geoning the text into submission.
You’re not letting it work for you,
and it’s taking longer.
And that’s the big problem with word
processing. In most practices area, word processing is a non-billable administrative event,
and the longer it takes, the less money I
make. So I want to take word processing and
squeeze it down into as little time as possible
without sacrificing accuracy. So you want to
go faster without making more mistakes.
And that is possible once you learn how to
use the tool.
AZAT: I think I know the answer, but how
do you learn it?
HENLEY: You’ve got to take a class that’s
legal-specific, and that will spend time discussing the issues that legal drafting presents, so you’re not wasting your time on
stuff that’s irrelevant. I don’t need to know
how to do clip art. I don’t need to know
how to do picnic flyers. I need to know how
to do an appellate brief. That’s a completely
AZAT: Are people surprised at what they
HENLEY: When people come, they’ll have
a whole day full of aha moments, because
they’re like, oh, my, god, I had no idea it
could do that. Like they accepted that certain things didn’t work, you couldn’t do
certain things. And then when they see actually it can be done and here are the simple
steps you have to follow to do it, they’re just
mystified that they’ve been using it for so
long, and this was there, and they were unaware of it.
AZAT: And word has gotten out, I guess
you could say.
HENLEY: The first time I taught the Col-
orado Bar, for example, about 35 people
showed up. And I think the general con-
sensus was, Why the hell would I waste a
whole day listening to some guy tell me
about Word? The next year, about 60. The
next year, more and more. And last time we
taught it, 137 people came to hear about
Word. And every year, they’re like, Holy
crap, I learned a bunch of stuff I had no idea
I was going to learn. It was actually kind of
fun, and I could take it back to my office
and literally use it that same day. You know,
like this right-away, seat-of-the-pants, make-
me-more-efficient kind of knowledge. And
so they’d come back and they’d bring more
AZAT: Is the kind of willful incompetence
you discuss a generational thing among
more seasoned attorneys, or do you see it
among younger lawyers as well?
HENLEY: It’s not a generational thing. It’s
just that younger people have no fear whatsoever that they might “break” the software. Whereas older people tend to be really
worried they might break something if they
just play around and click around. And so
they’re less likely to experiment. And there’s
a whole generation that has just said I accept
my lack of knowledge about these technology tools. I find there are a lot of people that
just lack that intellectual curiosity; they just
gave up on it. They say, “You know”—with
a tone of resignation and sometimes even
pride—“I’m the biggest techno Luddite in
my office.” That’s a curable condition.
Knowing You Need Help
AZAT: I tend to be a lifelong learner, even
about other Office products like Power-Point. But as for Word, I kind of have a
blind spot. I know it’s a powerful tool, but
until we talked, I had never really probed
my own casual and inefficient approach to
it. That’s fascinating.
HENLEY: Well, here’s the acid test. While
working on complex documents, if things
are happening, and you either can’t explain
it or you can’t reverse it, then that’s evi-
dence that there’s more to learn. Because
once you’ve mastered Word, those things
simply don’t occur in the first place.
AZAT: Let’s go back to mastering Styles. I
was struck by one thing you wrote where
you said the most important feature one
must understand in Word is Styles, but
nothing in Word’s interface indicates this.
“Clicking around in Word will not reveal
what Styles are, how they work, or how they
control them, and Word’s fairly useless
built-in help sheds little light on the sub-
ject.” Why is Microsoft so maddeningly
mysterious? I’ve used Word for decades, and
I occasionally still feel like a stranger in a
HENLEY: They seemed to have spent their
focus on, “I want to just show you a button
for the thing,” but they don’t explain the
thing. And there’s no pop-up help, there’s
no Here’s what you need to know about it.
In spite of the fact that I’m a Word advocate, and I have mastered the program, and
I teach the program, it frustrates me too,
because, I think, it could be easier, it could
be more logical, it could provide more help,
and it doesn’t do that. But I don’t point the
finger just at Microsoft.
Improving Your Bottom Line
AZAT: It sounds like mastering Word could
transform a lawyer’s work life.
HENLEY: Oh, it absolutely does. It affects
the bottom line, in some cases fairly dramatically. Let’s say you’re an estates and trusts
lawyer. You spend all your time cranking out
these really long complex, formatted documents. You don’t even know how long that
should take, all you know is it’s always a
struggle. And it takes hours to get these
thing done and ready for signature. And oh
my god, if they make last-minute changes,
we’re going to have to go back to the word
It really doesn’t have to be like that. Once
you’ve got the Styles down, it’s effortless.
And a lot of times, I start Word classes by
showing what it’s like when you have a document that’s set up correctly. I give them
templates and say, Open one of these templates and try to break it. Try to make the
numbering screw up. You can’t. If it’s set up
right, you can’t break it. It does exactly what
you would expect all the time, and if you
bring stuff into it from outside of that document, you just identify the style you want to
apply, and it’s perfect again.
While working on complex documents, if things
are happening, and you either can’t explain it
or you can’t reverse it, then that’s evidence
there is more to learn.