Is it really worth it to create your own document templates?

 In Technology

Is the sky blue?

Okay, okay: to be fair, efficient case management software can solve most of your drafting woes, but alas, that software is only as good as those who regularly enter up-to-date information and maintain consistent staffing practices.

Even under the best of circumstances, some case management software won’t allow you to color even slightly outside the lines—say, if a firm’s address is just a few lines longer than allowed.  Or if the case was reassigned, your reply is due by noon, and you really can’t be bothered to enter in ALL of the new judge’s information BECAUSE OMG YOU JUST NEED TO FILE IT ALREADY.

Sing, muse, of the under-utilized, ill-understood, yet infinitely-helpful .dotx file format!  In less than fifteen minutes, you’ve got yourself a rough-n-ready blank document with all your necessary information in place for just such an emergency.  Should something change, templates are easy to edit in the short term and can be permanently edited once you’ve had a chance to catch your breath.

To get started, simply crack open a blank document in Word.  Click File > Options.  Under Customize Ribbon, select Developer to view the Developer tab in the ribbon.  Go to Developer, click Design Mode, and play around!  Preview your results by turning Design Mode off again.

Tired of constantly tinkering with your footer?  Design it correctly once, save it as a template, and BOOM!  You’re good to go.

Have more than one attorney or staff member signing documents in a particular case?  Try adding a dropdown menu under your signature line.

Sick of failing to correct the date and time of the signature?  Try using one that auto-updates—you may be surprised at the variety of automatic formats available for date and time, including, “On this ___ day of _____, 2014.”

When you’re finished, be sure to save as a Word Template. Each time you open your .dotx file, you’ll be presented with a brand new “Document 1” for you to edit as you see fit.  If your firm is using a database like NetDocs, try saving these templates to a Drafts folder for easy access.

In a perfect world, you’d always have plenty of time to craft flawless documents from scratch.  But the world isn’t perfect.  Try creating a few templates—you’ll thank yourself later!

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