How to Proofread Legal Documents

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Proofreading other attorneys’ work is easier than proofreading our own; we unwittingly infer intended meanings to our own compositions even if they are not clearly stated. Even so, without the right strategies and tools in place, proofreading legal agreements and drafts can be an uphill battle, especially when high-volume workloads, fatigue, and office distractions are factored into the equation.

How To Proofread Legal Documents: Strategies and Recommendations

Corporate legal departments may vary in their approaches to instructing staff on how to proofread legal documents; however, many of these best practice strategies can be employed by individuals who wish to take initiative and improve the efficiency of their manual review:

    • Schedule regular breaks. If an employee is proofreading his or her own draft, setting it aside for at least 30 minutes can freshen up the mind.
    • Read the contract aloud. Proofreading aloud can help identify areas where punctuation and pause are needed. It also reveals holes of missing information, repetition, and awkward sentence structures.
    • Or have your computer read it out loud. Tools like Google Translate enable proofreaders to listen and read along at the same time, increasing the odds of spotting errors.
    • Zoom in. Increasing the size of the text encourages slower reading, which can help magnify errors.
    • Print it out. There is some merit to traditional redlining by hand. Research shows the physical act of writing activates more complex neural connections, aiding in on-task brain activity and learning. But printing out longer documents may raise environmental concerns. 
    • Break down proofreading into tasks. Rather than reading straight through a document once, seasoned proofreaders often make a list of specific tasks and comb through the document several times in search of different errors. For instance, a first review may focus on sentence structure, the second may emphasize word choice, the third could zero in on spelling, and so on.
    • Put multiple eyes on the text. Many legal departments have junior-level attorneys take the first pass at contract review, followed by senior attorneys performing the final read-through. 

Using as many proofreading strategies as possible increases the odds of success, as does keeping a checklist of common errors.

Common Legal Document Errors

Proofreading checklists are often specific to the individual and compiled over time. However, there are common legal document errors that should be on every proofreader’s list:

    • Punctuation: its/it’s, your/you’re, their/they’re, whose/who’s

    • Word usage: affective/effective, principle/principal, quite/quiet, hear/here, council/counsel

    • Spelling: judgment/judgement, loose/lose

    • Typos: fro/for, statute/statue

    • Abbreviations: The right letters should be placed in the right order for shortened, defined terms

    • Fragments: Every sentence needs a subject and a verb

    • Dates, people, and places: Particulars are worth double-checking for accuracy

    • Formatting: Check bolding, italics, spacing, underlining, bullets, indentation, Oxford commas, and capitalization consistency

Using CTRL-F is an expedient way to double-check for commonly misspelled or misused words.

Adding an AI-Powered Legal Contract Review Solution to the Proofreading Mix

While Microsoft Word and Grammarly provide a little extra muscle for grammar beyond a mere spell check, these generalized platforms are not sophisticated enough to learn legal lexicon, adapt to user instructions, or cross-compare documents to an AI Digital Playbook.

LexCheck is the only AI-powered contract review and negotiation platform of its kind, automatically scanning documents for deviations, errors, and omissions based on a company’s playbook best practices and standards. Attorneys can add specific “if/then” rules to apply automated updates in future reviews. And with built-in natural language processing (NLP) technology, LexCheck’s hyper-intelligent AI fully redlines contract drafts and can even provide contextual notes for suggested changes or explanations to counterparties for particular revisions.

Although human oversight will always be needed in pre-execution contract review, an AI-powered legal contract review solution serves as an effective method for training employees on how to proofread legal documents while efficiently prioritizing escalations and ensuring adherence to company standards.

LexCheck leverages AI to enable a faster and more effective way for legal departments to review documents. To learn more, contact us at sales@lexcheck.com, or request a demo to experience the technology first-hand.

gary-sanghaGary Sangha | Founder & CEO

Gary Sangha is the Founder and CEO LexCheck. He's a serial entrepreneur and an academic. Gary previously founded Intelligize, a legal technology company that was acquired by LexisNexis. He's affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University and started his career as an attorney at Shearman & Sterling and White & Case.