Tim Suiter is the product manager of DocsCorp’s document style and template applications. He works closely with law firms to help them create professional documents in less time. Here, he explains why every law firm needs its own house style to ensure every document is consistent and easy to work with.
Document styles do more than make your documents look good
Word styles are sets of formatting instructions covering things like font size and colour. Using styles adds value both in terms of how a document looks and how easy it is to work with.
A consistent look and feel across the documents your clients interact with will support and strengthen your firm’s brand. And, by using styles, it’s much easier to fix or change parts of the document.
Styles allow you to drag entire paragraphs up or down a page. Just move the sections around within the Navigation Pane, and everything will automatically flow and update.
For legal documents, a robust set of styles is vital for ensuring the numbering functions correctly. This means the document is easier to edit by adding and removing clauses, Tables of Content work reliably, and cross reference links are correct.
Styles can also be used in more branded documents to deliver coloured headings and paragraph text and tables formatted consistently using your colour scheme.
Create a house style to brand your documents
A house style is a standard set of formatting rules that apply to all documents produced by your firm. A house style ensures a consistent appearance across every document and provides a standard method of presentation. Ultimately, a house style ensures your brand is front and centre.
A house style is made by customising Word styles to your firm’s branding. Word styles are sets of formatting instructions covering things like sizing, colour, and numbering. Beyond the styles themselves, firms often want to standardise document layouts and branding.
A firm’s house style will depend on its culture. Some firms have a rigid house style where virtually every formatting element is defined. Others will have one that is less structured, giving staff more flexibility. Some firms might prefer more traditional elements, like a cover page with basic Times New Roman font and minimal branding. Others might include their logo or a corporate colour palette for a more modern look.
A house style can denote whether definitions are paragraphs or contained in a table. It can include specific information within the header and footer, such as page number and a document reference or ID. It can also specify how cross-references are presented.
Generally, a firm’s house style will cover:
- Numbering schemes and list bullets
- Normal font size and colour
- Heading font size and colour
- Cover page
- Table of Contents
- Headers and footers
Your house style can be baked into legal document templates
It’s likely your firm already uses document templates to speed up the creation of commonly-used legal documents. A house style can be built into these templates, so the formatting is already set up and ready to go – giving the firm greater control over how documents look.
If you aren’t already using document styles to your advantage, you now have a starting point for what to think about when looking to develop a house style.