Improving Word Processing
By Marilyn Monrose
THE SUCCESS of your organization's word processing department depends on the type of working relationship between your attorneys, word processing operators, and supervisors. Here are some tips to help supervisors improve those relationships and create better documents:
1. Whenever possible, ask attorneys to pre-book time in the center. This way, the supervisor can assess whether there are enough people in the center and order temporary employees, when needed.
2. Use job numbers: Create a template cover sheet for all documents. Include name and extension; client/matter number; deadlines; delivery method (car, inter-office, fax, e-mail, etc.); special instructions, (such as whether or not the document should be blacklined or if copies need to be sent to others, etc).
3. Distribute all jobs to the operators, and keep a log of assignments. Do not rely on the operators to pick up the next priority job, especially if that job is heavily marked up. (Unless they feel like staying late and racking their brains out, they're going to choose the one that's less complicated.)
4. When transcribing tapes, ask operators to use underlines for words they don't understand, rather than question marks or other characters. Underlines give the document a neat appearance.
5. Make photocopies of heavily edited documents before they are handed to the operator. Include everything: cover sheet, document, riders, inserts, etc. This will assist you should there be any confusion or complaint about the final product.
6. Do not bombard the same two or three operators with the most complex jobs all the time, unless you pay them more than the others. Spread work equally, not just a select few. If some staff are weak in certain areas (such as table formatting), send them to additional training. It's not fair for some operators to get the brunt of the work. This creates resentment in the word processors who are overworked.
7. When comparing different versions of the document for "blackline" purposes, be sure the attorney tells you how he or she wants them processed, either verbally or by writing it on the cover sheet.
8. When an attorney brings in a medium- to large-sized document that is heavily marked-up, the supervisor should save a copy of the file to a special folder (e.g. "h:\temp\ backup\..."). Sometimes attorneys are so overworked and stressed that they may not realize a new version is necessary. But just in case they really wanted a new version, you'll have the original safely stored on the hard drive.
9. Suggest that attorneys use a fine-tipped pen to make revisions on a document that is being sent by fax. Anything thicker may result in indecipherable blurs. Handwritten edits should not be done too far out in the margins, because they can get cut off during fax transmissions. If the new input is long, then it should be inserted as a rider and put on a separate sheet.
10. Set timed backup in Word or WordPerfect between one and two minutes. That will keep current versions available in the event of freezings.
11. Do not allow attorneys to give an operator multiple versions or copies of the same document with different revisions to work on (example, document numbers 456789.3, 456789.6, 456789.4, etc.). This is a sure recipe for disaster. AttorneyS should indicate which revisions have priority over others.
12. If possible, attorneys should have all riders for documents typed, then saved to the system or a disk for easy insertion.
13. Assign mentors for all new word processors (temp and permanent) coming into the center. Instead of the supervisor, mentors will be the people the new operators will come to with any questions regarding documents or department procedures. This allows the supervisor time to concentrate on more important tasks.
14. Ask attorneys to not write in all capital letters. It can be confusing for the operator to determine which words should be initial capitals and which should not. If it's not possible for an attorney to write any other way, then suggest that he or she use proofer's marks to help operators determine words that should stand out.
15. For urgent jobs, consider splitting up medium and/or large documents between two or three operators. Appoint one operator as lead.
16. For documents saved in DOCS OPEN, iManage, or WORLDOX formats, be sure the attorney gives all necessary information for the "new profile" screen. This includes 1) document name, 2) author name (especially if it's a shortcut), 3) client/matter numbers, 4) document type (agreement, form, etc.), (5) department (corporate, bankruptcy, etc.) and any comments.
17. Ask attorneys not to hover over the operators. It can upset the working balance of the center and can cause operators to make mistakes that wouldn't have happened if the attorney wasn't "backseat word processing."
18. Save all documents for about one to two weeks to check how good an operator's work is. Remember to match it against the copied mark-up to judge how well the operator follows instructions.
19. Unless requested otherwise by the attorney, all documents should be sent to the proofreader for one last look over before being given back to the attorney.
20. Request that all attorneys, when dictating a tape, say the words "comma" and "period" in the appropriate places. They should spell difficult words and all proper names.
21. All documents that are created in Word should be formatted using styles (except in the case of numeric tables). User created styles are much easier to revise, then the "Normal" default style, especially for headings and numbered paragraphs.
22. Try to keep your word processing department strictly document production. The operators should not have to be word processing/help desk/receptionist/mail/fax department, too. Performing these other functions actually slows down the department and causes delays in attorneys getting their jobs back on time.
Marilyn Monrose is a New York-based computer trainer, and the author of Advanced Word 97 for the Legal Users Made Easy, and Advanced WordPerfect 7 & 8 for the Legal Users Made Easy.