Monday, September 16, 2013


Nearly every firm or office makes use of an office-wide letterhead. It is one of those things that you want to be consistent for everyone in the office.If your office or firm uses pre-printed letterhead, then you might not find this post all that useful. However, if your firm prints its letterhead as part of the letter itself - you put a blank piece of paper in the printer and a letter with your letterhead on it comes out - then I'd encourage you to read on.

Ideally, everyone in the office should pull their letterhead from the same template. Otherwise, in order to change the letterhead to add or delete a name you would have to change multiple files. In our office, we designed our letterhead in Word. Then we saved it as a .dotm file instead of a .docx file by going to file, choosing save as, and changing the type to .dotm. A .dotm file is a macro-enabled template, while a .docx file is simply an ordinary Word file. That template file was then stored on the central server accessible to everyone in the office.

Ordinarily, when you open a .dotm file, it opens the file as an untitled .docx file but will have the appearance of the template. Thus, it will have all of your letterhead information and just be awaiting the letter be typed. In this way, the template is used to generate the new untitled .docx file, but the template itself is never altered. More importantly, it keeps others from accidentally altering the template or saving over it by accident. Moreover, many people can access the template file at the same time without problem. And when it comes time to update your letterhead, the template is the only file that needs changed and everyone will receive that change.

Instead of opening old letters to use the letterhead or having a letterhead file on your own computer, take the time to create a letterhead template file everyone in your office will use.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I recently came across this article on Tech Republic regarding online password managers. The long and short: the jury is still out on just how safe it is to store your passwords in the "cloud". For what it's worth, I disfavor this approach and store my passwords on my phone in an encrypted file. To get at all of my passwords, someone would have to have access to my phone. In this way, I control the access point. With the online password managers, you are letting someone else control the entry point.

For this reason, I prefer Password Keeper, which stores the files locally with the option of cloud synchronization through Google Drive. I know I had previously said that I was ok giving up a good deal of my privacy to Google, but there are some things I'm not ready to hand over so easily to a third party. The password to my bank accounts is one of them.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Previously, we created an digital version of our signature with a transparent background. Today, we're going to see how to turn it into a stamp in Adobe Pro. 

At this point, a lot of law offices are using Adobe Pro, even non-profit law firms. The fact that it allows you to manipulate .pdf files makes it incredibly useful in the practice of law, which by its nature is a document intensive profession.

The stamps in Adobe Pro make it easy to insert the same image on a regular basis. It is simple to set up your digital signature to be an adobe stamp.

From inside Adobe Pro, open click on the stamp tool and choose "Create Custom Stamp":

Next, tell it that you want to use your .png signature file we had previously created. It seems that by default, the window that allows you to choose your file will only look for .pdf files, so make sure you tell it to look for .png files by changing the file type.

Once you've done this, tell Adobe which stamp category you want your signature to appear in, or create your own category. I just created a signature category. Last, give the stamp a name. Again, I chose signature.

Now, you have a stamp in Adobe that you can insert on any .pdf file quickly and easily. And because you made it with a transparent background, it will sit on top of other lines and text and let it bleed though the white spaces in your signature just as if you had actually signed it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


In thinking back, I think the first web browser I used was Netscape. That soon gave way to Internet Explorer, which was what I used until early 2005 when I switched to Mozilla's Firefox. At the time, Firefox was the lighter, had fewer security vulnerabilities, and had tabbed browsing. Firefox was simple. It knew it was a browser and didn't try to let a bunch of features creep in.

For the past couple of years though, I've been using Google Chrome as my browser of choice. It allows for endless customization if you like, but it is ready to go out of the box. Additionally, I like that I can log in to Chrome, and it will important all of my settings to whatever computer I may be sitting at. This includes all of my bookmarks.

This cross computer functionality is also cross platform: everything on my computer's version of chrome shows up on my phone's chrome browser as well. In fact, if I have a site pulled up on my computer that I would like to view on my phone, I can just go to my phone's browser and it has the link waiting for me. A simple tap opens up whatever tab I may have open on any other computer without having to retype the link.

Lastly, Google Chrome's integration with Google Now is great. Using my computer, I was looking up information about the Social Security office I was going to be visiting the morning before the social security hearing I had that afternoon. Google Now took the address off of the computer's tab and had my phone tell me how long it would take to get there given current traffic patterns and asked if I wanted to start the navigation app.

In short, Chrome strives to be your one-stop-shop for accessing information and organizing your life, and I think it is succeeding at that. As an attorney, anything to help do that gets a gold star in my book. 

Monday, September 9, 2013


Now that you have your table of contents inserted in your document, let's spend this last part considering some common issues and problems that I've experienced myself and seen others have as well.

Occasionally, odd text from other parts of your document might show up in your table of contents. Sometimes, it is whole paragraphs that are simply part of the body and not part of any heading. If this happens, go to that part of your document that is showing up in your table of contents and highlight it. Then, right click on it and choose paragraph. From here, check the outline level. It is probably set at a heading number as opposed to body text. Simply change it to body text. When you next update your table of contents, that errant text should disappear.

Speaking of updating your table of contents, don't forget to do that at the very end or your editing immediately prior to printing or sending your work out. Remember, one of the advantages of using the built in table of contents feature is that it will update your page numbers and even your heading texts when they change. But it doesn't do this automatically; you have to tell it to update.

To update your table of contents, you can either right click in the middle of the table itself and choose "Update field" or go to the reference tab. You will then have the choice of either updating the entire table of contents or just the page numbers. I almost always choose to update the entire table to capture any changes in the text of the headings I may have made.

Lastly, when you are using the built in table of contents function alongside the table of authorities function, odd things can happen. If you have symbols turned on (you clicked on the pilcrow as I previously recommended), then you will notice a long string of text after every one of your cases or statutes that you have marked to be included in your table of authorities. This long text will actually mess with the page layouts, placing your headings later in the document and potentially on a different page on your screen than it will when printed because that extra stuff after the case isn't printed. The table of contents will use the page number that appears on the screen and not the one that prints. So, prior to updating your table of contents, I recommend turning symbols off.

Hopefully these posts have helped demystify how to create and use tables of contents.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Now that we have discussed how to set the outline levels and how to insert a table of contents, let's discuss how to customize the layout of your table of contents. Start by going to the reference tab in Word 2010 and 2007 and clicking on table of contents. It will have a drop down option. You can choose several pre-designed tables, but, this time, let's choose "insert table of contents":

This opens up a new form that allows you to design a custom table of contents.

One thing you can adjust is whether you have dots, dashes, a line, or nothing at all connecting the section heading and the page number by adjusting the tab leader. You can even adjust whether page numbers are displayed and how those numbers are aligned.

On the show levels option, you can set which outline levels are displayed in your table of contents. The default is 3, which means that all text in your document that is set to an outline level of 1, 2, or 3 will show up in your table of contents. Thus, if you only wanted to show level 1 headings, you would adjust the "show levels" number to 1. 

If you click on the Modify button, a style window will open:

From in here, you can adjust the style of how the text in each outline level will appear in your table of contents. In many of the default options, Word will copy the style used in your document. So, if your level 1 headings are bold, italic, and underlined, then they will appear that way in the table of contents. Personally, I don't like that look.

I will usually set the styles in this box to all be the same font size and style by clicking on the heading I want to adjust (TOC 1 for all level 1 headings, etc.) and clicking on the modify button. This opens the familiar font and paragraph option windows where you can set, in detail, all of the font and paragraph styles you could possibly want. I usually just indent each subsequent level in .25".

Once you have your settings all adjusted to your liking, you can insert your customized table of contents. Don't be a slave to the pre-defined tables of content; make them your own.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


In the last Part, I suggested a method for creating a table of contents in a situation where you are not used to using styles or if you are trying to add a table of contents to someone else's work. This time, let's talk about how styles can make creating a table of contents even easier if you create a document from scratch.

If you're not familiar, the home tab of Word 2010 and 2007 has a section labeled styles:

By selecting a style, you will automatically apply the formatting and paragraph setting associated with that style to the text you have either highlighted or are typing. Moreover, the style labeled "Heading 1" has the outline level set to 1 by default, "Heading 2" is level 2, etc. By modifying the "Heading 1" style to match your personal style for your headings, you can simply type in your heading, select it, and apply the "Heading 1" style. It will then automatically format your heading as well as adjust the style to your preference.

This way, you have all the benefits of uniformity that come from styles, the benefit of making easy global changes in a heading's style, and the construction of a table of contents.

If you're going to be building a document from scratch, I highly recommend using the heading styles to create your table of contents.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Note: This is Part 1 in a 4 Part series this week on Tables of Content.

In legal briefs, particularly appellate briefs, we often have to include a table of contents. Microsoft Word has a built in table of contents function that, if used right, can be a huge time saver. It will also be more accurate and easier to update than manually inserting a table of contents. However, it is not the most intuitive feature to learn. This week, we're going to dig into the Table of Contents function.

In this first, let's look at creating a table of contents without using styles as it has been my experience that a lot of people don't use styles. Additionally, if you are tasked with adding a table of contents to another person's document, it might be overly difficult to use styles. 

As you are typing your brief, when you come to a point where you want to have a heading in your table of contents, simply type it into the document. Next, give it the formatting you prefer for the body of the document - centered, italic, underlined, etc.

Once that is done, highlight the part of the heading you want to appear in your table of contents. Right click on it and choose "paragraph". Now, go to the outline level drop down box and choose the level heading you want the highlighted text to be. As a guide, set top level headings or headings of the primary sections to "level 1", secondary level headings to "level 2", and so forth. Everything else, the stuff that doesn't belong in the table of contents, should be set to "body text".

Once you have set the outline level for the headings in your document, move the cursor to where you want to insert your table of contents. Click on the references tab and then click on the table of contents. From there, you can choose one of the pre-formatted options or even insert a customized table.

And that's it. Using this method, you can quickly and easily insert a table of contents into your legal document. In the next Part, we will examine how styles can make this even easier.


Staying in shape, or getting there in the first place, can be a struggle for anyone, but for attorneys, the time commitment can be daunting. Anything that can help out would seem to be a plus.

The wife got a Fitbit Flex a while back, but she hasn't been wearing it since she has been sidelined. So, I thought I would wear it for a week and see if it added anything to my life.

If you aren't familiar, the Fitbit is a band you wear on your wrist that acts as a pedometer, sleep tracker, and silent alarm. The Android App and the website allow you to track your caloric and liquid intake and explain your sleep patterns. In short, it is designed to help you get into shape by allowing you to keep track of what you do.

On the plus side, the silent alarm feature was nice as it woke me up without waking the wife by vibrating the bracelet. The Android App was fairly user friendly, and the Bluetooth syncing with the phone made syncing a snap. It held a charge for several days before needing plugged in, and even then, charging didn't take very long. Plus, you could tap on it twice during the day and see how far you had progressed towards your walking goal for the day.

However, those were the only real positives as far as I was concerned. First, you're supposed to wear it on your non-dominant hand, which is where I usually wear my watch. Unless I wanted to wear two things on my left wrist - and I very much did not - then the watch had to stay at home. So, for a week, I kept looking at the Fitbit to figure out the time and date.

Staying on the topic of style, the Fitbit isn't garish. In fact, it looks like one of those wrist bracelets that are supposed to signify your support of cancer awareness or ecology or whatever other cause you might imagine. I suppose if you don't mind those types of things, you wouldn't find the Fitbit a problem; however, those things simply don't do anything for me. Clearly a minor, and probably personal issue, but I point it out for others who are indifferent or turned off by the cause bracelets.

As far as functionality, I do question its accuracy as a pedometer. It said I had walked nearly half a mile over the hour and a half it took to mow the lawn, which I could understand had I used a push mower. However, that entire time was spent on a riding mower. It also registered quite a few steps while I was talking during meetings (full disclosure, I talk a lot with my hands). I didn't find it to be as accurate as belt loop pedometers that I have worn in the past.

Additionally, I found it cumbersome to keep track of my food intake and water using the app. My prior experience with MyFitness Pal was more positive. Don't get me wrong, it did an ok job, I just preferred the other app for doing intake tracking.

Lastly, as a sleep tracking device, I found it lacking. It didn't provide much detailed information regarding my sleep patterns. Plus, the way I slept, the bracelet kept getting caught on my other arm or the pillow. It also didn't adjust the alarm to go off during the part of your sleep cycle where you would be least disturbed by an alarm. Prior experience with apps like Sleep as Android provided better sleep cycle analysis and functionality without the intrusion of a bracelet and they would adjust the alarm time to go off during the most restless part of your sleep cycle.

Overall, I think there is promise in the idea of the Fitbit. But I'm not sure there aren't better free apps out there to help you monitor your fitness. I'll be curious to see how the next generation of these devices function.