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Formatting Briefs in Word

by John Miano

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Formatting Briefs in Word explains how to create all the elements of a legal brief in Microsoft Word. Written by a lawyer for lawyers, paralegals and law students, readers will find this book invaluable for creating the best formatted briefs possible. While good formatting will not save a terrible brief, it will enhance a good one; and a good brief can be destroyed by poor formatting. Every page of this book is devoted towards solving the problems of formatting briefs. Topics include how to set up Word for legal writing; font selection; page layout; formatting using styles; creating tables of contents and authorities; and creating cover pages. Conformance with court rules is stressed throughout.

This is an intermediate to advanced book on Word. The reader is expected to know already Word basics. This book takes the reader to a higher skill level.

While the book is focused on briefs, the material can be applied to any type of legal document. Add numbering to a paragraph style and your brief template becomes a complaint template. The focus is on good document formatting, targetted towards the needs of lawyers.

One reviewer noted that this is not your typical Word for Lawyers book where you can replace a couple of chapters and have Word for Doctors or Word for Engineers.

Table of Contents

Setting up Word for Legal Writing

Word's default settings are not ideal for legal writing. For example, it tells how to prevent Word from automatically changing 6th Cir. to 6th Cir., something not desirable in legal writing. It also shows how to make Word justify text better.


The goal of this book is for the reader to be able to create a set of high quality templates for each type of document he creates. This chapter explains the basics of how to create and use templates.


Styles are the correct way to format documents. This chapter explains how to create and use styles.

A Brief Style Set

This chapter shows the types of styles that one needs to define to create a brief template.


This covers what you need to know about typefaces and fonts. It describes the basics of fonts, how to use advanced font features, and how to conform to court rules. Old style figures and ligatures-do you know how to use them in Word?

Page Layout

This chapter explains how to set up pages in Word. It also explains how to do page setup for the U.S. Supreme Court. Topics include margins, headers and footers, page rules, and line numbers.

Paragraph Formatting

This chapter describes how to useWord's paragraph settings. It covers indents and spacing, line and page breaks, justification and hyphenation, tabs, bullets and numbering.

Setting Up Brief Styles

This chapter shows how to set up the various types of styles used in briefs, such as headings, footnotes, and block quotations.

Basic Text Formatting

This chapter shows how to do correct character level formatting. For example, it shows how to insert symbols and how to use the various types of dashes correctly.

Brief Sections

Long briefs are usually divided into sections (tables, body, certifications). This chapter shows how to create these using Word sections.

Tables of Contents and Tables of Authorities

Word has a table of authorities feature. This chapter explains how to use it (and why you probably should not use it). It also explains how to create a table of contents.

Cover Pages

The chapter explains how to create three different types of cover pages.

Keyboard Shortcuts

How to create keyboard shortcuts for styles and characters that are frequently used in briefs.

Finishing Up

How to get word counts and create a PDF version of the brief.


Formatting Samples

Comparative Court Formatting Rules