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.