Lawyers use Word for legal writing, contract drafting, and many other legal documents more than any other word processing software. Like any other software, Word files have their own disadvantages. Legal drafting using Word requires the legal community to exercise caution. Read on to learn why you should not be using Word files for e-mailing final copies of legal contracts or any other legal business documents.
Lawyers’ Paperless Office – Using Caution in Legal Drafting Applications
Going paperless is definitely a good idea for your legal practice management. Of course, you should have a good legal document management system in place to manage electronic documents and data. Lawyers greatly benefit from document management software to organize and manage their files. However, be cautious about the platform that you choose when going paperless.
Word files are the most popular substitute for traditional paper work. Lawyers use Word in many areas of their law practice management. Let’s focus on legal contracts as an example. You may use Word to write the contract terms and create drafts. However, never use Word files to e-mail finalized contracts to clients. Here’s why.
Using digital signatures to sign contracts is becoming increasingly common. Therefore, you may have to e-mail client the finalized contracts. A couple of risks associated with e-mailing a Word file are:
- Formatting Errors – The formatting can sometimes go haywire. The formatting may look different on every PC. This may be because of different operating systems that you and your client are using. In any event, there are lots of issues related to spacing and formatting that can show up in Word files.
- Security Issues- Any person who comes across a Word file can easily edit it and tamper with your letterhead, your signature, or the client’s electronic signature.
If you need to use electronic signatures in any of your documents, it would be best to sign a PDF document. A PDF file cannot be edited easily and it rarely has any formatting issues.
Change is inevitable and lawyers definitely should move toward a paperless practice. However, before your law firm management implements a paperless strategy, it would be worth analyzing the pros and cons of each program. Word may be perfect as a draft, but think twice before using it as your final document.