True story: Last year, I had to spend one of the warm-weather Monday holidays working on a brief that was due the following Tuesday. (I can’t remember if it was Memorial or Labor Day, but that doesn’t matter to the story.)

I spent the weekend revising and polishing the brief.

Then I remembered about the Table of Contents and Table of Authorities.

In our office, the tables traditionally presented a labor-intensive slog. My assistant would scroll through the brief on her first monitor, cutting-and-pasting headings and citations into a separate document on her second monitor. The human error inherent in that process, coupled with my penchant for last-minute revisions, made this quite an ordeal.

But this time, I had no assistant. She was out of the office until Tuesday, like any sane person on a holiday weekend.  And I didn’t have the time to manually prepare the tables myself. Things were looking dire, There was really only one thing to do:

I drafted/begged/pleaded with/cajoled Carrie to come in on Labor Day to handle the tables while I finalized the rest of the brief.*

So without getting into the details, let’s just say spousal secretarial labor under deadline on a holiday weekend is not a recipe for domestic bliss. It is, in fact, a bad idea. A bad, bad idea that must never be repeated. (Although Carrie did do a great job with the tables).

By now, tech-savvy readers are either yelling at their screens or they have checked out entirely.

That’s because Word will do all of this for you. Joe Rainsbury patiently explained this to me over lunch, while trying not to laugh. If you draft your brief using Styles:

  1. You can easily make global formatting changes;
  2. Word will automatically generate an outline of your document to facilitate navigation;
  3. Word will automatically generate a Table of Contents;
  4. With a little bit of effort, Word will generate a Table of Authorities;
  5. You can design a cover that looks better than the one your printer uses; and
  6. You can save your document as a template to streamline future projects.

I’m sure that there are other benefits as well, but these were the most obvious to me. (And, again, I know that none of this is new. At least half of you know this already. But it’s a hugely powerful tool, and I suspect that there are Word users out there every bit as ignorant as I am.)

Is it hard to learn how to use Styles? No, it is not. Deborah Savadra has put together an amazing tutorial at Lawyerist. (See screenshot above.) It’s brilliant. Even I could follow it. It’s probably going to be assigned reading for our Federal Litigation class this spring. Technologically inept as I am, there were only two points in the whole piece where I could have used a little clarification:

  • When you are marking citations for your Table of Authorities, the long citation is the one that appears in the automatically generated table; and
  • After the new updates to Word 2016, to create a template you “Save a Copy” as a .dotx file.

But that’s it. The piece if remarkably well done.

If you are new to Styles, you can just follow along with Savadra’s tutorial the next time you write a brief. If I can do this, you can do this. And you should; it will make your life easier. Heck, it may even save your marriage.


*Or Memorial Day? Whatever.