The Complete Guide to Contract Drafting Technology

Edition 2024

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If a document was created with a document automation tool, its styling is likely good or even perfect. Right around the time when a lawyer starts to tweak and tailor, however, is the moment when styling issues start popping up. Numbering jumps up and down, spacing becomes inconsistent, cross-references break, etc. Microsoft Word can surprise even the most seasoned lawyers with its various ways of breaking.

It is unfortunate for a guide on contract drafting technology that we must admit that there is currently no tool that immediately fixes every possible styling problem that a Word document may have. There are some tools that can assist with parts of the styling conundrum, but it seems to be much more of an education problem. Many lawyers, despite spending vast amounts of time in MS Word, don’t have the slightest idea of how it really works. Even AI, often seen as the silver bullet to all of a lawyers’ problems doesn’t offer a clear solution here. Case in point: even Microsoft’s own Copilot has difficulty dealing with MS Word’s numbered paragraphs, as set out above.

As a result, many large law firms employ document production teams, consisting of individuals well-versed in MS Word and its styling issues who can jump in at a moment’s notice to fix documents sent by a lawyer. Many international teams even employ document production teams on a “follow-the-sun” model. In this model, an associate could be working on a document at 01:00 AM in the Belgian office which needs to reach the client’s desk before they start their day. A document production team in the Australian office, where it would be 11:00 AM, could be active at that time and fix any issues to ensure timely delivery to the client.

For the legal teams that lack the scale and resources necessary to make investment in a document production team viable, the only real solution is (1) investing in a standard house style template and (2) training their lawyers.

For the former, there are consultants that can help develop a house style and set up a basic template for Word documents. More advanced document automation tools also allow you to upload those house style(s) to the platform so you can ensure that every generated document is always perfectly styled, and flexibly switch between different styles (e.g.: a single NDA could have a different logo/header/footer/font/… depending on which company within a group generates it).

For the latter, there are again plenty of consultants who offer personalized training sessions, but thanks to the power of the internet, much of this knowledge is available for free. A quick Google Search yields the following results which we’re happy to recommend:

Available tools
Litera Check

Litera Check’s “Repair” functionality offers a few ways to fix common styling issues, but is by no means comprehensive. This is in no way meant to diminish it, but rather to reemphasize that there is no silver bullet when it comes to fixing Word’s styling.

Though limited in scope, its core styling features are definitely useful:

  • Cross-reference repair – sometimes it may look like a cross-reference is functional when in reality the clause being cross-referenced has already been deleted. This is something that a human would only spot when they manually update the cross-reference. Naturally, people often forget to do this before sending a document out. Fortunately, the software can pick broken cross-references up before they are updated.
  • Numbering repair – inconsistent numbering is probably one of a lawyer’s most common styling issues. The numbering repair functionality can fix such issues as repeats of numbers, numbering being out of order, hardcoded numbering, and formatting discrepancies.
  • TOC repair – finally, Litera Check can also create tables of contents in a way that more accurately takes into account the headings and numbering of the document without some of the fragility of MS Word’s native TOC generator.

Similar to Litera Check, ClauseBuddy’s proofreading module can detect broken cross-references and hard-coded numbering. The module also assists in making sure your base style layouts are properly constructed and respected while drafting. It offers centralized style management as part of its ability to insert chameleon clauses. Simply upload your house style to ClauseBuddy to ensure that any clause inserted into a document follows the appropriate styling rules.

With template detection installed, ClauseBuddy even automatically chooses the correct house style from a set to use.

If ClauseBuddy is used in conjunction with a document automated in Clause9, documents will always have a perfectly clean style at the outset and any clause entered into a document will automatically conform to that style, without any further setup required.