Do you really know your Word?

Bluebird recently attended the Future Lawyers Conference at BPP University Law School in London.

New innovations and technologies are well and truly embedded in law firms of all shapes and sizes, for many different purposes. But what about the basics?

Adam Curphey, Head of Innovation and Technology at the law school, revealed that "most new entrants are not sufficiently capable of effectively using standard technologies such as Word in a way that will be expected of them in practice".

To demonstrate this point, Adam asked the students in the lecture hall, many of whom had already secured a training contract, “Who knows how to use Word?”

Accordingly, a room full of hands shot into the air in response. The majority were no doubt surprised by the question, given that they had been using it since their primary school days.

He then asked people to put their hands down if they couldn’t correctly answer the following questions:

- Who knows what Styles are? - Who can create an automated table of contents? - Who can create and use auto cross-referencing? - Who knows how to run a comparison of two Word documents – NOT track changes? - Who knows what Format Painter is? - Who knows what metadata is?

No hands left. And why?

Because Word is so ubiquitous that “everyone knows how to use it" has become the narrative. But, in reality, most people are not using Word. Rather, they are typing electronic words on to an electronic piece of paper – in other words, a glorified typewriter.

But as a lawyer, you aren’t going to be typing out a couple of pages with some numbers in it. You are going to be creating, amending and working in fully automated, 200-page Word documents.

How do you navigate your firm’s house style if you don’t know what Styles are? How do you prepare an accurate document if you don’t know how to cross-reference? Your firm may have easy-to-use buttons but those buttons are underpinned by Word functions, and if you don’t know how to use Word…. well you know where I’m going.

It stands to reason that if none of the lawyers working in a 200-page document knows how to use Word, there are going to be problems. And these problems will get larger and larger, usually in the background, but you won’t be able to spot the problem because you don't know how to use Word.

The result will be that the document will fail. It won’t open and it won't print. The document may need to be recreated from a previous version, and the latest changes made all over again.

Imagine the time it takes to do this on a 200-page document. The concern about accuracy. The confusion it causes. The embarrassment in front of your client. And the money it costs.

This might sound like a nightmare scenario, but I have seen it happen countless times. Don’t let it happen to you.

Spending time trying to fix a Word document when you don’t know how is a mistake that many make.

I don’t fix my leaking tap because I’m not a plumber. So why do it with Word documents?

Hours of time can be saved by handing your document to an expert who really knows how to use Word. This might be your in-house Document Production unit or an outsourced service like Bluebird Support Services. If you take 4 hours to fix a document, chances are that Bluebird will take half that time - or even less. Often the solution is very simple.

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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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