feature’s there to use it.

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6 How To Add a Style to Quick Styles

Even those who have used Quick Styles frequently don’t know that there are lots more Styles available in Word. Getting one-click access to a Style, though, really requires that it be listed in the Quick Styles gallery (that list on the right-hand side of the Home tab).

If there’s a particular Style that you always want to be available within the Quick Styles gallery (especially one you just created for a particular purpose), here’s how to designate a Style as a Quick Style. Keep reading →

6 Creating new Styles in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word Styles are the most basic building blocks in Word. One of the first things you’ll need to learn after you master the interface and basic formatting is using the Quick Styles listed on the Home tab. Often, though, the Quick Styles don’t contain a particular Style your document needs.

If the default Microsoft Word Styles don’t fully meet your needs (for example, you need one for block quotes), you can create a new one. There are a couple of different ways to do this. I’ll start with what I think is the easiest one first. Keep reading →

1 Using the Clipboard to Multi-Paste

When you’re drafting a pleading (particularly an answer to a complaint or discovery) you probably find yourself using a few of the same phrases over and over. Rather than going back and recopying those snippets repeatedly (or worse, retyping them), use the Microsoft Word Clipboard to quickly access and paste them again and again. Keep reading →

10 Cutting and pasting from WordPerfect (or elsewhere)

We’ve all done it — there’s already a WordPerfect document that you need some text out of (a letter addressee, a section out of a brief, whatever), so you decide to cut-and-paste from WordPerfect into your current Word document.

And the formatting in your Word document goes totally … WAAAAAAHHHH!

Here’s how to avoid that:

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2 Reader Question: How to double indent faster

It was one of those emails that I knew I’d get sooner or later:

When indenting a paragraph for a quote in a motion for instance, is there a way to indent both the left and right margins of the paragraph using a keyboard shortcut? I seem to recall Ctrl+M in WordPerfect, but don’t know of a built-in shortcut for MS Word.

Yeah, I’ve kind of been bummed about that, too.

The short answer is, no. Word didn’t considerately offer up a built-in shortcut key that’ll automatically indent both the right and left margins for an extended quote. I do not know why. It is a mystery for the ages. (Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic.)

But where Microsoft has failed, you can succeed. Here are three suggestions I had:

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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.

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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’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 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.)

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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??Julie

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.

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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.

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