The truth is, if you’re in the legal profession, you’re probably already a pretty good writer. Our jobs are so word-intensive that you really can’t make it all that far in the law if you aren’t a natural wordsmith. That said, we can all use a helping hand from time to time. The good news is, in this day and age – there’s an app for that! Below you’ll find our 10 favorite legal writing tools that will not only simplify your life but improve your writing as well.
Based on the name, you won’t be surprised to hear that Grammarly is an online tool that assists you in avoiding grammatical errors. Even though most word processing programs come with a built-in grammar checker, Grammarly takes the game to a whole new level. In fact, the latest version uses artificial intelligence to ensure your writing is mistake-free. Another great benefit is that Grammarly follows you wherever you write – it can work in Word, LinkedIn, Outlook, Facebook, and anywhere else you might find yourself writing throughout the day.
#2: Readability Statistics in Word
Because those of us in the legal profession are not judged enough, Word now offers a function that assigns you a grade based on the readability of your document. To do this, you simply need to deploy the program’s readability statistics. This nifty little tool uses the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test and the Flesch Reading Ease test to assign you an actual grade based on how readable your document is. You might consider checking your ego at the door – the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test literally judges your writing based on how understandable it would be to a grade school student. A score of 8.0, for example, indicates that someone in the eighth grade would be able to comprehend what you’ve written.
Just in case you’re the type of person who absolutely, positively, cannot wait to receive feedback on your work product, BriefCatch is an editing tool that gives you writing suggestions in real time. It is also the perfect editing tool for those with highly sensitive bosses. According to the website, BriefCatch will “[f]lag words, phrases, and habits that secretly bother many readers.” (Emphasis added). Finally, we have a program that will tell us to our faces how annoying our writing is.
In all seriousness though, BriefCatch has some really cool features. For example, it will tell you whether your formatting is inconsistent throughout a document. It also tells you if your document does not flow well, contains too many “cumbersome sentences,” or contains citation errors.
#4: Hemingway Editor
In the “where have you been all my life” category, there’s the Hemingway Editor. According to the app’s website, it is intended to make your writing “bold and clear.” Who doesn’t want that?
Using a series of color-coded “highlighters,” the app will tell you if your writing contains things like: (a) sentences in the passive voice; (b) unnecessarily long or complex words; (c) sentences that are difficult to read; or (d) sentences that are “very” hard to read. The program also assigns a grade based on readability. Like Hemingway himself, the app doesn’t sugarcoat its critiques.
Copyscape is a tool typically found in an editor’s online toolbox. The program is intended for rooting out plagiarism by comparing content to just about everything that has ever been published on the internet. It is a great tool for legal professionals, however, for one simple reason. We’ve all cited to caselaw that itself cites caselaw. The problem is, somewhere along the line, quotation marks and internal citations can get left out. By using Copyscape, you can see how your text was treated originally, and cite accordingly.
#6: PerfectIt/American Legal Style
PerfectIt is a great tool for any writer. When you pair it with the American Legal Style function, however, it becomes downright indispensable for legal professionals. In addition to providing the typical spelling, grammar, and consistency checks of the other programs, this industry-specific app “includes 13,000 legal-specific checks and only lawyers and trained legal editors would know how to look for.”
Best of all, it is designed to assist both litigation and transactional attorneys. If your firm doesn’t already pay for this one, you might consider purchasing it on your own so you can stand out amongst your peers.
#7: Cliché Finder
Have you ever edited a colleague’s work only to find the person has a problem with clichés? Sometimes, it is hard for those people to see or admit that they actually have a problem. Not to worry. Just cut and paste their text into Cliché Finder and let the results speak for themselves. You can thank us later.
#8: Marinara Timer
Marinara Timer is a fantastic tool that essentially forces you to take breaks from writing at intervals that are intended to increase your productivity. You can choose from the traditional Pomodoro method (25 minutes writing, followed by five minutes off) or create a custom timer that works for your brain and deadline schedule.
#9: Google Docs
By now, most of you have probably used Google docs. It is basically an online word processing software that is not only highly functional, but absolutely free. Better yet, it allows groups of people to collaborate on documents from around the globe in real-time. It also saves your edits instantaneously and keeps them in secure files within a cloud. In other words, if the electricity goes out or your computer gives up the ghost, Google Docs has your back.
#10: Hipster Sound
Finally, just in case you find yourself stuck in the office, longing for the days when you could write term papers from your favorite coffee shop, be sure to check out Hipstersound. With this cool, online sound generator, you can instantly and virtually transport yourself to crowded cafes in culture-rich places like Rio de Janeiro, Paris, or even Texas. It also has rain simulators and a host of other relaxing sounds that should help you stay in the mood to write.
What’s your favorite writing tool? Tell us about it in the comments, below.