Documents are at the heart of your law firm’s matters. Leveraging Microsoft Word, you can create, format, and edit your legal documents more efficiently—so you can better meet your deadlines and confidently produce accurate documents.
But to get the most out of Microsoft Word, legal professionals will need to learn some of the most important tips and tricks of the application.
The more you invest in learning new skills to save time in Word, the more opportunities you’ll unlock to save time on everyday tasks, dedicate more time to billable work, and focus on serving your clients.
Here are Smokeball’s top Microsoft Word tips and tricks that every lawyer should know:
1. Word Templates for Lawyers
Streamline your law firm workflows by creating reusable templates. Using templates will make it easier for you to accurately create legal documents. Some lawyers depend on copy and pasting document information but that can lead to errors and confidentiality breaches if you inadvertently fail to remove the previous client’s data. Therefore, templates are a good choice for legal document automation because important data fields can be created as set properties that remain the same from one document to another without exposing another client’s information.
If you’re working with multiple law firm staff, using Microsoft Word templates will ensure consistency of style from one team member to another. By having one template for all lawyers in your office, you keep your branding message consistent and professional. Also, use Microsoft Word system fonts so that there is consistency in all your documents no matter where it is opened. Remember, some people receiving your document may not have any non-Microsoft Word fonts installed on their computer so if you use a special font, they may not see it as you intended.
One final note on templates is, as a busy lawyer, you don’t want to be spending time manually trying to manage and update templates or court forms. Not only is it time-consuming and presents a higher chance of error (or even malpractice) when you are creating a document, but you must spend more time reviewing and looking for mistakes. With Smokeball, you can truly automate Microsoft Word documents and populate all your contact and matter information saved in Smokeball into a legal document template or even into court-approved forms from our extensive automated legal form and precedent library.
2. Unformatted Copy/Paste
Sometimes you need to copy and paste data from one legal document to another even when you’re using templates. Unfortunately, copy and paste may dump unwanted formatting and styles into your document. To avoid dumping unwanted formatting and styles into your document, make sure that you paste using the “text only” option.
3. Utilise Styles
Ever wanted to modify the font or style of text and found it too cumbersome because you need to go through a large document page by page? Using styles will prevent this issue because styles store formatting information so that it can be applied to text with just one click. For example, if you use a “heading” style to format all the headings in your legal document, you can change the style of that text by simply editing the “heading” format in the style’s menu.
With Word Styles, you can set standard formatting for everything, including:
- Body text (i.e., normal style)
- Lists (including bulleted lists and numbered lists)
4. Use Quick Parts
In legal document writing, there is text that is used multiple times. Instead of copying and pasting from one document to another, use the Quick Parts feature under “Insert” in Microsoft Word. This is where you can store commonly used text and access it from any document.
Here’s how to create a Quick Part:
- Press the Insert tab
- Select the Text option
- Select Quick Parts
- Follow the prompts to create your own.
Now your perfectly crafted paragraphs will always be a click away, which will save you time in the future.
5. Master Shortcut Keys
For lawyers, every minute counts. You can save serious time by using shortcut keys in Microsoft Word. Here is a list of the some of the most commonly using shortcuts.
- Ctrl + X = Cut
- Ctrl + C = Copy
- Ctrl + V = Paste
- Ctrl + Shift + V = Paste unformatted
- Ctrl + Z = Undo
- Ctrl + Y = Redo
- Ctrl + S = Save
6. Use Quick Access Toolbar
If there are certain Microsoft Word tools that you use often, put them in your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). This will help you avoid the trouble of flipping through different menus as you create legal documents and can save you hours over the course of the year.
7. Compare Two Documents
If you need to compare two documents to find the difference between them, Microsoft Word has an option for that. Use the legal blackline feature and compare documents to see the difference between two documents immediately. You can also combine versions from multiple authors into a single document. Learn how to compare and/or merge two versions of a document.
8. Combine Changes
If you’re not using collaborative tools for document editing, you probably need to send out separate legal documents to each associate you have editing. If that’s the case, this means that you may receive two or more revised copies of the same document. Combining those changes manually would be laborious. Fortunately, Microsoft Word will allow you to combine those changes into one document. Tracked changes will appear in a different colour for each set of changes. You can find this Combine Changes feature in the compare menu in the review tab.
9. Mark Citations
Creating a table of authorities manually could become a time-consuming process for any lawyer. Fortunately, Microsoft Word makes it easy to create an automatic table of authorities using the Mark Citation feature.
10. Customise AutoCorrect
Many people find autocorrect to be somewhat helpful but often annoying because it doesn’t always understand important legal terms. The good news is that lawyers can customise autocorrect so that legal terms are recognised by Microsoft Word. You can even add special symbols to autocorrect so that they’re easily accessible when needed.
11. Leverage Navigation Pane
When creating long documents, the Navigation pane in Word helps track your content and keeps you organised. It enables you to switch between sections with ease and rearrange sections of your document by dragging and dropping headlines.
Enable the Navigation Pane under the “View” tab in Word.
12. Explore Developer Tab
Microsoft Word makes it easy for lawyers to create forms with checkboxes and field under the Developer tab. And if you are feeling adventurous, the developer tab can also be used to create macros that will run later a form created in Microsoft Word.
13. Restrict Editing
If there are certain parts of a document that you want to prevent others from editing, Microsoft word allows you to restrict editing. This feature can be found under the Protect Document menu under the File tab.
14. Remove Metadata
There may be hidden information about your law firm or your client in the metadata of a Microsoft Word document. To remove this information and protect your client and law firm privacy, clearing the metadata from your Microsoft Word document. Metadata could include past tracked changes, comments, author name, and hidden text. Go into the document inspector to remove this information. Find this information under the file menu and the info tab.
Your Next Steps
Leveraging the power of Microsoft Word can help you save time and protect the confidentiality of your client. Our legal practice management software with seamless Word integration takes it to the next level with automatic time tracking software (so all the time you spend in Word is automatically tracked — that means no starting and stopping timers), and the most powerful legal document automation software available to small law firms.
Schedule a free demo to see how Smokeball and Microsoft Word can take your law firm’s productivity and profits to the next level.