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5 Microsoft Word hacks that will make every lawyer's life easier


Microsoft Word is one of the most popular word processing programs across the globe. Chances are, you probably use it every day to create, edit, or view documents. And because you’re so familiar with it, you might think that you already know everything there is to know about the program. It’s time to rethink that assumption.

More than a word processor, Word is a powerful publishing tool that can increase every lawyer’s productivity. If you know how to navigate your way through the program, you can simplify your work and cut the time you spend on doing certain tasks. Here are five hacks that will make you a Word pro in no time.

1. Use legal backline to compare document changes.

Tracking document changes can be time-consuming, especially when you’re reviewing long and text-heavy documents. Thankfully, Word has an option called legal backline that allows you to see the changes made to a document at a glance.

To use the legal backline option, go to Review > Compare group > Compare and select Compare two versions of a document (legal backline). Under their respective drop-down menus, choose the original and the revised documents you want to compare, and click OK. Word will then show you both the original and the revised version of the document, as well as a third document with all the revisions in red font. This feature comes in handy when you’re reviewing an updated policy or a revised contract.

2. Combine multiple author changes in a single document.

Legal drafts, briefs, and memoranda often undergo multiple revisions before they are approved for publication. If you need to merge more than two versions of the same document, just go to Review > Compare group > Combine. A pop-up box will appear where you can select the original version and the revised version you want to merge it with. In the box saying Label unmarked changes with, input a word or a phrase that will allow you to remember which version was merged with the original. Then, click More > Show changes in > Original document. Click OK. Repeat until you have combined all the versions you need to combine.

3. Lock the final version of a document to prevent it from being edited.

You wouldn’t want your final document to be tampered with or accidentally edited, especially if it contained confidential information. To disable further editing on a document, you can mark it as “final” by going to File > Info > Protect Document > Mark as Final. Doing so will open the document as read-only, preventing users from making further changes.

4. Save time by using default or custom formatting styles.

From choosing family types to selecting font size to adjusting the margin, formatting documents is a tedious task. You can streamline this process by using the styles option in Word. Each style is basically a template consisting of a unique combination of heading, body, font, and other formatting preferences that can be quickly applied to your document. You can also create your own style by going to Home > Styles > Create a Style. If you want, you can add a name to your style, so you can remember which formatting template goes with a brief, a contract, or a draft pleading. This lets you deal with your document’s aesthetic needs in one click and spend more time on legal work.

5. Generate a table of contents based on your document.

The days of manually typing your table of contents for a report are over. To automatically generate a TOC, go to Insert > Reference > Table of Contents > Insert Table of Contents > OK. Note that this will only work if you have specific styles applied to your document, because Word uses such styles as guides to determine which parts of the text is the heading, sub-heading, and so on. If you haven’t selected any style, you will get an error message. To apply a style to your document, just go to Home > Style then select a style. When you’re done, go to Insert > Reference > Table of Contents and select Update the Entire Table in the Update Table of Contents dialog box.

Microsoft Word is only one of the many Office 365 apps that can help your practice become more productive. Download our free Office 365 e-book now and discover how work at your firm can be better optimized.