Table of Contents in Legal Contracts

Updated January 29, 2024
8 min read
Table of Contents in Legal Contracts


Legal contracts often get signed, then filed away, never to be looked at again. On the other hand, some businesses have contracts that they frequently need to refer back to. Finding the right bit of information in a contract can be difficult. There are a lot of clauses in there that might only be needed in certain situations. The parties' obligations can also be spread throughout the contract and might be found in different sections of a contract. All these factors can make contracts difficult to navigate.

That's why, to help contract users go straight to what they are looking for, it can be a good idea to use a table of contents (or ToC) when creating a contract. In this article, we'll show you the steps you need to know to create the perfect table of contents. Most contract authors use Microsoft Word, so that's also what we will focus on here.

Step 1: Make Sure You're Using Heading Styles

When you draft a contract, it is always best to make use of the heading styles. You will find the quick styles gallery under the Home tab. This can be expanded, where you will find options that allow you to create, modify, and manage the style that will be applied to your text.

The contract template may already have styles that are suitable for clause headings and numbering. If not, it's worth taking the time to learn how to set these up for your template. Your clause headings will have to be "styled" using the right style for the next steps to work.

Step 2: Decide Where You Want Your Table of Contents

Normally, the table of contents will be at the beginning of your document (often it is the next page after the cover page). Click your cursor to where you would like the table of contents to be inserted. You might also like to insert a page break so that the table can have its own page. Next, click on the References tab, where you will see a Table of Contents button. Microsoft Word gives you the choice to select from its default options or create your own table of contents.

Step 3: Customize Your Table of Contents

Sometimes, there arises the need to make changes in the table of contents. A customized option might be needed if, for example:

  1. You have more than three heading levels (as the default options only support up to three heading levels).

  2. You want to change the tab leaders (whether you want to use dots, dashes, or other symbols to fill the space between the heading title and the page number).

  3. You want to change the formatting of the page numbers.

  4. You want hyperlinked headings so that they can be clicked.

You can change all these variables by selecting the custom table of contents option. You will also find that there are further options available here — for example, allowing you to map the different heading formats to the quick styles you have previously defined.

Step 4: Update or Amend Your Table of Contents

Once you have inserted the table of contract content, you may wish to update or amend it. If you spot and want to fix an error (for example, a spelling mistake), go to the relevant heading in the contract and fix it there. You shouldn't try to fix it within the table of contents itself; otherwise, your correction will be lost when the table is next updated.

If you make changes to the clause headings in your contents of a contract (or, for example, the page numbers change because you have inserted or deleted text), you will then need to update the table. To do this, click within the table of contents, and a button will appear at the top.

You can also find this button under the References tab. Alternatively, you can use the Microsoft Word shortcut, which is to press Ctrl + A (to select all the content in your contract) and then press the F9 key that updates all the fields in your document.

In some cases, you might see the message "Error! Bookmark not defined". This is because Microsoft Word relies on hidden bookmarks to create the table of contents. If these bookmarks cannot be found, you will see this error. Updating the table of content contracts contain will usually resolve this issue.

When you have been editing a contract, it's always a good idea to refresh and update the table of contents in this way as the last step. It's also a good tip to do a final check by searching for the word "error" (use the navigation panel at the side of the document or Ctrl + F). This will highlight if any references have not been updated properly and that you might need to fix them.

Learning to update a table of contract contents is one of those skills that doesn't take long to master but can then save valuable time for the future users of your contract. The added benefit, of course, is that your contracts will also quickly look a lot more professional.


Incorporating a table of contents into your contracts can increase their usability and enhance their professional appearance. It allows for easy navigation and reference, saving time and enhancing efficiency for everyone involved. The process of creating, customizing, and updating a table of contents is relatively straightforward and gets easier with continued use. By sharpening this skill, you add value to your contracts, making them more user-friendly and reducing potential misunderstandings. So, it's definitely worth the time and effort to ensure your contracts come equipped with a well-structured table of contents.

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.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the product or UX content for Lawrina, feel free to contact Yevheniia directly at or connect with her on LinkedIn.