Expectations are high
The legal industry is very competitive, thus clients’ expectations of law firms - and in turn firms’ expectations of its lawyers - are high.
Lawyers are expected not only to be great lawyers in providing quality service and valuable advice to clients but also to be proficient in preparing complex documents. Clients pay substantial fees and their expectation is that the work product itself should be of high quality in return for that price.
Good lawyers train for years in how to be detailed, precise, and advise clients on very specific areas of law, including in extremely high value transactions, where an error or inadvertent omission can cost millions. So, the detail is vital to be there and to be presented accordingly.
People notice your formatting
Lawyers have grown up using Word through school, university and law school and, when they join a firm, they will generally be working in their own documents. There is a need for self-sufficiency, particularly when secretaries are busy working for many lawyers or when there is a lot going on such as a complex transaction with a pressured deadline.
Regardless of the settings in which a legal document is coming to life, people notice your formatting, just like you notice other people’s. A typo, misaligned paragraphs, inconsistent numbering and incorrect cross-references make clients question the details of the content within. In fact, incorrect clause numbers and “error” cross-references could materially affect the meaning of the agreement. Clients’ trust in the service will drop, and with the same momentum the perceived risk in the transaction increases, which then affects a law firm’s reputation.
Time is money
When stress levels are high, the hour is late and a deadline is looming, the smallest things in a Word document often distract from the main task in a lawyer’s hands - providing accurate and detailed legal advice and a quality service to the client.
It could be a gap on the page or that the words in a paragraph seem to have a life of their own. Perhaps the sub-clause numbering insists on starting at (d) instead of (a), or there are numerous cross-references which now say “Error”. Or the font keeps “flipping back” when you change it from Arial to Calibri. Some of these will no doubt resonate.
It stands to reason that lawyers could gain a great deal from knowing more about Microsoft Word - the software they are using all day, every day.
Lawyers benefit from the confidence and ease with which they are managing their workload, particularly if they are managing their own documents.
Clients will not only receive great legal advice, but a well-formatted and consistent work product that reflects the care that the lawyer has taken in giving that advice.
Law firm owners and managers will have less non-chargeable time to write off on matters with capped fees.
Family and friends get more time because instead of being in the office at 7pm, the Word-savvy lawyer is having dinner with the family or is in the pub!
Training for self-sufficiency
If all of the above seems obvious, the even better news is that it is very easily achieved.
Undertaking training that targets the areas that cause the greatest number of issues is where the focus should be. Those made-up Word “hacks” that are passed around may well end up causing much bigger problems further down the track.
If you didn’t know, there are literally hundreds of shortcuts and tricks that Microsoft readily makes available to save lawyer time, while still leveraging the software correctly.
Self-sufficiency is going to be key in the post-COVID era. The self-sufficient lawyer is one who is confident, not stressed, earning fees and meeting targets, and always meeting their deadlines.
This concept underpins the free Word training series hosted by go5plus, professional services provider, and delivered by Bluebird, Microsoft Word services specialists. Their course is designed specifically for lawyers to empower them with Word best practice skills that are most relevant in legal documents. Bluebird will be hosting the first session on 25 June, and complimentary access to the recording will be made available for everyone who registers here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8603964767968934413