Easily Create a Table of Contents for a legal brief with Microsoft Word

posted by Michael R. Fortney  |  Sep 29, 2014 1:14 PM in Employment Law

As a fresh law school graduate I remember well what we did and did not learn in law school. Writing was very high on the list and was a subject taught, at least in some regard, in every single law school class I took. 

However no one, including my legal writing professor, spent much, if any, time on formatting. We did spend some time on basic formatting (double spacing, underlining, using the spacebar key), but not nearly as much as I think would really benefit future lawyers. Like most law school students I spent a lot of time searching through tutorials on how to put Microsoft Word to better use. There was a problem that I kept running into though, these tutorials either do not exist or are hidden within the walls of the large firms who create them (for fear that if they got out the other firms would gain a competitive advantage). So instead of having information, such as how to create a table of contents in Microsoft Word, available to law students so we can focus on honing our writing skills, law students have to search for tutorials on how to create a brief that lack the information they really need. 

Every legal tutorial on the internet is on the things learned in legal writing class: never use passive voice, make sure your headings tell the story, avoid legalese, and whatever you do avoid block quotes at all cost. 

Someone needs to create tutorials on actual brief construction and how to use Word to do this. This can and should change everything in the legal community, from making briefs more uniform and thus evening out the legal system, to giving legal writing professors a short guide they can show to students so the students don't have to spend hours searching the internet instead of practicing their new craft. This is what I intend to do. 

Our project today is creating a Table of Contents using Word's built in Table of Contents tool and Heading styles. This project assumes that you have already followed my previous tutorial and Created a Table of Authorities using the Mark Citation function in Microsoft Word. For this project I am using Microsoft Word 2007, but the steps are the same for 2010 and 2013. 

For this project I am using a sample brief found on the website for Ohio's 12th District Court of Appeals. For our purposes I removed the Table of Contents from the sample brief and otherwise left the brief alone. Our final Table of Contents will not look exactly the same as the Table of Contents in the sample brief, as that is not what this exercise is about. I am merely using that sample brief so I do not have to use a real brief, which raises ethical questions. 

Here is what the brief looks like right now.

Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief, pages 1-2Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief, pages 3-4Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief, pages 5-6

As you can see there are a great many headings we can work with here to create a table of contents.

1. The first step is to navigate to the References tab within word.

Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief, navigate to References tab

2. Next we need to figure out where to place the Table of Contents in our brief. Normally the Table of Contents comes at the very beginning so we are going to use our mouse to click in front of the Table of Authorities, which places the cursor there. Then we have to click the Tabe of Contents menu on the References tab. When you do this you will see three different types of Tables that Word will insert for you. For our exercise today we are going to use the second Table of Contents. 

Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief, insert table of contents

3. Once we click on the Automatic Table 2 you can see that it gets inserted in front of the Table of Authorities, just like we planned. Unfortunately there is nothing in our Table of Contents yet, but that is all going to change soon. 

The Table of Contents feature in Microsoft Word works by utilizing Headings. Headings are very similar to any outline format. If the first layer of your outline is capital Roman Numerals you could consider those Heading 1. Heading 2 would be the next step down, perhaps Capital Letters, and so forth. 

4. Word starts with the notion that for some odd reason you want Heading 1 to be large and blue. I have no idea why they chose blue but I don't like it one bit. Therefore I always modify Heading 1 to reflect the rest of the document. Here we are using Times New Roman font and it is black. I want to change Heading 1 to reflect that so first I go back to the Home tab, then I right-click on the Heading 1 box and then click on modify. 

Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Legal Brief,  modify headings

The modify box should look like this. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading step 1

5. Next we are going to change the font and the color in this box. You can also change the font size here if you want to. For our purposes I am leaving the size as is for the time being. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading part 2

Now that we have Heading 1 set up we want to add some headings.

6. We want to include the Table of Authorities in our Table of Contents so we first want to highlight the Table of Authorities and then mark it as Heading 1 on the Home tab by simply clicking the Heading 1 box on the Home tab.

 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change TOA

7. Next we do the same thing for the Statement of the Case. The only difference here is I am choosing to also highlight the Roman Numeral I. You do not have to do this, but I feel it makes the Table of Contents more readable, and since that is where the Judge first sees your case it makes sense to make it read well. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change SOC

8. You'll notice that after you made the Statement of the Case into a Heading 1 the formatting may have been changed. My formatting changed the Statement of the Case to left-justified instead of center-justified. That is an easy fix. We just need to click on the text and alter the formatting the same way we normally would. The Table of Contents and other Tables allow the user to alter the formatting from Microsoft's default format, so don't be afraid to chge the formatting to match your style. If by chance you do commit some grievous error, just hit ctrl+z and try again. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change format of SOC

9. Next I am going to mark the II. ARGUMENT, III. CONCLUSION and IV. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE each as Heading 1 but I am not showing screen shots for those. They are done exactly the same as the Table of Authorities and Statement of the Case. 

10. And now it's time to modify the settings for Heading 2. My first Heading that I am going to label Heading 2 is the text after First Assignment of Error in the Argument section, the text I have circled here. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, beg of heading 2

Again you could choose a number of different ways to create your Table of Contents based on the number of different Headings here. You could conceivably make the Roman Numeral A your Heading 2. Make the text I have circled Heading 3, and make the Issue Number One Heading 4. As I said I chose not to do that. First it is time consuming. Second it would not read as well. I want the Judge to see my Assignments of Error, and maybe the Issue too, but not much else.

11. Next we want to mark that text as Heading 2 which means we first have to modify Heading 2 to make it a little less blue. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading 2

12. Just like Heading 1, we are again going to click on the References tab, then right click on Heading 2, and then click Modify

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading 2 window 1 

13. Once again the font, size, and color can all be altered here. This time I am going to alter all three because I want the font to be the normal 12 point size. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading 2 window 2

14. We then need to select the text, if it is not already selected, then click the Heading 2 box.

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, modify heading 2 again

15. Now we are going to finish labeling the Heading 2 subheadings. Again we have to select the text that we want to appear as the heading, then label it as Heading 2 by clicking the Heading 2 box. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change second heading

Also in case you were wondering how to manage more than two styles you may have noticed that once we modified the settings for Heading 2 the box for Heading 3 appeared. Word is intuitive and can see that if you are using Heading 2 you might need Heading 3, and so on. 

16. You can also have the Styles bar on the References tab show all the styles, meaning Headings 1-9, by clicking the tiny arrow in the bottom of the Styles bar, and then clicking on Options in the box that appears. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change menu multiple headings17. Then when you click options you need to select All Styles on the "Styles to Show" menu. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, change styles

Now that we have selected all of our entries and labeled them as Headings we are ready to have Word create our Table of Contents for our legal brief. As an aside, steps 2 and 3 above were inserted there merely to show you what we were trying to do. In the future you do not need to insert the Table of Contents until after you have your Headings identified. 

However sometimes you add or change Headings and need to update the Table of Contents as you update your brief. Word is intuitive, but not intuitive enough to change your Table of Contents as you change your Headings in your document. It would be nice and maybe it will happen with Windows 9. 

18. To update the Table of Contents we need to first click on the text of the Table of Contents, at which point Word will highlight the whole Table of Contents. Then you simply have to click on Update Table. If that option is not available you can also right click on text in any part of the Table of Contents and you will see an option to Update Table there as well. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, update toc field

19. When the Table of Contents is inserted the formatting is again not what I would like. Once again though all of our formatting options on the Home tab are available to use. I am going to manually double-space portions of the Table of Contents and leave some parts single-spaced. Do what you want to match your own writing style. 

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief, toc has arrived

20. After formatting I am also inserting a page break to get the Table of Authorities on the next page.

Easily Create Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for legal brief,toc and toa moved

When I do that the Table of Contents will still say the Table of Authorities is on page ii until I update the Table of Contents field again. You must always make sure to update your Tables one last time before you finally submit them to Court.  

Now your Table of Contents is complete and you can alter and update it at will. 

I hope this tutorial was helpful and will help you create more aesthetically pleasing briefs in the future. 

Please read my other articles including my tutorial on how to create a Table of Authorities for legal briefs with Microsoft Word. 

Thanks for reading. 

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