I’ve written before about tools I use in my practice to help me be efficient. I’ve now added one more tool to help with legal writing. PerfectIt by Intelligent Editing has recently released a new style sheet called American Legal Style. It’s a Word add-in to help edit legal documents. The creator knew I used WordRake, so contacted me to try PerfectIt. (I received a free license to try it, but the opinions are my own after trying it on several briefs.) It’s a good complement to WordRake, which focuses more on substantive edits to clarify writing.
I’ve used PerfectIt on several briefs and it’s been helpful. When you launch PerfectIt from inside Word, it runs several tests—for example, Preferred Spelling, Brackets and Quotes Left Open, and Common Typos. I love it when it reports “Test passed!” But it’s also caught technical errors that make it easier to edit the final product. When I used it, it found these errors:
- A cut-and-paste error that left in “Ga.App.” with no space.
- A missing closed parentheses.
- Capitalization error on a defined term. If you’ve defined “Smith’s Project,” PerfectIt will identify where you typed “Smith’s project.” You can correct all those instances with one click of the “Fix” button.
- Missing semicolon in a bulleted list with short phrases.
Even if I would have found those errors on a final review, it’s certainly nice to have a quick back-up. I’m a true solo, so I don’t have a colleague I can ask to review a brief. I pride myself on the quality of work I do for other lawyers, and would hate to miss these errors.
What I like most about PerfectIt is the ability to customize it. You can easily edit the stylesheet to add your own preferences. Here’s what I’ve added so far:
- When it checks for comments left in the text, I’ve asked it to find “NOTE:” because I often use it to leave a note to the attorney I’m working for. While I usually highlight that note, this ensures that I’ve highlighted it so it won’t remain in the final product.
- Preferred spelling to be “caselaw” instead of “case law.”
- Added a Wildcard entry to search for “at §” and “at ¶” and to replace with just the symbol to comply with Bluebook Rule 3.3.
- I also removed “Br” from the Preferred Spelling test because it was catching shorthand for bankruptcy, but it was flagging my abbreviation for Brief.
By personalizing it, I can add to it when I look something up in Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage or The Bluebook, which means fewer post-it notes on my monitors.
One thing I would like PerfectIt to add is a nonbreaking space after paragraph and section symbols. And just like with WordRake, you need to review the suggestions. But it’s a quick and easy tool to use. PerfectIt saves me time, save my clients money, and results in a better brief.