Brief Building & Form tools

Below are some useful resources for learning to more efficiently create documents, whether based on forms or original input, and then developing them quickly to wind up with the most professional looking and persuasive document possible.

Fast Text Input – by typing or by speaking

  • TextExpander – $34 Mac program to automate the creation of snippets of text, even with the ability to check options. Never type your full email address or home address or phone number again, and that’s just the start. Windows users can get a similar program called Breevy ($34) that can be made to synchronize with Text Expander via Dropbox. Windows users should also check out Activewords (sort of like Breevy, but been around longer and probably a lot more powerful).
  • Videos (3) – TextExpander, From Noob to Ninja – Brett Burney, a great explainer of tech, shows you how to get the most out of this  wonderful program, from setting preferences to creating effective snippets.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows) or Dragon Dictate (Mac). If you aren’t a great typist these programs will make you faster than the fastest secretary you’ve ever worked with. The catch is you have to learn to use the software, and there is some commitment in doing that. Even if you already type fast, these programs can make you vastly more efficient.
  • Speak-write – service allows you to dictate using your phone (desk or smartphone). The transcription is done by real human beings and costs .01 per word, with a 250 minimum. The service is pay-as-you-use, so there is no charge for setting up an account. I highly recommend that you set up an account and test it out (the first job is free).
  • TheFormTool – With a learning curve measured in minutes not months, it uses your own MS Word documents (Word 2007 and Word 2010, Windows only) to create intelligent forms for repetitive use. Costs $89, but well worth it if you harness its power. Free to try.
  • Findlegalforms Has a lot of simple, basic legal forms for things like leases, promissory notes, auto title transfers and domain name transfers etc., that you can easily tweak to your liking. If you work in a big firm and have access to their large form file you won’t need this; if you’re a solo or small firm you should at least check it out. It could save you a lot of time for not much money.

Polishing and editing your text

  • Scrivener – a lightweight word processing program designed specifically for the messy, non-linear way writers really work. Built for writers who do research-based writing (e.g. Lawyers) and has all the features you need to assemble a brief, manuscript, book, or any long document. Can also be used for creating form documents. Originally created for Macs only, it now has a Windows version.
  • WordRake – $99/year – Editing software for lawyers that helps you quickly remove unnecessary words and phrases to make your writing clear and concise. WordRake saves time and money by jumpstarting the editing process, like having a tireless editor at your side 24/7. It was created by lawyer, NY Times bestselling author, and ABA writing expert, Gary Kinder. Not surprisingly, over 1000 law firms now use it.
  • Typography for Lawyers, Matthew Butterick (a must-have book for any lawyer who creates briefs or any written material) – $25 on Amazon.

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