Are you a document expert?

Microsoft Word is not a simple application. Sure, most people will know basic Word, how to create and save documents, and basic formatting rules. And most people can get by with knowing the basics. However, in the legal sector, documents that UK solicitors use as precedents are often constructed with more advanced features of Word.

In large UK law firms, departments of document specialists are tasked with creating, formatting, and policing a company's house style and brand. That expertise is very rarely available in smaller law firms. Yet solicitors from both large and smaller firms will each use the same features of Word which, if not known, leads to documents 'breaking'.

I often hear from managing partners that they expect their lawyers to type and format documents themselves. There is a belief that because our younger generation of lawyers have grown up with the Internet and 'learnt computers in school' that they know our legal applications, when in fact, the opposite is true. Basic tools of a lawyer's trade should include using advanced features, eg track changes in Word, automatic cross referencing, and a general care for the brand of a firm's output. A trainee solicitor doesn't learn this at College of Law. They are learning law, not IT applications.

We see this all the time in the type of work that we do for our clients. Broken documents can look like the image above, lost numbering, formatting gone haywire. I haven't yet mentioned the risk of not knowing about meta-data that's contained in every document. But therein lies the crux of the matter. Not knowing this stuff means having to learn it.

Think about this: why do the large firms employ document experts?

In a lot of firms there's inefficiency because people are muddling on and wasting time because they are not aware that there is a better way of doing things. And there's an easy way to improve efficiency. Either (a) learn the skills or (b) outsource to experts.

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Bluebird Innovative Office Support is a trading name of Bluebird Support Services Limited, company number 10219923. Registered Office: Alpha House, 4 Greek Street, Stockport. SK3 8AB, UK

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