LibreOffice for Lawyers

Hi All –

Just a quick post for now. I’m writing a Supreme Court sample brief and have decided to do this in LibreOffice to really put it to the test. I’m going to (hopefully) write about my experience and the experience of my partner (who is using Microsoft Office, so it’s a good interoperability test). Along with this I’ll also be reporting bugs that are likely to impact lawyers trying to use LibreOffice and I’ll add these to the blog as well πŸ™‚

Couple notes:

1. Unfortunately I cannot share my final product. That being said, it should look something like this at the end: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/09-1088_pet.pdf

The goal for any lawyer is to automate as much as possible – this means that things like the Table of Contents, Table of Authorities, etc . . . should be automated and thus will put these features to the test.

2. Because I’m working with a partner using Microsoft Office – my plan is to work locally in odf format but upon sharing the work I will save a copy as a .doc, send it to him, and he’ll edit, return the work, and then I’ll incorporate the changes in my odt file. A bit roundabout but it’s good for interoperability reasons, respecting ODF format locally, and it’ll remove the local issues which *might* happen with doc format (no clue if it will, but better to stick with odf where possible).

3. Using .doc instead of docx just because from my experience it’s had better support. We’re on a bit of a time crunch so I don’t have too much time to be fussing – I could be 100% mistaken here but just decided it’s best this time to stick with what I have experience working with). Additionally, my partner and I use different version of Microsoft Office (I have 2013, he’s on 2011 for Mac I believe), we all are aware that docx is actually 3 different versions – to avoid the headache, even had I been using Microsoft Office to create this, I would have stuck with the .doc format since Microsoft seems to hate itself when it comes to .docx format πŸ˜‰

The final document will be quite complex, encompassing multiple page styles, character styles, automatic features (TOC and other indexes), etc . . . I’m excited to see how LibreOffice can work for a lawyer doing “real work.”

First couple days have been quite successful. I’ve set up the basic document with multiple page styles, set up the title page, TOC, set up the Table of Authorities and done a few samples to make sure it works correctly. I also saved as a doc and sent to my friend – he said it looks good which is a big + πŸ˜€

That being said – I have reported an enhancement request (border line bug).

Summary: TOC does not track numbering styles of page numbering – a bit of a problem for lawyers doing these kinds of work.

Workaround: Allow manual edits to the TOC/Index (for Table of Authorities) and manually update. Not perfect as you have to do it every time (if you refresh the TOC you lose manual edits) so if you miss one, judge can legally refuse to accept the brief.

Bug report: https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=84700

Special thanks to this great tutorial for using LibreOffice (originally written for OpenOffice but steps carry through generally) for legal briefs. http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Legal-Briefs-With-Openoffice.Org

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About joelmadero

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4 responses to “LibreOffice for Lawyers”

  1. Miklos Vajna says :

    Regarding .doc vs .docx: .doc is now a dead format, i.e. new features of MSO can’t be described using .doc. However you’re right that the .doc filter is 20+ years old, the docx one is much younger and still has much to learn. So while in the long run .doc will be irrelevant, in practice .doc ATM is a better choice from LO’s point of view, in the general case. πŸ™‚

  2. joelmadero says :

    Correction: The bug report that I reported is no longer valid πŸ˜‰ Cor has explained that page numbering reflecting correctly in TOC is possible by doing the following:

    Fotmat -> Page -> Format . . . select the appropriate page number style. That being said, there is a separate issue that happens when you use this method which I will now be reporting.

  3. luciidaniyl says :

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