March/April 2019

Product Watch

PerfectIt: Your Legal Proofreader

Heidi S. Alexander

In my third year of law school, I served as the editor-in-chief of my school’s law review. I remember the grueling and tedious cite-checking marathons we’d engage in to prepare the articles for publication. We’d pore over style guides such as The Bluebook and Black’s Law Dictionary and even debate citation format and grammar. While the law review experience helped prepare me to serve as a state supreme court law clerk and associate in a litigation practice, the realities of practice were quite different from my work on law review.

On law review, I had the time to devote to style guides without the pressure of clients and getting paid by the hour. I don’t have to tell you that practicing law is stressful and time-intensive. You have many competing demands for your time from clients, colleagues, staff and others, as well as the work you actually need to accomplish. Many times, document formatting, citing, grammar and checking for consistency are an afterthought. Merely finding the time to craft the legal argument and draft the document is difficult.

Tech to The Rescue

This is where technology rises to the occasion. Are you using technology to help you save time, reduce mistakes and improve the quality of your final product?

A number of products are built to do just that. For example, a simple tool called Grammarly is a free extension for your web browser that will check your grammar and make suggestions as you draft. Or, for a more sophisticated offering, take a look at WordRake, a product that works with Microsoft Word to help proofread your document and suggests edits to make your writing more clear and concise.

Finally, I’d like to introduce yet another product that can be used in collaboration with Grammarly and/or WorkRake, which is PerfectIt. PerfectIt analyzes your document for inconsistencies and proofreading mistakes with attention to specific legal styles.

Developing PerfectIt

PerfectIt, by Intelligent Editing (legal.intelligentediting.com), was born in 2009 by Daniel Heuman to help professionals in many different sectors edit faster and better. In October 2015 PerfectIt launched its American Legal Style for PerfectIt, which was developed by Ivy Grey, a former bankruptcy lawyer and now director of business strategy at WordRake. Grey was named to the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech in 2018 as a woman making an impact in legal technology.

Grey meticulously developed PerfectIt’s American Legal Style by programming thousands of common errors and hard-to-remember rules based upon The Bluebook, Black’s Law Dictionary, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style and The Elements of Style.

PerfectIt is now available for both Mac and PC users. It works as an add-on to Microsoft Word. With the click of a button, PerfectIt runs on the document, making suggestions for you to review and choose to accept.

Features That Work For You

I’ve received a demo from Grey and Heuman and tested the product myself. Listed below are some of the software’s highlights:

  • PerfectIt is simple to use and learn. For legal documents all you need to do is select PerfectIt from your Microsoft Word ribbon, click Launch PerfectIt, select American Legal Style and click Start to run the program.
  • PerfectIt analyzes hyphenation, numbers, sentences, italicization, lists, numbers, punctuation, figure headings, bullet capitalization and punctuation—and more. It will also look for commonly misspelled words in the legal context and make language suggestions based on recommended legal styles.
  • It reviews your document for consistency and tells you how many times a certain phrase is used. For example, if you’ve used “postpetition” and “post-petition,” it will find those instances and ask whether you would like to correct those for consistency based upon guidance from legal styles.
  • PerfectIt checks for citation errors. For example, it would suggest that “3rd Cir.” be changed to “3d Cir.,” “Bank. N.D.N.Y.” corrected to “Bankr. N.D.N.Y.,” and “U.S.C. Sec.” to “U.S.C. §.”
  • You can customize PerfectIt to search for commonly misspelled words specific to your practice, add custom capitalization and punctuation for frequently used names of clients or law firms, choose between two spaces or one space after periods and more.

At $70 per user per year, this product is a steal. I only wish it had the ability to track how much time you save by using it (like TextExpander by Smile’s statistics tool) because I’ll bet it’s significant. This product is a huge win for any litigator and worth checking out.

Closing Thoughts

I guess I have to ask the question, Do law reviews and law clerks still serve a purpose with the advent of products such as PerfectIt and others? My answer is yes. As sophisticated as these tech products are, they still don’t replace a set of human eyes. Yet these products do signal a need for advances in legal education. Just imagine what a law student, law clerk or associate could do having been taught how to develop this type of software in law school. Might a judicial law clerk build and tailor a product to a specific court’s needs? Could an associate design a program to analyze, for example, consistency and accuracy in immigration petitions? A number of law schools have already begun to innovate their curricula, and I suspect we will see others following the trend. If you are curious, join us at TECHSHOW 2019 and check out the sessions in our Academic Track. In the meantime, take a look at PerfectIt.

Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services, and this review should not be so construed.

Heidi S. Alexander

Heidi S. Alexander is the deputy director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she helps manage organization operations and leads the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. That program provides free and confidential practice management assistance, guidance in implementing new law office technologies and methods to attain healthy and sustainable practices. She is the author of Evernote as a Law Practice Tool, serves as co-chair of the ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board and founded the ABA’s Women of Legal Technology initiative. heidi@masslomap.org

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