5 tools in Microsoft Word that make amending legal documents an efficient process
Transactional documents can have a very long lifecycle. The course of a transaction can run for many months, be comprised of many different parties and their legal representatives, while the Word documents themselves are automated and complex.
And with so many parties involved in the drafting process, each of whom use different systems, numbering styles and editing tools, it is inevitable that compatibility issues will arise.
Travelling drafts can be tricky to maintain control of, whether or not your firm is “holding the pen”. You might send out a perfectly formatted and styled document but when it comes back, it contains different numbering and styles, and the document itself may even have become corrupted.
Of course, it will often be you who is tasked with adding changes to another party’s document, involving moving, inserting and deleting large sections of text into a format you’re not familiar with. It is then necessary to show to your own team and to other parties, the changes made to the earlier version.
Amending documents correctly in Microsoft Word requires learning and using some simple techniques and Best Practice principles to ensure that documents are kept in a stable and accurate condition.
It all starts with pasting
As lawyers will no doubt know, even when adopting safe pasting practices like using “Keep Text Only”, the text doesn’t always appear in the format you expect.
The reason for this that few realise is that it's not just about how you paste – and Keep Text Only is definitely the right way to go - but where you paste. If your cursor point is on an empty paragraph mark that does not have the right style applied to it, your insert may still go wrong.
The good news is that this is not difficult to fix if you use the correct technique and follow Word’s rules or - better still - if you learn how to insert the text correctly in the first place.
5 Word tools for amending documents
There are various tools available to assist with document amendments, some of which are more well known than others. For lawyers who want to make changes quickly and correctly, the following five tools will become second nature:
Format Painter allows you to fix the incorrect formatting of a paragraph by applying the format of a correct paragraph elsewhere in your document.
Paste using Keep Text Only is correct but you should always paste into a blank paragraph that has the correct style applied.
Clipboard can store pieces of text to insert later. You can take a piece of text from one document, put it on the Clipboard and insert it later into another document.
Ctrl Shift E is a shortcut to toggle Track Changes on and off if you are making live amendments, while the Status Bar will give you a visual cue that Track Changes are turned on.
Use Compare Documents in the Review tab for making changes into a clean document, and showing what changes have been made.
Learn to do it the right way
Go5plus and Microsoft Word services specialist Bluebird are running a series of complimentary courses designed for lawyers about legal document best practice. The series allows practitioners to learn in a focused, industry-specific manner and to put the learnings into practice straight away. The registration for the second session on 13 August is now open: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1543505826586180112
The next 30-minute session focuses on showing lawyers how to make amendments to transactional documents correctly and efficiently, even when the document belongs to another party. The first session of the course (available on demand: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7907644054304427523 ) covered crucial formatting techniques and shortcuts, which are a great foundation for this coming session. It shows lawyers that managing ongoing transactional documents under a tight deadline can be done efficiently.
The skills from this course will take lawyers another step closer to self-sufficiency, which is becoming an expectation at law firms, especially those looking at continuing to offer flexible working arrangements even when working in the office becomes a usual practice again. Nevertheless, efficient document management is key to shortening the turnaround of matters and reduces the time lawyers spend on non-billable work.