What You Didn’t Know About Formatting Legal Documents

lega-document-marginsFormatting legal documents properly can be a lengthy and tedious process.  This is where knowing things like styles, offered in MS Word, comes in handy and will save time and cost.

What are some formatting considerations?

Paper Size

In 1972 Canada adopted the ISO (international standard) paper sizes.  However, this does not mean that you can simply choose whatever paper size you want and set your legal document margins and be done.  The United States has its own set of legal paper sizes or the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) sizes.  In 1976 the Standards Council of Canada created comparable paper sizes in metric with the Paper Sizes for Correspondence CAN 2-9.60M Standard.  These are listed as P1 to P6 and roughly correlate to the United States ANSI A, B, C, and D paper sizes.  However, much of North America corresponds to the American ANSI paper sizes.  In the United States, legal paper (or 8.5 inches by 14 inches) is often standard.

Spacing and Margins

If you are using a popular writing program like Microsoft Office, you can save time by choosing the pre-set options for legal papers.  These will set the appropriate margin sizes for you as well as correct spacing.  However, you will most likely need to go in and customize at least a few of these settings.  For example, the top margin should be two inches (about 50 millimeters), with the bottom margin about half of that.  Your organization, lawyer, or client may need different margins.  Justification is optional. The majority of legal documents use 1.5 or double-spacing.


Avoid any flowery fonts when typing a legal document.  While the standard has been Times New Roman or even Arial, some newer schools of thought recommend using Adobe Garamond instead.  The reasoning behind the change in font is subjective, with proponents of Garamond saying that it adds a little bit of “class” to a document.  A number of courts and lawyers use Courier, Verdana, and Tahoma.  Remember that some fonts might need to be court-approved, meaning that you must use the correct font on your legal documents.  Check before selecting a font.  You might find that your options are extensive or very limited.

These are just a few of the key aspects of legal document formatting.  Speak with a professional word processing service about how to best format your legal document.  They may offer affordable services to help you.

How Long Does Transcription Take?

transcription-softwareMany individuals do not realize how long it takes to create a professional transcript.  There are many steps to the process.  Each step requires the skills of a highly trained professional, transcription software, and agility on the keyboard.  A good transcription can take a significant bit of time.  Let’s take a moment to discuss the transcription process.

The Basics

A professional transcription company does more than listen to a recording and then quickly type what they think they hear.  This is a highly skilled process.  For example, the transcriber will often listen to the recording, yes, but they will also take the time to research the subject.  Understanding the context of the subject is essential.  The transcriber will often use professional transcription software.  Software programs that allow them to play one channel, four channels, insert time codes, hear the audio at various speeds and show the video so on-screen text can be seen when you want on-screen text added to the transcript.

How Long Does It Take?

There are many estimates, but a good transcriber can take anywhere from four to nine hours to transcribe an hour of video accurately.  Factors like the subject, number of speakers, audio quality, accents, and whether “um’”s and stutters need to be transcribed all factor into the end time required for transcription.

Anything technical, especially university lectures or videos with many names and places, can take significant time to transcribe.  Highly technical subjects can take a longer time to transcribe.  For example, transcription of a lecture on string theory would involve more work and knowledge than transcription of a voicemail message.  Likewise with transcription of an immigration hearing.  The professional transcriber wants to ensure accuracy above all else.

How to Minimize Cost

If you are preparing audio for a transcription service, there are several things you can to do reduce the length of time and overall cost.  Consider the length of the video, the number of speakers, and the technical subject.  Plan these out when you are setting up your initial recording.

Even more importantly, make sure the audio is clear.  If possible, minimize noise and clipping when recording. Be sure to test microphones ahead of time. Use a lavalier microphone attached to the collar of the speaker instead of a microphone several meters away.  Have a professional monitor the initial audio.  This will ensure that the words come out audibly and clearly.

Avoid outdoor recording in places with loud ambient noises like cars, dogs barking or an airport.  A directional microphone or lavalier mic can reduce unwanted noise.  Inaudible recordings can contribute substantially to the length of time of transcription as the transcriber will have to replay sections often and still may not be able to decipher what is being said.

Where appropriate, ask participants to repeat themselves if you feel they were not clear or loud enough.  Or ask them at the outset of the recording to speak loud and clear.

A good transcript will take several hours to produce.  Even though it may seem like a long time, the reality is that in the end you will have a professional transcript that represents well what you took the time to record.