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Law Technology

A survey of software useful for law students and lawyers, and tips to improve your productivity on programs you probably already use.

General Principles

As either a lawyer or a law student, you'll be doing a lot of writing, which means a word processor will be on of the most important tools at your disposal. It will be important that you learn to use your word processor efficiently and know all the features that are available to you.

Microsoft Word is not the only major word processor available, but because it is so ubiquitous, it is likely to be the one you are using are will be using in your practice. This page suggests several important features of Word you may not be aware of, but would likely find very helpful going foward.

While there are many versions of Word available, and videos in this guide won't necessarily have precisely the same interface as what you see, these commands should be included in any modern version of Word. If you can't find a command in your default interface, you can customize Word's ribbon to add the command to your user interface.

Office 365

If you don't already have access to Word, DePaul provides students with free access to Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, and OneDrive. The installation instructions can be found at the below link:

Outlining

A helpful way to set up a document is to begin with Word's outline view. This will help you give your document some clear structure that you can later use to reformat it and create navigation aids. It can also help you when writing by giving you a sense of the larger structure of your argument. And, of course, you may find this to be a great tool when writing your course outlines.

While you may not always start the writing process with an outline, like when you're informally getting your ideas together, once it's time to craft a legal argument that you'll be submitting in court, an outline is an invaluable tool. The outline is not just the basic structure of a document that unlocks the styling and navigation features that a good brief needs, it's also a reflection of the structure of your legal argument. Each part of your argument can be stated in your outline in advance, allowing you to then articulate it in the body text of your document and support it with your authorities.

Styles & Style Sets

One of the most effective ways to quickly format your document in a professional manner is the consistent application of styles. Instead of manually formatting each paragraph, you can use style rules and apply the appropriate style to each paragraph and section heading. This creates a uniform appearance across the document. When you want to edit the way your document looks, you can edit the style rather than each individual paragraph, and the changes will be applied to the whole document.

Revision Tools

Whether you're editing a document collaborative or just by yourself, you often don't want to lose your previous work when making changes. It's often best practice, especially when working on someone else's document, to be able to leave a record of the previous work in place while editing. When using Word's Review tools, like tracking changes and commenting, you can see previous version of a document alongside the current version.

Navigation Aids

Word has plenty of tools available to make your document easier to navigate from simple ones like page numbers to more advanced commands that take advantage of outlines and headings, like automated tables of contents. Including these navigation aids is quite frequently a best practice, so you should learn how to add them to your document.

Table of Authorities

The table of authorities is a type of navigation aid specific to the legal profession, and it is incredibly valuable to know how to create one. Word has a tool to create one, but it can be a little tricky to use. As law students, you also have access to Lexis for Microsoft Office, which among other features, has a more convenient table of authorities tool.