When you’re working hard to meet tight deadlines, you don’t have time to painstakingly bold every title in your document or fiddle with mysterious formatting inconsistencies at the 11th hour.
Word can do more than you think. There are plenty of options for getting the program to work for you so that you always meet your deadlines and are confident in the accuracy of your documents.
Here are 10 simple Microsoft Word features that every lawyer should know.
1. Basic short cuts
First, make sure you’ve got a handle on the most common shortcuts for saving time in Word.
- Double-click to select one word.
- Triple-click to select a paragraph.
- Use the “Find and replace” feature to change all instances of a term in a long document.
- Finally, know keyboard shortcuts for commonly used legal symbols, such as § and ¶. These are Option+6 and Option+7 on a Mac. On a PC, it’s Alt+21 and Alt+20 (make sure you have num lock enabled, and that you’re using the numeric keyboard on the right if you have one, or this won’t work). For more, check out these cheat sheets for Mac and PC.
The Styles feature is one of the most powerful available in Word. Using styles makes consistent formatting easy. You can create styles for everything, from characters and paragraphs to tables and lists. For a quick overview of your options, check out Microsoft’s styles basics page.
Once you’ve mastered styles, streamline your workflows even further by creating reusable templates.
Templates are exactly what they sound like. You can use them as a starting point for letters, arguments, and other documents rather than starting from a blank page every time. Spend less time formatting and never send out an inconsistent looking letter again. Here’s how to do it.
Tip: With Clio, you can use document automation to quickly create documents from templates.
4. The Navigation Pane
When writing long documents, the Navigation Pane helps track your content and keeps you organized. Put simply, it’s a table of contents of all the headings in your document. Using it allows you to switch between sections with ease.
The best part? You can rearrange sections of your document by dragging and dropping headlines.
Enable the Navigation Pane under the “View” tab in Word.
5. The Developer Tab
The Developer Tab offers several options, including the ability to add text fields and checkboxes to documents. For lawyers, this is useful for creating electronic forms for clients.
If you want to take your shortcuts a step further, the Developer Tab also allows you to create macros. These are records of common commands that can be ‘run’ later.
You can enable the Developer Tab under Options (Preferences on a Mac) in Word.
6. Minimizing the Ribbon
It’s handy to see all of your tools in one place in Word, but sometimes, you need a bit more space to concentrate. Luckily, Word allows you to temporarily get rid of the Ribbon (the main toolbar at the top of the screen) for distraction-free writing. Minimize the Ribbon by pressing CTRL+F1. Bring it back with the same command when you need it again.
7. Restricting edits
Turning on Track Changes is the easiest way to collaborate in Word. But with multiple people throwing in their two cents, things can sometimes get out of control.
To halt edit-overload, you can restrict editing privileges to certain parts of your document using the “Restrict Editing” function. Deborah Savadra explains how to do it here.
8. Mark as Final
There’s another option for keeping edits under control—use the Mark as Final function. The American Bar Association points out that other users can still get around this restriction, but explains that Mark as Final is still useful for clarifying your intentions to fellow collaborators.
9. Removing metadata
Stop! Don’t send out that document yet. Since lawyers are responsible for protecting their clients’ privacy, it’s important to ensure that all metadata is removed from their documents before sharing. As Microsoft explains, “this hidden information can reveal details about your organization or about the document itself that you might not want to share publicly.”
Use Document Inspector to ensure your document is cleared of personal data before sharing.
10. Using AutoRecover
Word’s AutoRecover feature is turned on by default, but this doesn’t replace saving your documents. It’s worth beefing up your AutoRecover in your settings to ensure you’re safe from potential computer disasters.
As Deborah Savadra suggests, lower the interval at which Word automatically saves things from 10 minutes to five minutes. You can also guard against accidental edits by checking the “Always create backup copy” option. This creates a copy of your penultimate-saved version.
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