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10 The Document Assembly System Right Under Your Nose

Once you've pretty much mastered the basics of Word—you can create and open documents, you can format text, etc.—you may be wondering, "What's next?" Oh, sure, there are features you can't quite get your head around, tasks you wish Word could do (I'm looking at you, former WordPerfect users), things you wish were easier.

But surely there's more benefit to using a word processor than being able to directly edit the text after your first draft, right?

And yet that's how so many people use word processors in general and Microsoft Word in particular. Like a glorified typewriter.

Even if your document is pretty well-formatted (and doesn't commit some heinous sin like using the Tab key to force a hanging indent), it is possible to move beyond simply viewing a word processing document as a convenient way to edit something later.

Want proof? Here's a scenario for you: You're in the middle of creating a document, maybe some discovery answers (forgive me; I work in litigation, so that's where my brain goes automatically), and you know you're going to need a notarized acknowledgement for your client to swear that the answers are true and correct, blah, blah, blah, and to have his/her signature witnessed and sealed by an authority.

What do you do now? If you're like most of the people I've encountered in law offices, you start racking your brain for the last time you did one of these. Let's see, did we have to do one of these in that Jones v. Smith matter? Oh, yeah. So now you start combing through the document management system to find that prior example. You pull that document up, scroll down 20 pages to find the notary acknowledgement block, select it with your mouse, copy it, switch over to your document-in-progress, paste it, oops that messed up the formatting so you have to fix that, make sure you've pulled out the client-specific information and substituted the correct names, updated the date ...

How long did THAT exercise take you? Contrast that ... with this:

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