Efficiency: Using a Mac and Word in drafting and opinion-writing: Top tips and what I've learned....

October 26, 2019

I use Macs at home and in Chambers.  I recently bought a top-spec Windows machine too because I look at a lot of NHS radiographs and other images sent to me on Windows-only disc.  I was really disappointed with the Windows machine, just miles behind and now relegated to being a glorified x-ray viewer only.

 

What have I learned that makes me more efficient?

 

1:  Get more screens.

 

Forget faster processors or more memory, nothing will improve your productivity like an extra screen or two.  Both in Chambers and at home I use three.  Typically you can draft on the central screen, have the medical records on another and the expert reports, split so you can see two at once, on another.  Extra screens are only circa £80 and you can connect either by HDMI or VGA cables.  £160 will change your productivity much more than a new laptop costing ten times as much.  Check what your laptop has in terms of outputs and buy adaptors for a few quid if you have to.  

 

The neat bit on a Mac is the screen arrangement.  Two photos below:  The first shows the actual screen arrangement and the second, what the Mac has been told.  The upshot is that you can move the mouse around like you have one giant screen and not three in a line.  Here's what the screen arrangement should look like and you set this up simply by plugging the screens in to the Mac (a laptop in this case) and clicking the Apple logo (top left corner) > System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement and then drag the displays around as you want them.  They don't have to be lined up left to right.  Fiddle with it until, if you run the pointer off the main screen for example at one o'clock on the laptop screen you see below,  it appears at 7 o'clock on the screen you see with the brightly-coloured background.  Buy 24 inch screens and you can have four documents open and still be typing on the laptop screen.  Next time you plug the screens into the laptop, it'll remember.  You only have to do it once.  It's the modern equivalent of having a desk bigger than Head of Chambers.  In the old days that would cost thousands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2: Use Autocorrect

 

Now, you might think that autocorrect just sorts out your spelling and grammar.  And it does, but to someone who types a lot (and, if like me you're a dodgy typist who needs all the help they can get) it can save mountains of time.  Imagine you are drafting a Defence, you can set up autocorrect so that every time you type ddd it changes to "the Defendant". It will even change the case of the "the" if you press shift and t at the start.  If you're drafting an Opinion and one of the parties is called Mr. Bougainvillea-Smythe, simply tell autocorrect to type that if you tap bbb.  Think of all the sentences that you type repeatedly: "Further the Claimant claims interest etc etc" can be replaced by £££ or anything you choose. The limit is the limit of your imagination.  One really nice touch is that if you set it up in Word, it will translate across to Outlook emails too.  For example when I type pfa in an email it autocorrects to "Please find attached the requested Opinion in the above" or calll with triple L types "Please call me if you wish to discuss it at all."  

 

3: Protect spaces

 

I accept that this might be a bit OCD but I think it's important.  If it frustrates you that Mr. Smith can be separated with Mr. appearing at the end of a line and Smith appearing on the next line (and it should) then you can "protect" the space from that happening.  Type Mr. and then, when you type the space, type shift-option-space all at the same time: it will not split Mr. Smith up.  The same applies for dates and that is arguably more important in pleadings to make life easier for the reader.  Never again will it say 11th at the end of the line and January on the next line.  

 

4: Become a Dictator

 

I used to use Dragon Dictate for Mac.  It was wonderful but now (and I'm sure they'll correct me if I'm wrong), Dragon no longer supports Mac.  It does have a really good Dragon Anywhere app for all phones that is spookily good at understanding what you say.  It costs less than £10pcm (and I think not on a contract but a month-by-month basis but you'd better check) and it is excellent.  You can say "bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy" to it, for example, and it will understand.  Once you've finished, the document is emailed straight to your computer in Word format.  

 

The Mac's onboard dictation is not as good.  It's best for when you have to set out a chronology or read a lot of medical records into an Opinion or a Defence for example.  It will need checking and proofing but it's still faster than typing from the outset.  

 

 

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