By Caitlin Burns, DocsCorp Content Manager.
Legal documents range in purpose and content, but some common types are:
- Instruments, such as a will or deed, that legally grant rights
- Pleadings, when parties submit their claims and defenses at the commencement of a lawsuit
- Briefs, which are the arguments outlining why someone filing with the courts should win their case
- Affidavits, the statements made under oath that attest a fact is accurate to the best of that person’s knowledge
Legal documents have a standard set of parts, each of which serves a particular purpose. These include:
- A cover page
A cover page is the first insight into what the legal document is about. It will contain legal elements, such as parties and title and the date, branding elements like a firm’s logo, office address, and a document ID. There is usually no page number on the cover page.
- Table of Contents
The Table of Contents page (TOC) will usually include a title and a document ID. It often does not have a page number. The purpose of the TOC is to assist the reader in navigating key headings within lengthy legal documents.
- First page
The beginning of the document includes the title first displayed on the cover page, followed by the parties, which are generally numbered.
- Introduction clauses
Below the parties are the introduction clauses, also known as background clauses or recitals, containing key information concerning the deal.
- Operative clauses
Operative clauses form the bulk of a legal document and consist of numbered headings, usually bolded.
- Signatory clauses
Signatory clauses can appear at the end of the operative clauses section or on a dedicated page.
Definitions will usually appear in clause one and explain the terms referred to throughout the document. Most firms will have a house style dictating how definitions are presented. For example, they can be in a table or appear as paragraphs.
Schedules contain information supplemental to the operative clauses. Each schedule starts typically on a separate page, with a numbered heading. Schedule headings may appear in the TOC.
An Appendices refers to related documents, exhibits, schedules, annexes, and other attachments to the main document.
Legal documents are an indispensable part of our daily lives. We sign employment contracts, use purchase and sale agreements to buy homes, and draft wills to bequeath our assets. Because they carry such importance, lawyers want to feel confident the documents they create are accurate.
Many lawyers work from legal document templates to ensure document creation is straightforward and efficient and that critical parts aren’t forgotten by mistake.
Templates can also codify a house style, so the document formatting is consistent and professional. However, if content is added or removed from a legal document by a third party or someone outside the firm, the document formatting can change, and the numbering may break.
A document styling solution simplifies the process of reformatting and repairing legal documents with one powerful automated process. It can save up to 80% of reformatting time and doesn’t require expert Word skills. Most importantly, it frees up a lawyer’s time to focus on advising clients, rather than reformatting problem documents.