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A template for federal district court pleadings – my gift to you.

By January 7, 2011November 11th, 2020Uncategorized

Today is the last in this week’s series on improving typography in legal pleadings.

Courts impose all these arcane formatting requirements on lawyers, which as we’ve discussed no longer relate to the modern era. One thing that’s always puzzled me is: why don’t the courts create templates in Word and WordPerfect that embody the formatting requirements that they seek to impose?

If the goal is to maximize the likelihood that lawyers will comply with formatting rules, then why not make it as easy as possible for them to comply? All it would take is for someone at the court to set up a template for a typical pleading and then post that template to the court’s website. Obviously, it would make sense to to have one template for the users of Microsoft Word, and one for the smaller (but passionately devoted) group of WordPerfect users.

I bet this would take someone at each court about an hour, max. But, as far as I know, it’s never happened.

So, for my loyal readers I’ve taken it upon myself to create a template in Microsoft Word that complies with the local rules for the federal court in New Orleans. Even if your rules are slightly different you can easily edit the template for your court.

The main feature of this template is that it has the caption set up with a proper line divider instead of the goofy asterisks and section symbols.

I put the body text in Palatino font, 12 pt, with double spaced lines. The two line banner across the top of caption is in all caps, but (in accordance with Butterick’s advice on letterspacing in Typography for Lawyers, pg 98) I tweaked the character spacing to make the letters farther apart.

The block quote text is single line and 11 pt font size, and it’s single-spaced. I realize the 11 pt type might technically violate the local rule. As Butterick points out (pg 148) reducing the point size is what good typographers do for block quotes. I rarely use blockquotes so I figure this is not something that’s going to get me an advantage in terms of page limits. And I almost never approach the maximum page limit anyway.

Footnotes are also in the smaller 11 pt font size, and I think it would be better to put them in 10 point font. But I don’t want to stretch the rules too much. Having the footnotes in the same font size as the body text looks weird. Try some variations and you’ll see how much nicer it is when you have footnotes in a smaller font and when you compress the space between the footnotes.

So here is a template (just right-click and “Download As [name you specify]”). It was created in the Mac version of Microsoft Word but it should open fine in the Windows version. I’m sorry I can’t create a WordPerfect version but I don’t have access to WP so I’m not able to help the WP aficionados.


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

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