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Microsoft Word vs. Google Docs for lawyers

Microsoft Word vs. Google Docs for lawyers

Do you remember a time when attorneys swore by WordPerfect? Well, what we’ve learned is that integrating newer technology tools for lawyers and moving to better collaboration tools is just a matter of time. When WordPerfect ceded its position for years, Microsoft Word, backed by powerful technology for lawyers, became a de facto standard in the legal community. Now, it’s impossible to imagine a typical working day of a lawyer without this word processor, highlighting the influence of technology on lawyers in modern practice.

And there is a reason behind it. MS Word does possess robust word-processing features for lawyers, this simply underscores its value as a technology for lawyers. However, just like the lengthy discussion on WordPerfect vs. MS Word among lawyers, we have another worthy contender stepping onto the battlefield — Google Docs.

Millennials and beyond have grown up on easy-to-use tools like Google Docs. It’s free. It’s easy to manage. But despite this, Microsoft Word, supported by its potent compatibility with technology for lawyers, is still the most widely used tool among lawyers. So, will MS Word continue to reign as the de facto standard technology tool for lawyers? Or can Google Docs carve out a space as lawyers shift their processes? Or might there potentially be a place for both tools in the legal profession?

Here’s why Google Docs is so popular among young lawyers

So what made Google Docs popular among young lawyers, specifically regarding technology for lawyers?

First, it’s all about the minimalistic design and ease of use. The survey by LexisNexis shows that ease of use is the most important reason driving law students’ legal technology preferences. This preference for user-friendly technology tools for lawyers is reflected in the rising popularity of Google Docs.

The next reason to use Google Docs as a key technology for lawyers is its online real-time collaboration. Take it from Jacob J. Sapochnick, an immigration attorney:

Most young lawyers prefer using Google Docs because of its collaboration qualities, technology tools for lawyers, and its free access. File sharing, as an editor, makes everything easier.

Jacob J. Sapochnick
Immigration Attorney & Social Media Influencer 
Founder of Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick

Both word processors can be used for collaborative work. But the best perk about Google Docs, a preferred technology for lawyers, is real-time collaboration. When your clients or colleagues click the link to a contract, you’ll be able to view their name and their unique identifying color in-doc. That’s why students across the country use Google Docs to work on documents in a group collaboratively. 

Lastly, it’s all about free access. Millennials like free experiences without fees. Unlike MS Word, Google Docs does not need a subscription. It is a free word processor, and you can access it with all the features from any device. This factor certainly contributes to its appeal as one of the preferred technology tools for lawyers. Jennifer L. Bennett, Managing Attorney & Founder, mentioned that:

With your Gmail account, you automatically have access to many of the other Google amenities like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Cloud storage space, and so on. This provides a multifunctional collaborative opportunity with grace yet unmet by any other software service provider, marking it as a strong contender in technology for lawyers.

Jennifer L. Bennett 
Managing Attorney & Founder of Law Office of Jennifer L. Bennett

But why is Microsoft Word still the best tool for lawyers? 

Although a new generation of lawyers is more into Google Docs, MS Word is still the trusted and mostly-used tool among attorneys when it comes to working on complex documents. 

And here are some most prominent reasons why lawyers still prefer MS Word: 

  • Tracking changes. Track changes are what lawyers really care about. Although Google Docs also offers this functionality, nothing beats MS Office regarding sharing comments and tracking changes over a contract. 
  • Feature-set depth. MS Word offers flexibility to navigate complex contracts with multiple numbering schemes, formatting, etc. Working as an immigration attorney, Jacob J. Sapochnick cannot imagine the work without MS Word: “I prefer MS Word to Google Forms as an immigration attorney. MS Word has significantly more organized tracked changes, extensive commenting tools, and clearer options for viewing the updates we want to concentrate on.”
  • Alliance with legal tech products. Many legal folks still prefer to use MS Word because of its developed system of integration with legal tools and add-ins, such as Loio that optimizes the work with legal documents thanks to AI-powered contract analysis. 

All these features make MS Word stand out among competitors. Besides, it’s all a matter of habit. Jennifer L. Bennett shared her personal opinion with Loio: “I have always used MS Word since law school. It is second nature to me and many peers in law. Nonetheless, I will be willing to take the time to learn Google Docs if I am given the right reason. Until then, I will stick with Microsoft Word.“

So is MS Word the ultimate winner among lawyers? 

So is MS Word the ultimate winner among lawyers in the world of technology tools for lawyers? 

Just to sum up — the primary tension between Google Docs and MS Word, two significant technology tools for lawyers, is the feature-rich nature of Word and the ease of use of Google Docs. For sure, the ease of use and free access are appealing. But when it comes to legal practice that is based on daily document creation, styling and formatting are critical. Besides, as long as legal tech tools remain Word-centric, law firms are not likely to move to a new word processor. Most equivalent toolsets just don’t exist in Google Docs. 

For now, Google Docs is just an efficient solution for simple, structured, and low-volume documents within the suite of technology tools for lawyers. MS Word will likely stay the leading word processor UNLESS Google Docs replicates everything Word does. So Word-lovers can relax. At least for the near future. 

However, Google has already introduced add-ons for Docs, and now third-party developers create tools that contribute to Docs’ functionality, showcasing a continuous evolution in technology tools for lawyers. The scenario of WordPerfect is likely to repeat. Andrew Taylor, a founder of Net Lawman, believes that.

With increasingly effective security measures, there is a general shift towards Google Docs for its ease of accessibility on the cloud and through different devices, and I suppose this is why younger professionals prefer it.

Andrew Taylor
Director and Founder of Net Lawman

That’s why the future of MS Word, an essential player in technology tools for lawyers, seems uncertain in the long run. Let’s face it. 

Whatever happens, it’s not likely that MS Word will completely disappear from legal practice. There are still law firms that still use typewriters and fax machines… and, for sure, WordPerfect. That’s why MS Word, as a cornerstone among technology tools for lawyers, is not going anywhere in the visible future.

Conclusion

Incorporating technology for lawyers into daily operations is an inevitable trend in the current digital landscape. From Google Docs’ simplicity and collaboration capabilities to Microsoft Word’s stronghold as an established, feature-rich application, both serve as pivotal technology tools for lawyers. 

However, the crux of the matter lies in the differing advantages each platform brings to the legal table. While Google Docs has been a hit with younger, more tech-savvy practitioners due to its easy accessibility and user-friendliness, Microsoft Word dominates when it comes to intricate document creation and management — functions that are paramount in legal proceedings. The strength of its integration with other legal technology tools further solidifies Word’s position as a preferred tool among lawyers.

Despite this, the future is not set in stone. Google’s strides in increasing the functionality of Docs signal a promise of much-needed competition in the technology field for lawyers, keeping Microsoft Word on its toes. The evolution of legal technology tools continues to be a fascinating development to track.

In any case, the legal fraternity can rest assured that neither Microsoft Word nor Google Docs are vanishing in the near future. Instead, they will continue to coexist as technology for lawyers, each serving different strengths and preferences that cater to the dynamic needs of today’s legal professionals.

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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