What is house style?

Font size and type, line spacing, as well as things like date format, use of bold and/or underline, are all important to how a document looks. It’s part of a brand. The brand only works if it’s consistent.

You will notice in any type of design work that inconsistency looks messy, home-made and unprofessional.

In large law firms, there are teams of document specialists who are sometimes known as the ‘document police’ who check the formatting to ensure that every piece of work is on brand. But that’s only part of the story.

To help keep documents consistent and to be efficient with formatting them, it is vital to have good template and document construction knowledge. How to use a document and understand how it works is where we find the widest skills gaps.

By 'functionality' I‘m referring to automatic numbering, headers and footers, tables of contents. Do you care if a paragraph heading is hanging on its own at the bottom of a page or if there are cross reference errors? Why not? Would you turn up at a client meeting with dirty shoes and ketchup on your tie? This is your brand. You should care how a document looks.

Many years ago, when Microsoft invented Word they listened to their target market – the legal sector. They wanted to create a product that made it incredibly easy and quick to apply formatting and automatic numbering, and to reduce the time taken to amend and update documents.

Word processing went a lot further than simple cut and paste when it introduced Styles.

To this day, Micro

soft is still influenced by its clients in the legal sector. In fact they attended this year’s UK Document Excellent Group (UKDEG) conference to showcase their latest products and to listen to feedback from the UKDEG what is working and not working.

UKDEG is a not-for-profit organisation, now 13 years old, led by members of the top 200 law firms. It looks to improve document functionality and to ensure they are easier to collaborate with. It’s a very influential group and vendors such as Lexis Nexis and Thomson Reuters have taken on board their advice and formatted all of their precedents with the UKDEG standard styles naming convention.

House style is part of a brand and it should be taken seriously. The legal profession has now been working this way for decades and those who don’t have a house style or understand its importance are lagging way behind.

If you would like some advice on how to create or implement your house style, or how to train your users in your document and template construction, then we can help you. Contact us for more information.

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