I've gotten a fair number of questions from readers about how to format pleadings with line numbers down the left, commonly known as Pleading Paper. Typically, they sound something like this:
Okay, okay, I get it, I get it! Clearly, my standard reply (which I used so often that I actually created an entry in Quick Parts in Outlook for it) isn't getting the job done. So, while I would love to create a custom template (like I did for that last person above) for each and every one of you, there just aren't enough hours in the day!
So, in lieu of becoming a template factory, I'm going to show you how to make some common adjustments to
those musty old the latest Microsoft templates (the 24-line template, the 25-line template, the 26-line template, the old 28-line template, the 2013 28-line template, or the 32-line template) all by yourself. And if you don't see your particular question addressed in this series, by all means leave it in the comments at the end, and I'll add the answer. Update: Apparently, not so "musty and old" anymore! It looks like Microsoft has updated the pleading templates for versions 2007 and 2013. They also have 26-line and 32-line versions. I've updated the links above so they point to the new versions (the old ones no longer exist).
And Another Update: What Microsoft giveth, Microsoft also taketh away. It seems they don't supply these templates anymore. Fortunately, I had downloaded some of them the last time I encountered them, so the links should work now. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for alerting me to the change.
Since I don't work in California or any other jurisdiction that requires Pleading Paper formats, I'm not exactly an expert on all the ins and outs of the formatting requirements. However, some common themes are evident:
- Most have line numbering down the left margin
- Some have one (and occasionally two) vertical lines down the left margin just to the right of any line numbers
- Some also have a vertical line down the right margin as well
- Some of these vertical lines extend the full height of the page; some only to the height of the main text (excluding headers and footers)
- The number of lines that are numbered varies
- Some formats have line numbers that extend into the footer; most do not
- The line spacing is almost invariably funky (like, it can't just be double-spaced, it has to be 22.75 points or something)
In short, every time I look at Pleading Paper, I have a bad flashback of my one experience back in the late 1980s of formatting a U.S. Supreme Court brief. (And, for those of you who may be asking: yes, I did it in WordPerfect.)
The Microsoft Word pleading paper templates</a> that seem to be available mostly date back to the 2003 version of Word. (There's one 2007 version with 24 lines.) Clearly, nobody at Microsoft thinks these are worth updating, and Even though Microsoft has updated the pleading paper templates to 2007 and 2013 versions, they've apparently ditched the previous pleading creation wizard. So we are going to learn how to update these ourselves. (And by "we," I mean you. Because I already have.)
Of course, the 28- and 25-line/26-line/32-line templates work in different ways. (We wouldn't want to be consistent, now, would we?) The line numbers in the 25-line version (as well as the 26- and 32-line templates) are actually embedded in a Text Box placed in the Header. The vertical lines are also placed in the Header. The line spacing in the template is designed to match the line spacing in the Text Box so that the lines of text will align with the line numbers. (Try saying that last part three times fast.)
The old 2003 28-line version (assuming you saved it when it was available) uses Word's Line Numbering feature to place the numbers. And those vertical lines? They're Bar Tabs. (Insert your favorite alcohol-related joke here.)
If you use the template in the way that Microsoft seems to think you should (by simply opening a new document based on the template and then typing into it) the text will align with the numbers just fine. But, as we all know, lawyers love to cut-and-paste from old pleadings, and this is quite often where the formatting fun begins, particularly if the old text is coming from WordPerfect.
And if the court you're practicing in requires something other than those formats, then heaven help you.
First, let's take a look at the typical formatting of the standard templates:
So, to summarize:
- If your entire document including the case style and your signature block will be spaced identically (no switching to single space for any section of your document), then you can start with the old 28-line template and modify according to your needs.
- However, if in your jurisdiction the case style and/or signature block (or anything else) require single spacing, start with the 25-line template, since the numbering on the left side is embedded in a Text Box and therefore independent of the line spacing of the actual document text.
(And for those of you who are interested in using the Bookmarks feature of the 25 line template, click here for a tutorial.)
It's also worthwhile to note that, in some states, law schools and law libraries make templates available online. (See https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/form-pleading-paper.rtf as an example.) Those might give you a better start than the standard Microsoft templates.
Now that you've:
- Learned the two different ways these templates are constructed, and what implications those design decisions have on line spacing; and
- Decided which of the two templates would give you the best starting place
... you're ready to learn how to alter the existing templates to your court's specifications.
In the next lesson in this course, we'll cover:
- Adding/moving/removing vertical lines
- Changing the number of numbered lines (in case your court requires something other than 25 or 28 lines)
- Inserting a case style (here's where choosing the correct template to start with becomes really important!)
- Preventing and/or fixing numbering/text alignment problems
- Extending line numbering into the footer
- Removing line numbering altogether
If you've been just getting by with your current template (or, as one reader noted above, "just reus[ing] old documents to keep the pleading paper formatting"), then click the Next Unit button below to go to the next lesson!