Lawyers spend an average of 25% of their time formatting legal documents. Yet, 75% of legal documents are not formatted correctly.
Formatting and structure are critical to the legal process. Formatting can make or break clarity when drafting ordinances, amending ordinances, or meaningful resolutions.
Clarity is about understanding. The general public, enforcement, and the legal system should be able to read and easily interpret the meaning of our laws. This is why we try to write in plain language; we want everyone to interpret meaning the same way. If there is disagreement about the meaning of our ordinance or resolution, then we did not meet the clarity standard.
Precision is how closely the words chosen match the intention of a new law. If you’re drafting an amending ordinance to a building code, the language that you choose should tightly reflect the intended change. And precision of language helps us to avoid unintended consequences of new law. The goal is to draft language that says exactly what we mean, and nothing more or less.
Precision and clarity should work together. We can have precision without clarity, but we cannot have clarity without precision.
High levels of precision and clarity are the results of well-trained, intelligent legal drafters whose time is precious.
But formatting for drafters of municipal law can be done by software, if that software is purpose-built for the specific task. As an example, Xcential’s LegisWeb automates the formatting of amending ordinances, but only because it was built specifically for that type of drafting. Legal document formatting software that is general still requires hours to review and edit.
Some examples of complicated formatting for municipal law that are automatically handled by LegisWeb and not available in generic tools:
- Auto-(re)numbering of sections, subsections, paragraphs, and subparagraphs as you make your changes (a feature you can turn on and off as well)
- Auto-formatting based on the content (a section will always be styled and indented automatically in the same way by default) including descendants (subsections, paragraphs, etc)
- Auto-generated amendment lists are prepared automatically in a consistent manner
- Grouped change-sets for reading options with conditional formatting
Let’s do some quick math… Lawyers who use legal tools for formatting save an average of 2 hours per week. 104 hours per year per lawyer is a big deal. That’s 2 ½ weeks each.
The average annual salary of a city attorney in the United States is $134,164 or $66.81 per hour (depending on location, experience, etc). That is $66.81 per hour when you remove PTO and holidays.
If smart legal tools for ordinance drafting can save 104 hours per lawyer, that is a savings of nearly $7,000 per year.
LegisWeb is only $29 per month per lawyer or $348 per year or $3.34 for every hour saved (2 ½ weeks). You’d surely pay $3.34 to save 1 hour of work. Those hours can be reinvested in the clarity and precision that only humans can create or the time can be directed to other needed work.
If you are drafting amending ordinances, new ordinances, or resolutions, we recommend you focus on clarity and precision and let LegisWeb handle the formatting!