While courts surely derive some sick and twisted pleasure by forcing attorneys on opposite sides to file joint pleadings, how you go about handling those logistics can have a big impact on your case.
Since the great word processor schism, Microsoft Word has emerged as the dominant program, trouncing Word Perfect in its widespread adoption by both lawyers and courts. However, one of the potentially fatal flaws of Word involves one of the best features: Track Changes. If you’re not careful, your opposing counsel will be able to gain valuable insights based on your assumedly private edits.
Although tracking the changes to a document is fantastic when doing your own editing, or having peers or colleagues edit your work, it can really stab you in the back if you’re not careful. When “Track Changes” is on, and even when it is off, Word will create metadata. This metadata can often include sections that were deleted or changed.
When working on a joint pleading, like a case management statement, or status report, sending the Word doc version to an opposing counsel without removing the metadata first can allow your opponent to see all the different changes you made. While moving things around, or changing punctuation, isn’t likely to give up important information, comments and sidebar notes that were only intended to be seen by those in your office, or your client, are not the type of information you want turned over.
Removing Metadata From Word Docs
The easiest way to remove the metadata from a Word doc is to print and scan the doc as a PDF. However, when you need to share word files, either by court order, or via agreement (or just plain old common courtesy-yes it still exists), there are a few options for removing the metadata. You can copy everything into a program like Notepad, then copy that, and paste it into a new Word doc. Though this sounds easy, it can often lead to a formatting headache that isn’t worth the trouble unless you have law student intern to torture.
Alternatively, you can learn to remove the metadata through Microsoft Word by going into the menu, finding the Inspect Document feature, and using that to remove the metadata of your choosing.