Ah yes. Headlines like Federal prosecutor’s cut-and-paste mistake discloses case against Wikileaks founder are good reminders, aren’t they?
I have nothing against cut and paste or copy and paste within a document. But using this tool to create a new document is a very bad idea.
Copy and Paste Can Get You in Trouble
Breach of confidentiality
This is the main takeaway from the Assange document:
“Dwyer twice put Assange’s name, along with a vague description of the case against him, in a document filed in what officials said was a completely unrelated child solicitation case.” Source: Chicago Tribune.
The prosecutor’s mistake exposed information the feds intended to remain confidential – at least for the time being. In the context of private practice, a breach of confidentiality can range from a miffed, but relatively unharmed client to someone who is severely injured by the revelation and angry enough to file a bar complaint or legal malpractice claim.
Please remember that when you cut and paste or copy and paste, this action may be retained in a document’s metadata. Unless the document is scrubbed, anyone who receives an electronic copy of the document may be able to expose the action and underlying information. Therefore, even if the prosecutor edited out Assange’s name, the metadata may have revealed the borrowed language.
If You Insist on Using Copy and Paste
I would prefer that you don’t, but if you do, the lessons here are pretty obvious:
- Run a global search to find and replace pronouns and names
- Carefully proofread borrowed text!
- Run a spell-check. Unless you’ve modified your dictionary, most spell-checks are going to question surnames like “Assange.”
- Scrub your document for metadata
Best Practices – Use Forms, Templates or Clauses
The most accurate and embarrassment-free documents are built using clean forms, templates, or clauses. If you’re a file, save as or copy and paste person, start building a forms library today.
Take it Up a Notch with The Form Tool
Or if you prefer cheap and easy, try The Form Tool. In the realm of software, these are virtues. The basic version of The Form Tool is free, the pro version is $89 for a lifetime license.
Five Years and Still Going Strong
I first saw The Form Tool demonstrated five years ago. Some bar associations offer it as a member benefit.
If you want to start creating forms in Word in about 10 minutes, try it out. Still a doubter? Order the free streaming video of this CLE from the Professional Liability Fund Automating Forms/Improving Writing (September 26, 2018), which includes a demonstration of WordRake (proofreading software for Word; see the PLF discount available here). Also see Using TheFormTool in Your Law Practice (February 22, 2013).
All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2018