Posts tagged nerdery
Law Office Equipment Guide

In many ways, equipping a small law office has never been easier or less expensive. However, if you do it wrong, you can definitely end up spending a ton of money and inviting a bunch of hassle and disappointment into a job with plenty of hassle and frustration in it already. 

In this post, I've tried to compile the best equipment for law offices. It is difficult to discuss law office equipment without some tangential considerations to the software a law office will use to get its work done, but—as far as possible—I've tried to separate the two and limit this post to actual products with protons and neutrons rather than the 0s and 1s of software. (I am aware that protons, neutrons, and electrons also create the 0s and 1s.)

Here are the assumptions I've made in making these recommendations:

  1. You don't want a lot of paper in your office. 
  2. You don't have a ton of dough. 
  3. You want to be relatively mobile. 
  4. You don't like hassles and friction. 

That is to say, these are recommendations for solo and small firms and those lawyers in government or big firms with enough authority to demand a certain amount of autonomy in how they get their work done. 

Annie O'Connell and I discuss many of the nuances of these equipment decisions in episodes of our award-winning (not really) podcast, Let's Start a Law Firm. We also discuss some of the software that we use with this equipment. 

If you like this post, please share it with other lawyers. If you really like it, know that I get a small kickback on purchases you make on Amazon by following the links in the post. One of these days, those kickbacks will be large enough for me to take Annie out to dinner. 

Computer

Use what works for you. For me, the portability and continued speed of my mid-2011 Macbook Air is all I need. As a nerd, I would love an excuse to upgrade to the most recent iteration of the Air, but my current computer is, alas, perfect. 

Computer Backup

You must back up your data. You must have at least one on-site backup and one off-site backup of your data at all times. For Mac users, a Time Capsule is an easy on-site backup solution. For everyone, BackBlaze is a great, affordable solution to back up your data in the cloud. 

One compelling option for file-sharing and off-site backup is File Transporter. Like your own, private Dropbox. 

Desk

Again, this is one of those areas that is too personal to make a definitive recommendation. I have the luxury of renting an office that came with a desk I use for client meetings and enough room in the corner for my standing desk from Geek Desk. (Obviously, a standing desk is not strictly necessary to equip a law office.)

Regardless of what kind of desk and chair (if applicable) you use, make sure you're set up to do your work in ergonomically correct positions. Be kind to yourself. 

Keyboard

Speaking of ergonomics, I just recently purchased my first ergonomic keyboard: the Microsoft Sculpt. It is great and, after minor tweaks to the key commands, works well with my Mac. 

Monitor

Another "not strictly necessary" expense is the totally-worth-it expense of an external monitor. I have used both the Apple 27" external monitor and a much-more-affordable Dell 27" monitor. I can definitely notice a difference between the two and can get more application windows on my Apple monitor, but whether it's worth 3x the price is a personal decision.  

Printer

Here, you need to decide whether you need to print color. Personally, I do not. I have been solo for 18 months now and have not yet needed to print in color once. And, I think there are fewer things more annoying than when I accidentally print something in color when I just needed a grayscale version of it.

This is why I had my logo designed by Two State Champs to be black-and-white to avoid needing to print color (and avoid the expense and hassle of having to have letterhead and envelopes printed by an outside print shop). I use the Brother HL-5470DW

As frustrating as accidentally printing something in color is, I find accidentally printing a brief onto twenty envelopes (or, conversely, printing an envelope onto 8.5" x 11" paper) even more frustrating. I know: it is easy to pick which tray you want to print something from. You are smart and I'm not. Despite my 7 years of higher education, I make this mistake all the time. This is why I do not print envelopes at all. There is literally never anything but letter-sized paper in my printer so that I can't mistakenly print a 20-page case onto 20 envelopes.

To print envelopes, I use the Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo. I actually own two. At work, I use the two label spools to print envelope labels and, very occasionally, file folder labels. At home, he prints envelope labels and stamps. You haven't lived until you've owned a label printer.

Phone 

I use my iPhone as my office phone. To avoid giving my cell phone number to everyone (though I'm not sure it really matters), I use a Google Voice number as my primary business phone. I just have all calls to my Google Voice number ring directly to my cell phone. Google Voice gives you the flexibility to decide how to route calls to the number based on time of day, so if you do have an office phone or a receptionist or intake specialist, you can have the Google number ring one phone during business hours and a separate number after hours. 

I'm probably going to get brain cancer from the radiation at some point, but until then, I'll keep itemizing my business use of my iPhone and deducting that portion as a reasonable business expense. (That's not tax advice: it's just what I do.)

Postage Solutions

You're going to have to mail stuff. If your office doesn't provide a postage meter, you'll need one. Pitney Bowes does a good job with that, but I prefer (and use) the Dymo Stamps software at my home office. You'll need a scale to weigh your postage and then you can just print postage on your Dymo Twin Turbo.

Fax 

I don't use a fax machine. I use Hello Fax. A "Let's Start a Law Firm" listener recently pointed out that fax machines actually do have their benefits. They are more secure than an email with attachments because they are a point-to-point communication rather than a message that gets bounced around multiple servers. If you're going to get a fax machine, avoid an all-in-one printer-scanner-fax-coffee-maker-copier. Get the right tool for the right job. Not a compromised machine. 

Copier

Before I moved into my current office space, which I rent from another law firm that leases a big-ass copier, I didn't have a copier. In my opinion, you don't need one. Get a good scanner (see below), and if you need copies, print the scan. 

Scanner

Repeat after me: "I will only use Fujitsu Scansnap products." Do not buy any other scanner. Get the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500. Spend the dough. Thank me later. 

E-Legal Supply

There are some law-specific office supplies that are difficult-to-impossible to find locally or on Amazon. I buy, for example, all of my number and letter tab inserts for exhibits to briefs at E-Legal Supply. (For a list of the envelopes, paper, pens, notebooks, and other office-supply minutiae, you can check out the notes for Episode 3 of Let's Start a Law Firm.) 

Stapler

Confession: Sometimes I do work just so that I have an excuse to use my Prodigy PaperPro stapler. I recently purchased the big boy—the Prodigy PaperPro 1300 Stackmaster—for communal use at the office copier and I am now a demigod at my office. I am Prometheus, stealer of fire. (Aside: "Stackmaster" must be one of the greatest marketing terms of all time.

File Cabinets 

Since I purchased a Fujitsu Scansnap, I no longer need file cabinets. I don't use them, but if I did, I'd only buy Hon-brand file cabinets. 

Monoprice

Here's a #protip: if you need a cable for you TV, iPhone, DVD player, projector, monitor, internet, receiver, fill-in-the-blank, buy it from Monoprice.com. You are getting scammed basically everywhere else, especially at Best Buy. Sorry to be the bearer of that bad news. Don't feel too bad, though. I once purchased really crappy speakers for far too much money from some dudes in a white van. 

Amazon Prime

How are you going to get all this great stuff to your office? With the exception of Geek Desk, Monoprice, and E-Legal Supply: Amazon Prime.

Conclusion

That's pretty much it. The takeaway, I hope, is that it has never been easier or less expensive for a small practitioner to set up a mobile-capable, relatively paperless law office while still being able to produce a very professional finished product for clients and courts. 

Again, if this list has been useful, don't be shy about sharing it with others. Help them out. We nerds tend to think that everyone knows that Fujitsu Scansnaps are the only kind of scanners people should be using, but my IRL experience with non-nerds has proven to me that this is not the case.

Yet.

Get the tools and use them to hammer out justice for your clients and the world. 

For Mac-Using Attorneys, "Date Time Calc 2" is a Useful App

We've all been there: you get a scheduling order from the Court and it contains approximately 854 deadlines, each one different and each one scheduled based on a number of days from either a) the date of the order itself or b) the date of the trial the Court has scheduled.

I use "Date Time Calc 2" to quickly perform date math for my cases. Actually, I use Date Time Calc, version 1, but when I went to write this post, I learned that the developer had just released a new version of the application. So, I guess it's more accurate to say, "I will be using Date Time Calc 2 to perform date math.

Never ballpark or count days on a calendar LIKE AN ANIMAL again. Let this app take the guesswork out of legal deadlines. 

Never ballpark or count days on a calendar LIKE AN ANIMAL again. Let this app take the guesswork out of legal deadlines. 

This is useful not just for quickly crunching court deadlines, but also in writing letters to other attorneys: "It has been __ days since I last sent you a settlement offer, so I thought I would write again to see if your client had had enough time to consider the offer." "The discovery is now __ days overdue."

I'm not going to belabor this post with a long explanation of how the app works. It's obvious how the application works: you click the date on one calendar, give it a number of days to count forwards from or back from, and it tells you on the other calendar what the second date is. It does one thing well—date math—which is all I need it to do. 

(For cost-conscious attorneys, the original Date Time Calc app is $2.99 instead of $4.99 for the newer 2.0 version. It is still available for purchase. As mentioned above, I am using the original, but plan on updating for two reasons: 1) the new version will get updates and bug fixes more often and 2) I don't mind spending money (especially when it's just a few bucks) supporting developers that make applications that help me get my work done quicker and more gracefully.)

Kentucky Attorneys: Time to Get a Website

My client comes into my office after having been served by the Sheriff with a Complaint. Or, I file a Complaint for a client and then get an Answer back from the Defendant's attorney. The first thing I do in either situation is try to learn a little bit about the attorney representing the other side. I go to Google. I type in the attorney's name and the city and state in which they practice.  

Many times (and all-too-often), I get a page of results from sites like yellowpages.com, manta.com, topix.com, merchantcircle.com, and switchboard.com. That is to say, I get a bunch of garbage. 

I am consistently shocked at how little Kentucky attorneys seem to care about how they look online. I understand some established attorneys don't need  a website to get clients. But, even if you're not looking to find clients online, people (other attorneys) are still searching for you online. And, we're judging you. We're sizing you up.

I use the care you put into your website as a rough analog for how much care you're going to put into your client's case. If you don't care enough to have at least a homepage to present to the world, how hard are you going to research that response to my Motion for Summary Judgment? How hard are you going to think about the discovery requests you send? 

Is it a perfect test to use for sizing up my opposition? Nope. There are certainly some attorneys who have whipped me pretty hard who have abysmal or nonexistent websites. But, it works more often than not.  

Look, if your litigation strategy is inspired by Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-Dope, well congratulations: it's working. When you don't have a website, I'm totally underestimating your devotion to your craft and the care you bring to it. 

I'm guessing that judging attorneys by their websites didn't used to be as useful or accurate as it is today. But, that's because it used to be hard to have a website. Now, it couldn't be easier (or less expensive). The fact that it's 2013 and you still don't have a website is inexcusable. My site is hosted on Squarespace.com. I pay Squarespace $8 a month for this site.

EIGHT DOLLARS. 

If you want help getting set up on Squarespace, let me know. I have helped other attorneys and can help you individually. Or, if enough people express interest, would consider doing like a half-day workshop to help lawyers launch their websites in a single morning. Individual help costs $1,500. The workshop would, I expect, cost around $400 and would happen on a Saturday morning.

Name *
Name
Phone
Phone
I'm appropriately ashamed and ready to step into the 21st Century. *
Along with that azz, include the data

I heard a harrowing story last night of a young man who lost 38 weeks of photos and video from a cross-country road trip because his car was broken into in Fargo, North Dakota. All his data was on his computer, backed up to thumb drives that were also in his car (and also stolen).  

Can you feel that pain? He was making a film . 

Gone.  

I think there are two lessons here. First, don't go to Fargo. Second, while you are busy backing that azz up, include your data in that backup.  

When I get the dough, I'm going to use File Transporter. For now, I backup on external drives that I store off-site and Dropbox.  

Sidebar: I really love this excerpt from the Wikipedia article about "Back that Thang Up", the non-explicit version of "Back that Azz Up": 

"The song, an explicit exploration of the same themes as Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back..."

And, for your Thursday pleasure (and because this is how my brain works): an extremely white version of "Baby Got Back":

Evernote gives lawyers a valuable archive for their legal research

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a bit of an information hoarder. I have backups of backups. I have scans of important or memorable documents and a fireproof safe for precious documents. 

One of the areas of my life that had consistently frustrated my hoarding habit was legal research until I discovered Evernote.

The problem with saving legal research is that it's difficult to create a useful taxonomy for the stuff. When saving cases, should I save it in a subfolder in the case I'm working on? That seems logical but then retrieving the case years later will require me to remember exactly what case I was working on when I came across "that one case that stood for [insert legal issue] proposition". 

If instead (or additionally), I opt to save it under the legal issue the case stands for, what should I do when the case stands for two important propositions? Kentucky attorneys will obviously know that Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Service Center, Inc. gives us our summary judgment standard in state court. But, it also states that a breach of fiduciary duty is tantamount to fraud. As a consumer advocate, this is an important part of the case. Do I save Steelvest in three places: the client file, the research file on summary judgment, and the research file on breach of fiduciary duty?  

No.

I save it to Evernote by emailing it from my online research service using a special email address Evernote provides. When I email that case to Evernote, the .pdf is automatically OCR'd so that a later search for any word in the case will yield results. This means if I can just remember a snippet of language or even what judge decided the case or attorney argued the case, I can search in Evernote and find the case. (I also have a spotless .pdf that I can attach to motions and memoranda.)

Even better, though, than the automatic OCR is Evernote's organizational tools. Evernote gives users the option of placing notes in notebooks (folders) as well as tagging the notes. This means that I can email Steelvest to my Evernote account, save it to a client's notebook, and tag it with the tags "summary judgment" and "bofd" (my shorthand for "breach of fiduciary duty"). Later, I can retrieve that case in one of three ways: I can remember the client notebook the case is saved in, I can find the case by reviewing the cases that have a particular tag, or I can search for the case in the search window using words that are likely in the language of the case. 

Lawyer–Nerds should be very excited right now. And it gets better. Are you ready to have your mind blown?  Evernote gives you the ability to send a case to a notebook with certain tags in the subject line of the email you send to Evernote. They explain on their blog how this works:

In the subject line of your email, write the title of the note as you want it to appear in your account. In the same subject line, add one or both of the following:

Use @ for notebooks: Use an @ symbol followed by the name of your destination notebook Use # for tags: Use a # symbol followed by the tag or tags you wish to assign. You can have multiple tags just make sure each one starts with an # For example, Subject: Trip to Florida @travel #expense report

Would create a note titled Trip to Florida in my travel notebook, tagged with expense report.

So, in one step, I am able to put a filed, tagged, OCR'd Steelvest into Evernote by emailing it to myself with this subject line: Steelvest @clientname #summary judgment #bofd

This is, to employ some fancy lawyer-speak, bonkers.

Any seasoned advocate will tell you that having a system that will allow you to accrete and retrieve your past legal research will yield wonderful benefits over the course of a legal career. I am totally invested in Evernote as that system because it allows me to easily and usefully create multiple taxonomies of meaning for my legal research. At $5 a month or $45 a year, the premium membership is a basic business expense that every lawyer should happily incur.

Update to Typography for Lawyers Essay: When Ten Pages are Thirteen

My essay encouraging lawyers to adopt better typographical practices appeared today in The Advocate, the bimonthly publication of the Kentucky Justice Association

In it, I explain how making a few small changes to your letters, briefs, and presentations can make your words more beautiful and engaging on the page. I also explained that these changes may also help you fit more words on the page while staying within court-mandated rules governing type size, line length, and line spacing. 

One of the biggest changes comes from using true double spacing (set your line spacing to "Exactly" 24 points rather than Microsoft Word's default "Double Spacing" option (which is actually a bit taller than 24 points). 

Here, I've created a couple of documents that will show you the difference between the two approaches. I've created two separate documents so you can download them and compare side-by-side. Do that now.

Download the Appellant Brief sample
Download the Appellant Reply Brief sample

Here are some of the changes I made in the Reply Brief:

  • Used small caps for the section titles (Matthew Butterick's typeface, Equity, has beautiful small caps),
  • Removed ALL CAPS from the headings, opting instead for simple bold or italics,
  • Removed capital letters in headings
  • Used a table rather than a series of ........................... to denote a page number in the Statement of Points and Authorities (using a table also makes formatting way less of a hassle), 
  • Changed the typeface from Times New Roman to Equity (look at Equity's italic: beautiful)
  • Reduced the line spacing from Microsoft Word's default "double space" to true double spacing (set line spacing to "exactly" 24 points)

Here's the skinny: the Reply brief is more beautiful, it's easier to read, and therefore, more likely to be read. (Judges and their law clerks are looking for any reason—any reason—to stop reading. Even if that reason is the "blah" vibe that your brief is giving off. Sorry, it's true.) 

The Reply brief also fits more words onto the page. The "Argument" page in the Appellant Brief is 284 words long, including footnotes; the "Argument" page in the Reply Brief has 358 words. Reducing the line height to 24 points allowed me to fit 74 more words (26%) onto the first page of my brief. Multiply that by the ten pages allowed by the Court of Appeals for a Reply Brief, and I get 740 more words than an attorney using Microsoft's default double spacing. That's 3 extra pages of argument. That's a big advantage. 

If successful, our appeal will allow injured temporary workers to pursue lawsuits against temporary employers. Currently, these businesses enjoy both complete immunity and complete control over a temporary worker (whose workers' compensation benefits will be paid by their temporary employment agency). This encourages businesses to misuse and abuse temporary workers for the business's most dangerous work. A win would mean accountablity where there currently is none. That's a big deal. 

We all have cases that can yield big change if we win. I'm happy to have an additional three pages (when I need them) to explain to the Court why we should win.  

Typography for Lawyers: One Space, Double Spacing, and other Good Ideas

***Read an update to this essay (after reading this essay) that offers typography samples and actual words-per-page math. Thank you to Kentucky Justice Association for printing this in The Advocate***

This is an essay about typography.

What is typography? Basically, it’s how letters and words appear on the page, how individual words and chunks of text fit together. As lawyers, our livelihoods depend often on chunks of text. The thesis of this article is that small typographical improvements in your resumes, letters, briefs, and presentations can make a dramatic difference in your ability to effectively communicate and persuade.

Better typography improves your chances in mediations, in court, and in trial.

I need to make two points before I even get started. First, and perhaps already obviously, I am a nerd. How much of a nerd? I still own a 20-sided die. The best way to get me to corner you at a party is to mention in an offhanded way that you need to get a scanner (at which point, I will rhapsodize about the Fujitsu Scansnap 1500 for 20 minutes as the ice melts in your cocktail). As you will see, I’m the kind of nerd who can’t resist making a reference to Weird Al Yankovich’s cult classic UHF even in an article in which I hope to impress my peers.

I’m the kind of nerd that says, “Hell, yes!” when I discover that some typeface-designer-turned-lawyer has written a book about typography and the practice of law.[1] This is my second point: almost everything I have learned about typography I learned from Matthew Butterick and his excellent website, http://typographyforlawyers.com and book, Typography for Lawyers. Butterick is a Harvard-trained typeface designer and a graduate of UCLA's law school. So, he’s kind of in his wheelhouse on the subject of typography for lawyers.

I recognize that not everyone has attained the same nerd heights as me and may not want to read an entire book about typography. This is an attempt at a summary. Still, I highly recommend getting the book. I refer to it each time I write a brief. It contains great examples of before and after improvements to business cards, resumes, correspondence, and legal briefs. Further, it contains detail that can only be captured in a book; Butterick explains the proper use of em dashes and en dashes and hyphens, the nuances of non-breaking spaces and non-breaking hyphens, the dark art of letter spacing. So, get the book.

Plaintiffs attorneys would do well to adopt better typographical practices now rather than later. Law schools across the country are using Butterick’s book as part of their legal writing curriculum. The federal clerks who are reading your briefs will know the best typographical practices and will judge you and your failure to adopt them. Further, as I mentioned above, better typography produces briefs, letters, and exhibits that are easier to read and therefore more likely to be read and understood.

Plaintiffs attorneys have a brief window in which adopting better typography will provide us with a subtle advantage. The defense bar will eventually adopt better typographical practices and then our failure to use them ourselves will disadvantage us and our clients.

So, let’s get started on improving our work product with better typography. I will begin with some practices that will improve all of your documents, including your briefs, and then discuss the impact of court rules regarding margins and line spacing in briefs.

Use One Space after Punctuation

Modern typographical best practices flow from an appreciation of a fact that has eluded many attorneys: we have computers now, not typewriters[2]. We learned to type (or our typing teachers learned to type) on typewriters that used a monospace font. That is, every letter, whether it’s a fat “m” or a skinny “i”, was stamped on a piece of metal that was the same width as all the other characters. Using two spaces after punctuation in a monospace font is acceptable (but even there, unnecessary). On computers, however, we are blessed with proportional fonts–fonts with varying letter widths. Using two spaces after a proportional font is a vestige of our days from the typewriter. It is, as Butterick says, “an obsolete habit”. As he says in his book and website:

Some top­ics in this book will involve dis­cre­tionary choices. Not this one. Always put exactly one space between sen­tences. Or more gen­er­ally: put exactly one space after any punc­tu­a­tion.

One space. Period.

Okay, with that sacred cow slaughtered, let’s move on…

Use Bold or Italic Type for Emphasis

Do not use underlining. Again, underlining is a vestige from our typewriter days when there simply was no other option but to use underlining to add emphasis. Bold type and italic type just weren’t available on typewriters. Bold and italic type are the typographical equivalent of the electronic unlocking mechanism on your car. When was the last time you actually unlocked your car with your key?

Use better tools: bold and italic typefaces are more elegant and less disruptive to the eye than underlined text.

Justify Your Text on the Left

There’s really not much to this rule except to say that studies have shown that left-justified text is easier to read than text that is justified on both sides. In a left-justified document, the reader’s eyes use the nonuniform breaks along the right side of the page as a subtle guide to find the beginning of the next line of text.

Unlike the two previous rules, you do not have to stop justifying your text on both sides if you don’t want to. Know that you are making your reader’s job more difficult, but justifying on both margins is still acceptable practice. If you justify on both sides, however, you are required to turn on hyphenation in your word processor. Hyphenation will help you avoid the unsightly gaps in text that can occur in documents justified on both sides. These gaps, like the double spaces after periods, are little tiny speed bumps for the reader’s eyes as they travel across the page.

Look, I should probably be explicit about this now that I’ve used the phrase “little tiny speed bumps for your reader’s eyes”: I write my briefs with the understanding that judges and their law clerks are drinking from the fire hose. Like little Joe Miller in UHF, judges and law clerks found the marble in the oatmeal and now their reward is to read tens of thousands of pages of lawyers’ briefs each year. My baseline assumption about my audience is that they are drowning and are looking for basically any reason to stop reading my brief. Given this assumption, a lot of “little tiny speed bumps” in my brief are a really big problem for me.

Use a Nice Font

Fonts are what most people think of when they hear the word “ typography”. I hope my ranting so far has given you a sense that fonts (technically, typefaces) are just a small element of good typography.

Consider investing in a nice font. Butterick has designed a typeface, Equity, to meet the special needs of attorneys. It is polished, tight, and its italic is beautiful. Seriously, I find myself trying to find reasons to italicize words when writing with Equity. It’s available for purchase on his website. He also has recommendations for replacements for your Times New Roman and other common system fonts that are preinstalled on your computer and make your work look like everyone else’s work.

Avoid All Caps

Many attorneys rely on ALL CAPS as a way to emphasize their most important points and in the headings of their briefs. This is not a useful practice. ALL CAPS IS ACTUALLY HARDER TO READ than regular text. Butterick allows for a single line of all caps text, but no more. Personally, I try to avoid it whenever possible.

A BOLDED, UNDERLINED, ALL CAPS HEADING is just an invitation to your reader to skip past it.

On a related note, if you have a case which involves the question of whether a provision in a contract is clear and conspicuous, Butterick is available to serve as an expert witness. I think his services would be especially useful in consumer cases which involve contracts that contain paragraph upon paragraph upon paragraph of all caps text. The science is in: this text is difficult to read.


Every court promulgates rules regarding typography. These rules are designed to promote fairness, uniformity, and legibility by forbidding attorneys from engaging in the worst typographical practices in an effort to squeeze more words onto a page. These rules have their most dramatic impact on line length (margin rules) and line spacing (the requirement that the lines be double-spaced).

Shorten Your Lines Outside of Briefs

“Shorter lines are easier to read than longer lines,” says Butterick. Ideally, your line will be between 45 and 90 characters, including spaces. Most courts in Kentucky require one-inch margins on both the left and right. (The appellate courts require 1 1/2" margins on the left.) At these margins, your 12-pt Times New Roman line is going to have more characters than the recommended maximum of ninety. Outside of lobbying for a rule change, there’s nothing you can do.

Move on to something you can fix: your line lengths in your letters, interoffice memorandum, and presentations. For me, shortening my line lengths was a revelation; this small change led to an immediate improvement in the look and readability of my letters.

Use True Double Spacing for Better Briefs

The ideal line spacing is 120–145% of your font size. That is, if you are using a 12-point font, you should set your line spacing between 14.4 and 17.4. Personally, for my out-of-court documents, I use 15-point spacing. It provides a little more space between the lines than the “single spacing” setting (which makes words look cramped and is difficult to read).

Most courts require us to double space our briefs.[3] CR 76.12(4)(a)(ii) requires us to use “black type no smaller than 12 point” and typing that is “double spaced and clearly readable.” The court’s requirement to double space your briefs does not mean, however, that you just go into Microsoft Word and pound the “double space” button. True double spacing for a 12-point font means setting your line spacing at “Exactly” 24 points. Using Microsoft Word’s default “double space” will give you line spacing greater than 24 points–about 15% greater, in fact. This translates to having 2–3 fewer lines on a 8 1/2“ x 11” page.

In other words, if you are using Microsoft Word’s default “double space” setting for your pleadings, you are hurting yourself in two ways: 1) you are making your document less legible by putting more space than ideal between your lines and 2) you are making your document longer than it needs to be. Because our courts set maximum page limits (rather than word limits), this means you are giving yourself (and your client) fewer words to explain your position than you would otherwise have available to you.

How many times have you been on page twenty-six and need to slim a brief down to twenty-five pages? True double spacing will give you more words and those words will look better on the page.

There: I just gave you a way to be more verbose than you already are. For that and for all the other typographical wisdom (cribbed entirely from Matthew Butterick), you’re welcome.

Sometimes it pays to know nerds.


  1. The only other lawyer I knew personally that had read Typography for Lawyers and cared about this stuff at all was Finis Price. I miss that guy.   ↩

  2. For anyone reading this still using a typewriter: you need help this article cannot provide. Please stop reading.   ↩

  3. I’ve looked through Jefferson County’s local rules and can’t find a double-spacing requirement anywhere. Nonetheless, I think the court would look askance at anything not double-spaced.   ↩