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Over time, attorneys tend to specialize and focus their legal practices rather narrowly. As such, attorneys often litigate the same issues, and file the same types of motions and other pleadings, over and over again. And while you may have finally moved over to an online form system for gathering info from clients, your pleading form library may just be a mess of uncategorized motions, replies, and oppositions you've filed in the past.
To make life a little easier, many attorneys and law firms maintain form libraries so that drafting pleadings doesn't require recreating the wheel with every pleading. At the most basic level, attorneys frequently copy and paste the "standards" section of any motion from prior motions, but there is a better way.
Below, you can find three tips on turning your old pleadings into your new forms.
1. Create a Master Pleading/Template for Various Motions
Every time you craft a new legal argument, or revise an old one, you should consider copying it into a master pleading/template for future use. That way, when you need to pull that argument out again, you'll know where it is, and won't have to go digging through old case files. Also, if you build good master pleading templates, you'll probably always have one open while working on a pleading, so when you create something new, copying and pasting it over should be a breeze. And if you're actually good at using Microsoft Word, you may be able to really step up your form game.
Protip: Always make sure you save a backup every time you make edits.
2. Use Overemphasized Headings
Make sections easy to find by using headings with large fonts and bold and underlying. Use extra descriptive words in the heading, or anything that might make using the (ctrl + f) "find" feature easier. For example, in a summary judgment master pleading/template you create, you can have different standards written up based on whether you're the moving or defending party. Your heading can clearly denote the distinction.
3. Use Standardized/Coded Blanks
When it comes to using forms and templates, the "Find and Replace" feature in most word processors is your best friend here. To make your life easier, spend a few minutes every time you copy and paste something out of a master pleading to review what your copying. In addition to reviewing for typos or other language problems you may have missed in the past, you may want to standardize the blanks that you need to fill in so that when you use the find and replace feature, one click will change every instance "[plaintiff name]" to your client's name.