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Stop repeating yourself – build a Microsoft Word template

Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Office for Windows.

Ever get tired of creating the same document type, over and over, from scratch?  Then don’t.  Build a template instead.  A template will have all the basic elements of your document in it (a signature block, a custom header/footer, whatever you need), saving you repetitive effort every time you create a new document.

What’s that?  You don’t know how to create a template?  You’re in luck.  I’m about to build one for myself.  And I’ll even let you watch over my shoulder while I do it.

Here’s how I’d proceed:

  • I’d start a brand-new document.  (You can also take a previously-saved document if you’re looking to make a template for, say, a certain type of discovery requests, etc.  Just remember to strip out anything client-specific.)
  • I’d put in whatever form elements I want to use as “boilerplate.”  I could, for example, put in bare bones of a federal court pleading header, my special table-based “footer trick,” and a form Certificate of Service.

The trick to making a Word document into a template is how you save it. A Word template has the extension .dot in Word 2002 and 2003 or .dotx in Word 2007 and 2010.  To save a document as a template, here’s how you do it in the various versions of Word:

  • Versions 2002 and 2003: Click File, Save As.  In the Save As dialog box, click the arrow next to the Save As Type drop-down and choose Document Template (*.dot).
  • Version 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button (the round button in the upper left-hand corner) and choose Save As.  Choose a location for your template, then choose Word Template in the Save As Type box.
  • Version 2010: Go to the File tab and choose Save As, then proceed as with version 2007.

Now, the next time I create a new federal court pleading, all I have to do is create a new document (File, New in versions 2002 and 2003; Microsoft Office Button, New in version 2007; and File tab, New in version 2010), choosing the template I’ve just created so that I start with a basic layout already in place.

What sort of templates will you be building, now that you know how?

(P.S.: By the way, this trick is also good in any Microsoft Office application.  So go forth and build!)

by Deborah Savadra

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

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