Microsoft Word for Lawyers

A lawyer cannot be merely proficient in using Microsoft Word; a lawyer must be an expert. MS Word, after all, is the primary tool in the lawyer’s toolbox.

In these three videos, I share my thoughts on the importance of becoming an expert in MS Word, and discuss some of the essential MS Word skills every lawyer should develop.

Finally, I set forth a few links to other sources that address MS Word in general, and its Table of Contents and Table of Authorities features in particular.

Videos

Microsoft Word for Lawyers: Introduction

Microsoft Word for Lawyers: Tables of Contents

Microsoft Word for Lawyers: Tables of Authorities

Additional Resources

In the videos, I mentioned these two books:

There are many, many other resources on these topics on the Internet, including on YouTube and on the Microsoft Office support site. If you have a question, Google it; answers are out there. Here are a few posts that are helpful:

“This Month in Discipline” Posts

Every month the Louisiana Legal Ethics site publishes “This Month in Discipline.” The post reports each lawyer who was the subject of Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary orders or Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommendations published during that month.

For examples of past posts, click here: Louisiana Legal Ethics–This Month in Discipline.

Finding Discipline Cases

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board reports new orders and recommendations here: LADB Decisions. Limit the “new” decisions to those reported here. This site is not always up to date, but it is exclusivley what we use to find decisions to write about.

Writing the Monthly Post

You need to get a “User” login for the Louisiana Legal Ethics site from Prof. Ciolino. Once you do, you login, go to “Posts,” and copy the last month’s post as a template. Note that Prof. Ciolino publishes the site using WordPress; you need to learn the basics of how to use WordPress by finding a recent YouTube video.

Each post uses a simple formula:

  1. The name of the post is the name of the lawyer. You must hyperlink the lawyer’s name to the opinion as reported on the LADB website. Be very careful to make sure you use the correct link–particularly with the first reported decision on the site.
  2. The first sentence reports what the court ordered or the board recommended. For example: “The court suspended the respondent for one year and one day.” Notice you must write this in active voice.
  3. The next 1-2 sentences explains in narrative format the misconduct at issue. For example: “The respondent failed to provide competent representation to clients, neglected legal matters, and failed to communicate with clients.” Notice that you must write this in the active voice. Also, use the Oxford comma.
  4. The final sentence lists the rules that the lawyer violated. For example: “In so doing, the respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4.”
  5. That’s it.

For grammar, style, and usage conventions, see the last section in this post.

Publishing Schedule

Prof. Ciolino publishes the “This Month in Discipline” post on the last day of each month. Please have a draft ready on that day (of course, check the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary website at the end of the day to be sure that there are no new opinions).

Once you are done writing the post, proofread it very carefully. Then save it in “Draft” format, and send Prof. Ciolino an email that it is done.

Blog Post Guidelines

What Makes a Good Topic?

The blog at the Louisiana Legal Ethics website publishes short articles on topics that lawyers in general and Louisiana lawyers in particular would want to read about.

Research what generally makes a good “blog” post. You can do a search for “blog writing tips” that will yield innumerable posts reflecting different ideas about what makes a good topic for a blog post. Here are some basic tips:

  • Readers like lists, numbered, bulleted, etc. For example, “Top Ten Things to Avoid,” “Three Things to Remember,” “To Do,” “What Not to Do,” and the like.
  • Instead of an explanation or annotation of the black letter law, identify a question and answer it, for example: “How Long Must I Keep This File?”
  • People like to be guided to more information or different points of view on a given topic. If you can include a meaningful hyperlink, please do.
  • To find topics, research new case law and ethics opinions on Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, LexisNexis, and the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct. Also consider law review articles, treatises, and news articles to come up with interesting ideas or valuable links.

Here my running list of possible blog post topics:

Writing the Post

Once you choose a topic, write the post. Here are some guidelines for doing so:

  • Keep it short; no more than 3-4 paragraphs.
  • Always hyperlink to the source documents.
  • Insert a relevant image. Resize the image to 300 x 150. You can use this online image resizer to do this.

Grammar, Style, and Usage

  • Use the Texas Law Review Manual on Usage and Style.
  • Use The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Use strict Bluebook cite form with one exception—citations to Louisiana cases must not follow the public domain citation format. Louisiana cases must be cited using only the Southern Reporter citation. If no Southern Reporter cite is available, use a Westlaw citation. If no Westlaw citation is available, cite as a slip opinion. For Louisiana circuit court opinions, always include the circuit. For example: State v. Roe, 238 So. 3d 345 (La. Ct. App. 4th Cir. 2017); State v. Doe, 2017 WL 83956964589 (La. Ct. App. 5th Cir. Dec. 3, 2017); State v. Loe, No. 17-3984 (La. Dec. 8, 2017). Note that there is a space between So. and 3d.
  • Use topic sentences in every paragraph.
  • Write short sentences using active voice.
  • Always write in the active voice. For example: “The court suspended the respondent for 6 months.” Not: “The respondent was suspended for six months.”
  • Generally prefer past tense. For example: “The respondent pleaded guilty to the crime of theft.”
  • Use the Oxford comma.
  • Never use the word “attorney”; use the word “lawyer” instead. However, see the preceding rule.
  • When making rule statements, use the singular term “a lawyer.” For example, say “a lawyer must not steal.” Don’t say: “lawyers must not steal.”
  • Use “pleaded guilty”; not “pled guilty.”

Telephone

You really don’t need a landline any more. Get a good cellphone with a good service provider. While Android phones apparently work, you probably should get an iPhone. Everyone else has and it works great with your iPad.

Set up voicemail, but ask callers not to leave a voicemail unless it is absolutely necessary. Suggest that they send you an email (preferred) or text message instead of leaving a voicemail message. I promise on my voicemail to return a voicemail within 24 hours; I promise to return emails and text messages immediately. As a result, I (thankfully) get few voicemail messages.

Do you need a virtual receptionist like Ruby.com or the like? Maybe Some lawyers swear by them. They certainly sound professional when they answer. But these “receptionists” are expensive. And, although the person in Seattle who answers the phone can pronounce your name correctly, he can’t do much else. I say not worth it.

Technology: iOS Apps

The guru for all things iOS is Jeff Richardson at iPhone JD. When I got my first iPad in 2018, I email him and asked for a list of what apps I should get. Here’s what Jeff said then in a return email (and I quote):

  • GoodNotes. This is my favorite app for taking handwritten notes. You can use it to annotate documents, and sometimes I do that, but mostly I use it to keep notebooks associated with various cases. Thus, I have a central place to store notes when I talk to a client, have strategy meetings, take notes in court, etc. Great app.
  • PDF Expert by Readdle. You want a good app for managing your documents. I used to use and recommend GoodReader, but the developer hasn’t updated the app in a long time so I am now using PDF Expert. It works great with the new iPad Pro and new Apple Pencil, and you can easily sync specific folders in Dropbox. So I’ll have a Dropbox folder with all of the pleadings in a case, and then I can access and annotate those documents using PDF Expert.
  • If you work with transcripts from depositions or trials, I love TranscriptPad.
  • Microsoft Word for iOS.

Technology: Software and SAS

I’m reluctant to write about software as a stand-alone topic. I address various software-dependant workflows and productivity solutions elsewhere in this knowledge base.

A basic, guiding principle here is to find the industry leader in the space and use it–unless there is a compelling reason to use an alternative. Why? Industry leading solutions are typically time-tested and reliable. Moreover, you can answer questions about them (and you will have questions) by going to YouTube or by Googling.

Here is a list of essential and recommended computer1 sotware and online software-as-service (SAS) products:

  1. Google Chrome web browser for browsing the Internet.
  2. Gmail or another dedicated, professional email service provider with web-based access. Don’t do this on your own with an in-house mail server. Of course you can use Outlook or another local client to access email if you’d like.
  3. MS Word. You can’t practice law without this word processor. Google Docs has a role to play in collaborating on rough drafts with others, but only MS Word is appropriate for finalizing lawyer work product.
  4. Dropbox, Google Drive, or MS OneDrive for document sharing, syncing, and backup.
  5. Adobe Acrobat (full version) for reviewing, creating, editing, annotating, and managing PDFs.
  6. Clio for time recording, billing, calendaring, tasks, and trust account management. There are other SAS providers in this space that are very good, but Clio is the industry leader with abundant support and online resources for assistant.
  7. CaseFleet for case-level organization.
  8. MS Windows File Explorer to hierarchically organize electronic files and documents. This is baked into Windows.
  9. MS Windows Security for firewall and virus protection. This also is baked into Windows. Use this and keep it updated. If you do, there is no need for McAfee or any other third-party solutions for virus protection.
  10. Mindmanger for mindmapping. I know, most of you don’t even know what this is. Don’t get me started on how critical it is for lawyers to mindmap to organize cases, witness examinations, deposition outlines, and the like.
  11. WordPress. If you are going to create and manage your own website, this is the platform to use. Something like 70% of the Internet uses it. I made that number up, but it is probably close to true.

  1. I address iPhone and iPad apps elsewhere.

Technology: Hardware

All paperless lawyers–which all lawyers should be–need or should consider using the following hardware. (I know much of this is obvious.) The best site for reviews of the latest and greatest hardware is Wirecutter.

Essential Hardware

  1. A laptop computer. I once insisted that this computer be a Windows machine. However, Apple Mac computers apparently work fine (or better) than Windows computers. Moreover, in the past I used CaseMap, which only ran on Windows; CaseFleet is a modern on-line alternative that runs on any platform.
  2. A large widescreen monitor at least 39″ wide. You need this to work on multiple documents at the same time.
  3. A mobile phone. Get an Apple iPhone. Everyone else has one and it works better with iMessage.
  4. A document scanner. The only one to buy is a Fujitsu ScanSnap.
  5. A printer. Yes, some people still use paper.

Hardware To Consider

  1. An iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Use this to read documents and check email on the go.
  2. A destop computer at your office. It’s just better to have all of your data on two machines that are constantly sync’d using Dropbox, Google Drive, or MS OneDrive.

Tasks

Track all tasks using Clio tasks.

In the name of the task, include any hard deadline. The “due date” for the task should also be the hard deadline.

Set email reminders for every task. For very important tasks, use several reminders.

The task must be assigned to a human being.

Time and Billing

General

For time and billing use Clio.

Please enter time no later than the end of the following day.

For CJA cases, use voucher “catgegories,” particularly “In-Court” and “Out-of-Court” time.

Timesheets

Lawyers working by the hour must keep time sheets with detailed time records. Here are a billing few do’s and don’ts:

  • Do record your time in narrative format with good detail.
  • Do bill in minimum increments of .10 of an hour (six minutes).
  • Don’t block bill. Break the time up into smaller billable chunks.
  • Don’t record time that sounds like paralegal work. For example, don’t record lawyer time like this: “Filed documents received from defense counsel.”
  • Don’t record time in sentence fragments. Use full sentences and capital letters to begin those sentences.

For a good, brief article on the topic see this: https://www.attorneyatwork.com/three-ways-better-billing/