word_gabI bet that if we did a survey to ask paralegals how they create new contracts for clients, 80% or more would reply that they open a previously saved client agreement and edit it with the new details before saving it under a new name – Eish!

When using this method, there are a number of gremlins that can creep into your document that the creator – or should we say the current editor – may not realise.

Let us put these possible gremlins into a list for you:
• You forget to change something in the document that refers to the previous client – he/she her/him or possibly the client’s name!
• In “copying and pasting” you bring across formatting that does not match the current document.
• Comments that you made to help your boss understand why the changes were made are still part of the document and when somebody else – like the client – reads the document they can reveal the comments and see what you said.
• Changes to the document could be seen you have hidden certain “Show Markup” options.
• The document metadata – author and other information attached to the original document – will be incorrect unless you change this for each document you edit.

In the following images I illustrate these issues, by taking a document prepared for Mr Smith and then editing the document for a new client document for Mr Jones, with a few comments to my boss on changes that needed to be made.

The original document for Mr Smith, created from a template we downloaded from Mr Blog’s great templates.

mrsmith_will_original_document

 

Then this is the document for Mr Jones with the comments and changes hidden, which looks like a regular document.

mrjoneswill_-_comments_changes_hidden

 

Here is the same document with the comments revealed – oops sorry about the “chop” comment Mr Jones and we never discriminate when we bill for standard Wills.

mrjoneswill_-_comments_changes

 

The metadata of the document that if not displayed in the “printed” document, but which is “attached” with the document forever. Note that although this document is saved as “Jones Will 9 May 2011 – version6” all the information talks about Mr Smith and the original author (in my case is still me, but if I used another person’s saved file it would have been incorrect).

mrjoneswill_-_fileinfo

 

How to “clean” the document before sending it out of the office – in Word 2007/2010

word_-_inspect_a_document

 

Here are the steps you can follow to “clean” the documents for sending them off.

In Word 2007 and 2010 Versions
Click the “Office” button. This is the button in the top left corner of the screen. In 2007 then click “Prepare”. If you are using Word 2010, click on the “File” menu instead.
In the File tab, click the “Info” option. From the “Info” option, choose “Check for Issues” which is located under “Prepare for Sharing.”
Click on the “Inspect Document” and a dialogue box will appear, click the “Inspect” button to complete the command.

In Word 2003 and Earlier Versions
Click on the “Tools” menu from the menu bar and select “Options.”
Click the “User Information.” This will allow you to view metadata.
Also click on the “File” menu from the menu bar and choose “Properties.”
From the “View” pull-down menu on the menu bar, choose “Markup.” After you have clicked “Markup,” all hidden comments or revision marks in the document will appear.

 

My advice is that you use templates or even better use a document assembly tool like XpressDox, although there are a good few others available.

Contributed by:
Malcolm Pearson
www.tech4law.co.za

 

 

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