Wilson: Use Word sequence fields to speed up discovery drafting

WilsonSo far in this series we’ve learned how to use Microsoft Word for primarily document-level templating and formatting. This article will be a collection of three tips that can be used to speed up the various portions of discovery document drafting. Combining the formatting and these tips will help increase your efficiency when using Microsoft Word.

First, let’s talk about sequence fields. Although the built-in Microsoft Word numbering can be very helpful, as discussed previously, using sequence fields allows you to create more discreet sets of numbered lists within Microsoft Word. Let’s use discovery as an example.

Often, interrogatories are created within a document in a non-list-friendly format:

Interrogatory No. 1. Please state your name and contact information.


Word’s automatic numbering schemes don’t easily fit this format. The solution? Insert a sequence field.

A sequence field is a defined, numbered list within your document (think page numbers). Instead of the page number, we’re going to use the field tool to create a sequence of numbers to follow the phrase “Interrogatory No.” so we can have a numbered list of interrogatories. Open a blank Word document, type “Interrogatory No.”.

Next, on the Ribbon, click “Insert | Text | Explore Quick Parts | Field…”. Word presents a menu box and asks you to “Please choose a field.” The field you want is named “Seq”. Scroll down until you see “Seq” and single click to highlight the field. Then, click “Options” near the bottom of this menu box. Under “Formatting:”, choose the format of the number you want, click “Add to Field,” and click insert.

Now, in the “Field codes:” area, you should see “SEQ * Arabic.” Put your cursor one space after “SEQ” but before the “”. Type “InterrogatoryNo”, or something of your choosing. This phrase is the unique identifier for this sequence (in case you want to have different sequences in the same document). The “Field codes” area should now read: “SEQ InterrogatoryNo * Arabic”. Press OK to return to the Field menu. Press OK again.

Word inserts what appears to be a number in your document. This number is actually a field. Add a period after the field/number so your document shows “Interrogatory No. 1.” Note: Word can make fields have a gray background for you for easier identification. Go to “File | Options | Advanced | Show document content | Field shading” (set to “Always”).

Copy the phrase, including the field, you just created (select the text and press “Ctrl C”.) Paste it three times (press “Ctrl V” three times) so you can see how the numbering works.

The first thing you note is that you now have three “Interrogatory No. 1.” This is because the fields have not been updated. The easiest way to update the fields is press “Ctrl A” to select the entire text in the document and then press the F9 key to update the fields. Your list of interrogatories should now be in sequential order.

If you need to rearrange the order of your interrogatories, move them into the right order and follow the steps above to update the sequence. This provides a lot of flexibility in drafting and can help your forms become more organized. I know I’ve often just added the next number rather than put the request where it belonged because I didn’t want to renumber the entire document.

To finalize your document for service, the numbers need to be in sequential order and should be returned to text so they cannot be changed. Once you have finished arranging the document, update the sequence as described above. Then, press “Ctrl A” to select all. Finally, press “Ctrl Shift F9” to turn the fields back into plain text.

As mentioned, this is a good tool, but can be tedious if you have to insert the sequence field every time or go back and copy the field into another area of the document. Plus, you will still have to type and format the “Answer” portion. This leads us to the next article, which will help automate this process and others using Quick Parts/Auto Text.

For now, type the phrase (with your own preferred formatting/language) as shown above and including the field (not the plain text number). Select the phrase and press Alt F3. This prompts you to “Create New Building Block.” Choose the Name (choose something you would type that is unique to this process like “rogno”) and review the other options. Click “OK”.

Now, type “rogno” and Word will give you a tool tip advising you to press enter to insert the phrase you just selected. If this doesn’t appear, type “rogno” and then press F3. Test it and let me know how it goes!

• Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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