How to: Create a Simple Pleading with Google Drive

Google Drive

One of the reasons I’m loving Google Drive more and more is because it’s moving me away from MS Office dependence. Admittedly, I won’t be fully MS-free, since my practice management software depends on MS Office to generate documents and use my calendar.

Still, I find myself doing more and more with Google Drive. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not fully confident about storing personal or client information in this cloud, but for stuff that’s going to enter the public sphere anyway, I don’t mind.

Montana attorney, John Kutzman voiced his frustrations with Google Drive’s not-quite-perfect document creation capabilities. To talk bluntly about Google Drive and documents, it almost sucks when compared to MS Word. Now, this is partly because of Word’s years of refinement, and also because of the limited capabilities of online or cloud document creation services.

That’s not to say that Google Drive isn’t up to the document creation task, or that you can use the program in your own firm to generate documents. John’s frustration came because he attempted to create an easy-to-use pleading, but became stumped by some of the ubiquitous, and sometimes nonsensical, Google Drive functions. Here’s an excerpt of John’s comment:

In this morning’s Google Drive experiment I got exactly as far as the first row of the table where the name of the court has to go. In my jurisdiction we center the name of the court over the rest of the caption, with the names of the parties beneath it on the left and the cause number, name of the presiding judge, and title of the pleading on the right. In Word I would draw a selection across all of the columns from left to right but only including the first row of cells, and then “merge” them into one very wide cell running all the way across the page. No can do with Google Drive. I looked it up and apparently there was a Rube Goldberg-like implementation of this in a previous version that they deleted in the most recent “upgrade.” Message board traffic indicates Google Docs users have been asking for this for years.

In my view this is the one “advanced” word processing function a small litigation firm would need. We don’t ever use the various web and desktop publishing functions that have bloated up MS Word. But we do need a quick and reliable way to create court captions that doesn’t drive our staff nuts.

John, you’re not alone in this frustration. Fortunately, he has, in all humility, me. I came up with a quick fix for John that he says quite possibly will work. Here’s how I did it:

Create a new document in Google Drive (Create > Document).

Begin entering the court caption. I like to center and bold the court name:

Google Drive - Bold & Center Now the tricky part: I prefer the case caption to have the caption surrounded by a shallow border:

Case caption with borders

This is a design trick I saw as a young legal Padawan. I design this in MS Word with a simple two-cell table and remove all but the two borders. Unfortunately, this is where Google Drive sucks. Tables and documents are almost non-existent. Well, the way I do them in Word is non-existent. Still, it’s not impossible, the result just isn’t as crisp and clean.

Create a table (Table > Insert Table). Draw a 3×1 table and insert the table into the document. We’ll clean it up in a minute.

Table Insert

It’s time to start typing in the case style information, such as the plaintiff’s and defendant’s names and the case number. I prefer to justify to the left and use the line indent to create proper placement within the cell.

Line Indent

I can manipulate the indents as I need for the remainder of the style.

Final Names Indent

Note: it’s about this point in the lesson that I realized I was working in a 2-cell table and corrected the issue, but didn’t change the pictures.

Now move to the middle cell (it’s at this point I realized my pictures above have only 2 cells), and create the closed parenthesis caption. I center these at about the 3 inch mark, though I don’t know if there’s a specific rule (check your local and state rules to verify spacing). This is simply a matter of entering the closed parenthesis (“)”) and pressing enter down the cell.

Center Parenthesis

We can now move on to the third cell. I prefer to push the indent just a nudge off the left side.

Right Cell Left Indent

You can finish entering the information as your jurisdiction requires.

Right Cell Final

At this point, you’re one step away from finishing the pleading and commencing your real work. I prefer to remove the borders in the table. To remove the borders, click the default color box under Table > Table properties > Table border. Select the white box to the far right and click OK.

Table Properties

This will clear the colors from the border, leaving a well-designed pleading heading.

Final Pleading

Continue your document editing from here.

Now, here are few quick tips:

  1. Upload (Uploadpreviously created Word documents you’re already using – this will save time in the final editing;
  2. If your court has specific stylistic requirements, do your best to copy and paste a court form – I created John’s pleading from a court form and just adjusted my document to fit (I moved the indents, table borders, etc.);
  3. Have fun – I don’t know (perhaps you have some) of any attorneys in today’s modern age who have been chastised because of their formatting (poor grammar, arguments, pleadings, maybe); and
  4. Complex formatting (like numbers on the side) will still require MS Word or WordPerfect – even I said Google Drive isn’t quite up to snuff

If you want to see/download the pleading I created for this, click here.

As always, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for using Google Drive to get things done around the office.

Update (2/22/14): California litigators will probably love the two new California compliant pleadings.

7 Responses to How to: Create a Simple Pleading with Google Drive

  1. Thanks.  This is helpful.  Note you can still use Google Drive to generate pleadings on lined/numbered paper. Make a bunch of copies of blank lined/numbered pleading paper and print your Google Drive pleading on it.  Inserting headers/footers is easy… getting the page number to print in the right location relative to the footer may take some tweaking, but clearly can be done.

  2. Although I’m a die hard Google fan, I don’t use Google docs much because it’s either impossible or very difficult to create the type of lined numbered paper that we California lawyers have to use. It mystifies me that Google won’t make it easy to use the type of lined numbered paper that we California lawyers have to use. I wonder what Google is trying to achieve by making Google Docs so inhospitable for California litigators.

  3. How About The Numbers that Are on the Left Side out side of the Margin line that Are also on Pleading form???? Please I need to know how to with Googledrive

    Thank you! …its Vital.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.