Microsoft Word for Lawyers: Tips and Tricks That Every Lawyer Should Know

Microsoft Word for Lawyers: Tips and Tricks That Every Lawyer Should Know

Microsoft Word, much like an iceberg, hides the majority of its powerful features beneath the surface, out of sight to many. This aspect is particularly relevant to legal professionals who constantly work with a wide variety of documents and, therefore, require more advanced text editing tools. 

Nevertheless, becoming proficient with Word’s shortcuts and tools can significantly streamline one’s workflow in the future. One such tool is Loio, a Microsoft plugin ideal for contract drafting that is currently available for a free trial. This guide seeks to aid legal professionals in uncovering and leveraging the often-overlooked capacities of MS Word for lawyers, leading to heightened efficiency in their practice.

Word Basics

One of the reasons Word is a dominant text editing tool among legal pros is because “Most professionals learned how to use this tool while attending school,” Berlinda Bernard, a paralegal, writer, and blogger for Quintessential Pillar. It’s true that most of us know the basics of Word from before our careers began, which sometimes acts as a trap: many of us think we know how to use Word, but in reality, we haven’t even started digging further since school. 

Keep in mind that even the most experienced drafters can spend years not realizing there’s a primary shortcut for what they do manually over and over again. So make sure you know MS Word tips and use these shortcuts.

Basic text editing shortcuts
Ctrl + X (Command + X for Mac) = Cut
Ctrl + C (Command + C for Mac)= Copy
Ctrl + V (Command + V for Mac)= Paste
Ctrl + Shift + V (Command + Shift + V for Mac) = Paste unformatted
Ctrl + Z (Command + Z for Mac) = Undo
Ctrl + Y (Command + Y for Mac) = Redo
Ctrl + S (Command + S for Mac) = Save
Alt+20 (Option + 6 on Mac) = ¶
Alt+21 (Option + 7 on Mac) = §
Double-click = Select one word
Triple-click = Select a paragraph
Find and replace = To replace all mentions of a specific term in a document with another term.

Use the Macros feature to create your own tailored shortcuts. This guide will discuss Macros in Microsoft Word hacks further. 

Word count

Keeping track of word count is a good habit of any disciplined writer. To keep track of word count in MS Word:

  1. Look at the screen’s bottom left corner for a running total of the words in your document.
  2. For more detailed information, such as character count or paragraph count, follow these steps:
  • Click on the Tools tab at the top of your screen.
  • Select Word Count from the dropdown menu.
  1. Alternatively, to access the word count tool:
  • Click on the Review tab in the Ribbon Tabs (the upper taskbar in Word).
  • Click on Word Count.

Styles: Organize Document Formatting

Documents with clean, consistent legal formatting in Word express true professionalism and attention to detail. Unfortunately, getting a messy document into a proper look is a nitpicky, monotonous task that often takes too much time and effort. Word Styles is a game-changer tool for conveniently formatting your documents.

  • Using default styles: The Styles pane sits in the right part of the Home tab. To apply a different formatting style to your text, select a paragraph and click on one of the styles in the panel. Word offers a library of default styles that may be handy in some cases but are not very useful for lawyers most of the time. The best way to work with styles is to create a set of your styles and stick to them.
  • Creating your styles: To create a new style, select a paragraph combining font type, size, and line height and click on the Style Pane. Then click New Style, set the name and characteristics of your new style, and click OK. A great way to work with formatting is to create styles according to structural parts of your standard docs (Heading 1, 2, 3, normal text, etc.) and then reuse them accordingly.
  • Modifying styles: If you’d like to change an already existing style, just right-click on it in the styles pane and click Modify. Make the required changes and save them.

Word Styles are handy for drafting documents, but their power is limited when you face a foreign, messy doc or a new type of formatting. For these cases (and to speed up the restyling of any document), we recommend trying out Loio, our Microsoft Word extension for reviewing contracts.

Numbering: Create and Change Numbered Lists

Lawyers have a love-hate relationship with lists. A transparent numbering system makes contracts readable and easy to follow, but managing and editing lists can be a painful experience. Microsoft Word functions contain numbering, but its instruments often need to work more intuitively. A little misclick or extra Enter tap can ruin your entire numbering system. Still, if you master these aspects of numbering in Word, you will lift a tonne of text editing weight off your shoulders. And it means that you need these tips for Microsoft Word.

Set up numbering templates 

Creating a numbered list is simple: click the list icons in the Home tab. Of the three list icons, the one on the left manages bulleted lists, the one in the center is for numbering, and the one on the right is for multilevel lists. You will probably use the right one most often. If none of the default list options satisfy your needs (which is often the case), click Define New Multilevel List at the bottom of the Multilevel List menu. The screen with new list settings will pop up.

On this screen, you can set up all the characteristics of your new list. The best way to avoid a shuffle is to create reusable templates of numbered lists for all the document types you deal with the most. Look at what you can set up in the Define New Multilevel List menu.

  • Number format: The Number format section allows you to set up how each level of your list will look: the fonts and the style of your numbers (Roman, Arabic, letters, special characters, etc.).
  • Number position: With number position, you can align the location of the numbers on the sheet: centimeters from the left (or center, or right) edge of your sheet. You can set the number position independently for each level of the list.
  • Text position: The text position section allows you to set indents for the text in each list level.

Track Changes: For Transparent Document Collaboration

If your job involves contract negotiations or dealing with other parties’ lawyers, you have probably already heard about the Track Changes tool as part of Microsoft Word tips. This feature allows you to mark every correction made to the document so that when you send the agreement to the other party, they see all your corrections.

To use the Track Changes tool for contract negotiations:

  1. Click on the Review tab and turn the Track Changes toggle on.
  • If you can’t activate the feature, go to Review -> Restrict Editing -> Stop Protection to allow tracking.
  • This feature should be turned on before you begin editing the agreement, and you should ensure that your counterparts do the same.
  1. Once activated, all deleted text will be marked with a strikethrough, and all edits will appear as underlined text.
  2. You can change how the updated text is displayed by:
  • Clicking the Mark-up Options.
  • Pointing to Balloons and clicking on Show All Revisions In-line. The changes will now be displayed as tabs in the text.
  1. Hide some changes from the Track Changes view to simplify the viewing process.
  • Click on Mark-up Options and select any correction types (Comments, Ink, Insertions and Deletions, and Formatting) that you want to make visible.
  • Remember that the recipient of your edited document will still be able to see all your changes.

Quick Parts: For Frequently Used Text Parts

One essential Microsoft word tips and tricks to help save time and increase efficiency in your legal writing process is to use the Quick Parts feature. Storing perfectly written clauses or paragraphs will save you precious time in the future, and you should start doing that if you haven’t already. Instead of copying and pasting paragraphs across documents, use Quick Parts to save these elements right into your Quick Parts Gallery in Word.

Quick Parts sits in the Insert tab under the Text section. To create a new element, select a part of your text that you’d like to save, click Quick Parts, then AutoText, then Save Selection to AutoText Gallery. You can now insert this text part into any document in the future by going to AutoText Gallery and selecting it from the list.

Macros: Create Your Shortcuts

If you are tired of typing specific symbols or words manually and often think, “Why isn’t there a shortcut for that?” we have great news for you. Word’s Macros feature lets you create shortcuts of your own! To do that, click View in the ribbon tab, then click on the Macros drop-down menu (far right corner), then click Record Macros. Word will then ask you to name the new Macros (name it so you can understand what the shortcut stands for) and pick a keyboard combination as your new shortcut. Follow through and click OK.

When the recording has started, type what exactly you want to replace with a shortcut in the Word sheet. Then go back to Macros and click Stop Recording. Voila! Your daily paperwork has become one shortcut easier.

Document Inspector: Remove Sensitive Metadata from Your Documents

For lawyers dealing with confidential client data, it’s crucial to ensure sensitive metadata is removed from documents before submission. Metadata includes information not directly written in the text but present in the file, like comments, editor’s name, or invisible links. 

To inspect metadata, go to File -> Info -> Check for Issues -> Inspect Document. If using Word 2016 or older, click Check for Issues and Inspect Document. Choose the metadata categories to inspect and hit Inspect. Document Inspector shows all metadata found categorized. Delete any information you deem unnecessary, save it, and rest assured.

Add-Ins: Go Beyond Word Tools

“The biggest challenge when working with Word is that the editor does not understand the legal context, so it might make inappropriate suggestions to a legal document or miss a word. I have worked in several legal settings that have used additional software combined with MS Word, which made drafting much easier through some form of automation.”

Berlinda Bernard, a paralegal, writer, and blogger for Quintessential Pillar.

Microsoft Word wasn’t primarily designed for legal professionals so that they could fill, for example, Lease Agreement template; its tools might sometimes fall short of legal documents. However, a variety of add-ins are available to expand Word’s functionality. These can be found and installed via the “Get Add-ins” option in the “Insert” tab. Already installed add-ins are managed through the “My Add-ins” menu. 

By maximizing these capabilities and add-ins, Microsoft Word can help you write a professional-looking report. These add-ins in Microsoft’s Store cover many specialized tasks, from proofreading to contract review, like Loio.

The capabilities of Microsoft Word are vast and versatile, but as you familiarize yourself with it, you’ll undoubtedly uncover more valuable shortcuts and tricks. This guide aims to facilitate a smoother, more efficient experience with Word.

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

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