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Microsoft Word Fundamentals for Efficient Lawyers and Law Students

This guide provides tips and links to tutorials for key tasks in Word that lawyers and law students undertake daily.

How to Collaborate on a Word Document

Problem: You are collaborating with another person on an important assignment.  You want to be able to work on the document at the same time, but not necessarily have to be in the same room.  You know that Google Docs provides this functionality, but Google Docs does not provide you with all of the formatting options that you would like.  Also, you also want to be able to use other helpful collaboration features, like track changes and comments.   

Solution: Collaborate directly in Word by saving your document to OneDrive (which all Law Students have access to) and inviting your colleague to edit it.

Explanation: Many collaboration tools are available to you, including Dropbox and Google Drive, but if your end document is a Word document for which formatting is important, then using Word Online as a collaboration platform will provide you with the most effective collaboration options.  Once you have saved your document to OneDrive and have shared it with your colleague, Word allows you and your colleague to collaborate in real time by tracking each colleague's edits to a document, including comments within the document, and responding to comments within the document. Importantly, you can see your colleague's edits and comments as that person makes them. You may also video conference with your colleague while you both edit the document if you add the document to your meeting in Teams.     


Pro Tip #1: Did someone share a file with you that you wish to access in File Explorer or Finder rather than in your OneDrive account online? You can do that! However, the shared material must be a shared folder, not an individual file. You can find step-by-step instructions here
Pro Tip #2: Did you or your colleague save or reject changes you shouldn't have? Don't sweat that mistake. To retrieve prior versions of a document that Word has kept available for you, use the instructions here

Track Changes

Problem: You are collaborating on a document with another person, and you want to make changes to that document.  However, you’d like for the changes to stand out so that the other person knows what you have inserted, deleted, or moved.  

Solution: Before making changes to the document, enable Word’s Track Changes feature on the Review tab to show your changes to the document.   

Explanation: Track Changes will show the text that you inserted, as well at the text that you deleted or moved. Attorneys often refer to a document that includes Track Changes as a Redline Document.

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Tutorial: Track Changes in Word (includes a video)

Accept or Reject Track Changes

Problem: Your drafting partner has tracked changes within our document.  However, you want to incorporate some of the changes, but not all of them. 

Solution: On the Review tab, you have the option to accept or reject changes within your document.   

Explanation: You can choose to accept all of the changes in a document, or you can accept each change one by one, also rejecting changes that you do not want to integrate into your document.  By the end, you should have a clean document without tracked changes.

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Pro Tip: A document including tracked changes will more than likely be returned to you with the Track Changes feature still enabled.  So that you don’t end up tracking your subsequent changes if you don’t want to do so, disable Track Changes as soon as you open the document.

Insert or Delete a Comment

Problem: You are collaborating on a document, and you want to leave a suggestion for your colleague within the document.

Solution: Add a margin comment to the document; you can find the Comment button under the Review Tab.  You can later delete this comment—and any other comments you add—when you no longer need the comment.

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Explanation: The Comment feature is a useful tool when you want to leave yourself notes about your document, or you want to provide notes about the document for others to read. 


Pro Tip: Tracking changes and adding comments become metadata within your document. If you are creating the document as a part of your law practice, this metadata may include privileged information or other internal communications that you should not provide or do not wish to provide to opposing counsel, the client, the judge, or whomever else ends up with the document. Therefore, before sending the document electronically outside of your workplace, carefully remove this metadata by deleting all comments and accepting or rejecting all changes within the document.