Most students come to law school with a good foundational understanding of how to use Microsoft Office or similar software suites, such as Apple iWork, OpenOffice or LibreOffice, or WordPerfect. Most have written papers, given slideshow presentations, and perhaps used spreadsheet software during their undergraduate education. Most have also opened or created PDFs, and some have used Adobe Acrobat.
The purpose of this guide is to highlight tools and techniques available in common productivity software, specifically Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, that you may not have had reason to use before, but that can be especially useful to lawyers and legal professionals. They will increase your productivity, make you more confident when doing your legal writing on the job, and in some cases, keep you from making embarrassing mistakes or ethics violations.
You can either learn all these skills before you start work, or look over what kinds of skills this guide covers and reference the tutorials as needed, but it’s important to remember that Office and Acrobat contain a powerful set of tools, and there’s usually an easy way to do whatever you’re trying to do. You just have to know how to look for it.
If you aren’t familiar with Microsoft Office, start by watching Microsoft’s tutorials for getting started:
Adobe's website has an introduction to Acrobat.
You can also ask the reference librarians or the IT Department for help getting started.
This guide is focused on Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat because these are the products that law firms predominantly use. Many of the tools discussed in this guide are also available in other productivity suites, although the tools might have different names and work somewhat differently.
This guide is also focused on the more recent versions of Office and Acrobat, and you might find yourself using an older edition with different layouts. These tutorials might not track perfectly with the OSX version of Office.
Fortunately, you can usually figure out how to do these tasks on any piece of productivity software by checking the help function or with a simple web search. For example, if you want to track changes to make collaboration easier, but you’re working in a small firm that uses Apple’s Pages software instead of Word, you can simply search the help function or do a web search for the feature you want and the software you’re using, like “track changes pages”, and usually there will be a tutorial in the first few results that will show you how to do it.
If you can’t find the feature you’re looking for in older versions of Office, check the help function or use a web search like “track changes word 2000”