Following 18-months of collaboration, a high-profile group of lawyers, vendors, academics and other legal professionals have launched a first-of-its-kind interactive guide to drafting in Microsoft Word, which is based on and tracks a lawyer’s drafting workflow.
The global Effectiveness Project team announced today (18 August) that it has completed the first version of Document Competency: What Every Legal Professional Should Know for Effective & Efficient Drafting in Word, designated as a best practice guide.
LTC4 (the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition) plays a key role in supporting this project.
While LTC4 already has a learning plan for document drafting, the new guide goes into far greater depth and is designed to prompt people to challenge the way they draft documents, with a particular eye to efficiency.
The project was initiated and led by Ivy Grey, who is vice president of strategy & business development at WordRake. Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Grey said: “In September 2019 I pitched the idea of working together to create new standards for effective document creation and from then, WordRake and LTC4 started putting together the outline of a project like this. From September 2019 to February 2020, we worked on what it would entail and then in late February 2020 to early March we started to put together the team.” Sherry Kappel, an evangelist at Litera, was one of the first members and Grey adds: “I wanted to work with people who care deeply about document creation and never looked at a piece work without wondering how it could be better.”
The team behind the new guide is long and you can find all the names below. It is co-led by Tony Gerdes, director of knowledge and innovation at Offit Kurman, and Joanne Humber, marketing consultant from LTC4. The group initially started listing the key elements of an effective document but Douglas Lusk, founder of the National Society for Legal Technology, suggested organising the guide into drafting stages to map how lawyers work, and the project took off from there.
Kappel told Legal IT Insider: “The title is the Effectiveness Project because so much of what lawyers do involves Microsoft Word, which is sold as a consumer tool but when lawyers use it, they are professional users. Word is designed for everyone on the planet, but it doesn’t work for our industry without the professional tools that address the gaps in effectiveness and efficiency.”
Kappel points out that whereas there were 2,600 features in Microsoft Office, now in Microsoft 365 there are 4,682 and she says: “It’s so important to have a distillation around a workflow and that’s what this project did; we have put a workflow around something that feels like it’s ‘just Word’ and we have elevated that.”
The content is offered in three ways: an interactive website; a downloadable PDF; and eight individual modules that can be used to build stand-alone units for training and education. It is free and open for review, available at: https://ltc4.org/effectiveness-project/
It is divided into eight stages: confidentiality and document re-use; planning, structure, and organization; research, support, analysis, and argument; creating content and delivering information; collaborating with reviewers and authors; reviewing, editing, and proofreading; finalization; and on-screen review.
Humber said: “The learning plans that LTC4 has developed are around workflow and we do have one around working with legal documents but this guide takes it to another level and is way above that. The learning plans are great and cover the basic skills across all the things a lawyer does but when you get into the detail of document creation it’s an overview and for all the things they need to do beyond that, this guide is the answer.”
Kappel added: “There has not been anything ever that has unpacked the process in this way.”
The group is hoping that the guide will help drafters to avoid falling into common traps such as when they use pre-existing documents. Grey said: “You get into confidentiality concerns when using a pre-existing document, but people don’t always think about how they are putting their client at risk.”
And she adds: “You get the most from your investment when you use it at the best point in your workflow. Imagine putting liquid fabric softener in your laundry after washing your clothes.”
The industry is seeing significant changes such as reduced support staff numbers and more lawyers drafting their own contracts, but the project team stresses the guide isn’t just for lawyers, and Kappel says: “This isn’t about whether it’s the lawyers or secretaries doing the drafting, it’s about doing it with a professional approach.” Grey adds: “We took care to say that this was for all legal professionals and not to say ‘lawyer’ or ‘lawyers’ because we believe that anyone who is creating a legal document is creating value for the firm and should do it well.”
Humber said: “Lawyers already have to ensure that their legal skills are competent, but this is just as important. They use technology all the time: it’s got to be mandatory that they have the right skills.”
The group also hope that clients will put pressure on lawyers by refusing to accept large bills for the likes of document styling. Grey said: “If a client received a bill where they are charged $35 for styling a document, we would like them to say, ‘No, we will not pay you for this.’ And for judges and fee examiner to slash those costs. That is the only way lawyers will change.”
In a statement out today, Gerdes said: “The goal of this project is to shift the conversation from mere efficiency to effectiveness, so that we may challenge how we think about document creation in our industry.
“LTC4 already has application-agnostic learning plans to encourage efficiency, so the focus on effectiveness provides the ideal complement to LTC4’s offerings. I look forward to seeing how our work will make a difference.”
The next project from the team hopes to set standards for the appropriate time-to-value ratio for document-creation work and to empower clients to ask for more in the delivery of legal services.
The Global Effectiveness Team in Full:
The team is led by Ivy B. Grey, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at WordRake and Tony Gerdes, Director of Knowledge and Innovation at Offit Kurman, P.A., and Contributing Member of LTC4.
The Effectiveness Project team also includes Rachel Baiden, Global Technology Training Manager, Squire Patton Boggs; Adrian Bailey, Chief Architect, DocStyle, LLC; Chris Cangero, Chief Executive Officer, DocStyle, LLC; Dave DiCicco, Senior Director of Product Management, LexisNexis; Florentina Field, Co-Founder of Prelimine, Litigation Attorney; Jacob Field, Co-Founder of Prelimine; Sherry Kappel, Evangelist, Litera; Colin Levy, LegalTech Evangelist and Blogger; and Dyane L. O’Leary, Associate Professor of Legal Writing and Director, Legal Innovation & Technology Concentration, Suffolk University Law School. Additional contributors include: Alma Asay, Founder, Allegory; James Gillis, Estates and Trusts Attorney, Offit Kurman, P.A.; and Douglas Lusk, Founder, National Society for Legal Technology.
Learn more at https://ltc4.org/effectiveness-project/