Word 2013: Revisiting pleading alignment issues

First, let me apologize to regular visitors for the drought this last month.  A new firm to attend two, back to back colds, and an appellate argument had me running on fumes.  I intend to remedy the silence this week.  Before getting back to law, however, I need to revisit an issue I touched on once before - the exciting topic of line alignment in pleadings in Word.  See this prior post, explaining how to fix a problem I see all the time.

It turns out that my solution for fixing the problem does not work in Word 2013 (which I am using exclusively as a result of selecting Office 365 as the delivery mechanism for Office - and I highly recommend it, for the most part).  More specifically, Word 2013, when using the most current document format (docx, without the compatibility option enabled at the time you save), does not even incorporate the setting described in my post linked above.  Those settings are "deprecated."  It seems that Microsoft, in all its wisdom, thought a new layout engine for Word was in order.  I couldn't find a way to control text alignment with line numbering at the top of documents.  But Microsoft must surely have a way to do this that I just can't find, right?  Sooooo, no.

If you don't believe it, check out the thread I opened on Microsoft's technet site.  Now, to be clear, I am still not 100% convinced that what I am trying to do can't be done in Word 2013, using the current document format without the compatibility mode active.  The not-so-informative response I received is not filling me with confidence.

I may try to contact the Office team directly and see if they can suggest something.  If I have any luck, I will let you know.  Until then, I will keep cringing at Word pleadings that are misaligned on the first page.

Collaborative editing now available for the Microsoft Word Web App

Microsoft announced today that it is adding the ability for multiple authors to simultaneously edit Word documents on SkyDrive using the Word Web App.  Imagine sitting at a mediation, working on part of a settlement MOU while someone back at your office edits or adds content to some other part of the document.  You could even quietly collaborate on a settlement agreement with opposing counsel so that you had a long form agreement ready for signatures right there.  Crazy.  Microsoft has been slow to refocus on new areas of competition, but it is building a head of steam with Google in its sights.

How-to: Fix first page pleading alignment problem in MS Word

If you spend any significant amount of time handling pleadings with line numbering on the side, you've probably received a pleading that has a misalignment problem on the first page like so:

The second page aligns just fine, but you can't figure out why you can't get the first page firm name block to align correctly.  This is the goal:

This problem stems from a deeply buried setting in Microsoft Word.  In Word 2007, hit the Office button in the top left corner of the program.  Click on the Word Options button.  Then select the "Advanced" settings panel.  Scroll all the way to the bottom.  In the "Compatibility options" section, expand the "Layout Options" section.  Find the "Don't center 'exact line height' lines" checkbox and put a check in it.  Problem solved.

Why does Word do this?  Pleadings typically used "Exact height" line spacing to fit the 28 lines in on one page.  The spacing is set at a point size increment of somewhere around 12 points for single spacing and 24 for double spaced lines.  The default behavior in Word is to put a line of text in the vertical center of the space allocated for the line.  This causes 24 point spacing lines to have a larger cushion of space at the top than 12 point ("single" spaced) lines.  The attorney name block uses single spaced lines.  The pleading numbering on the side of the page uses 24 point spacing.  This misaligns the pleading numbers from the attorney name.

On the second page, which most frequently begins with a "double" spaced line of text (24 points, for example), the cushioning is the same for the text and the pleading line numbers.  By telling Word not to center "exact line height" lines, all lines of text, whether 12 pt (single) or 24 pt (double) begin at the top of the vertical line spacing allocated to that line of text.  In that case, the pleading numbers and the attorney name at the top of the caption both begin at the top of their respective lines.  One line just has more open space below the text.

In older version of Word, you can find this setting in the Tools > Options menu.

What amazes me the most is that I see this configuration error from big firms and small alike.  I can understand this getting by a small shop, but the big firms all pay the big bucks for dedicated word processing departments.

I will consider Word training sessions if offered a sufficiently outrageous sum of cash.  Say, I bet you have wondered if there is an easy way to generate Tables of Contents and Tables of Authorities.  There is.  I bet you have wondered if there is a way to easily align pleading text up with line numbers after a single-spaced block quote screws it all up.  Yup, there sure is.  Someday I will offer a seminar that shows you how to do all of these things and more.