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Formatting Briefs in Word
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This is an amazing book!
I start by noting that the cover is highly deceptive. While its simplicity reflects the less-is-more attitude of the book's content, the book itself is highly graphical. It is filled with text examples, illustrations and screen shots. Given the sophistication of the interior, I am surprised that Amazon does not have any interior shots of it on the book description page. On the other hand, it sure stands out in my bookshelf
I classify this as a computer book for lawyers. The biggest difference between this and other Word-For-Lawyers books is that this book actually is for lawyers. Every other Word-For-Lawyers book I have seen could have one or two chapters replaced and become "Word for Doctors" or "Word for Engineers." It is obvious that the author actually is a lawyer and all the material is lawyer-specific.
One specific example I can cite that attests to the author's knowledge is the book's coverage of Word's Table of Authorities feature. Every other book I've seen on Word devotes two pages to this feature--not enough material to actually use it (or to learn why you shouldn't use it). This book has half a chapter that explains everything about it--pointing out all the pitfalls. While the book concludes that you should not use this feature, the author goes into detail why this feature does not work well for lawyers. The explanation is clearly the product of actual experience. If you want to use Word's TOA feature, this is the only actual explanation I have ever seen. If you don't why to use this feature, this book explains why not to use it.
The books walks through all the stages of writing briefs. One chapter shows how to set up Word for lawyers. There are some great tips there! Again, is it clear the author is sharing his lawyer experience with the rest of us.
Most of the rest of the book deals with how to set up templates for briefs. Everything you need to know about margins, headings, line numbers and lining pages is there.
The biggest subtopic is how to use styles for formatting. I am glad to see someone finally explain how to use them!
The book also shows how to create amazing cover page for briefs.
I am a Mac user. A lot of Word books simply ignore the Mac but this book covers Word for Mac in parallel with Word for Windows. While the Windows version gets precedence, the author appears to have nailed all the differences and points them out at each step.
Be warned that the description of the book as being for intermediate to advanced users is correct. The book assumes that you can do the basics in Word already. There is no lengthy discussion on how to open and save documents or how to do cut-and-paste, for examples.
For comparison, the most similar book I know of is the also excellent Typography for Lawyers. Much of this similarity is the result of both books being written by lawyers for legal professionals. While both books have the same general theme (better document formatting) the difference is that the other book is more theoretical and deals with documents in general while this book is more hands on and targeted specifically for Word users. There is some overlap in material between the two but not all that much.
Considering how widely Word is used for writing briefs, I am surprised that no one has written a book like this before. If you want to impress a judge with your next brief, get this book!
The only reason that I did not give the book a five-star rating is the rather startling number of spelling and syntactical errors: "reign" instead of "rein" and "sequents" instead of (I guess) "sequence" are examples. Several times in the book, the author stresses the importance of proof-reading. The next edition would benefit from a bit more of that. (And before anyone takes me to task for "practising" instead of "practicing", as Amazon's spell check has done, I work in Canada and that's how we spell it here.)
As with almost all other Microsoft programs, Word overcontrols the user, although the most recent editions (2007, 2010) are less likely to do this.
Among other things, this book has (1) clear, step-by-step directions, (2) relevant screen shots so that the reader can SEE what something should look like if he or she tries to do something, and (3) explanations of how the program works and how to make the program do what the user wants it to do instead of what Microsoft's programmers assume the user wants it to do.
Microsoft would do well to read this book and to emulate its approach to writing directions on how to use the program.