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Microsoft Word vs Google Docs: Is it likely that MS Word will meet the same fate as WordPerfect among lawyers?

Microsoft Word vs Google Docs

Do you remember a time when attorneys swore by WordPerfect? Well, what we’ve learned is that moving to better collaboration tools is just a matter of time. When WordPerfect gave away its position, for years Microsoft Word was a de facto standard in the legal community. Now, it’s impossible to imagine a typical working day of a lawyer without this word processor. 

And there is a reason behind it. MS Word really does have robust word processing features for lawyers. However, just like the discussion on WordPerfect vs MS Word among lawyers that lasted for years, we have another competitive figure on the battlefield – Google Docs. 

Millennials and beyond have grown up on easy-to-use tools like Google Docs. It’s free. It’s easy-to-manage.  But Microsoft Word is still the most widely used tool among lawyers. So is it likely that MS Word will still be the one de facto standard tool for lawyers? Or will Google Docs be likely to come into play as lawyers change their processes? Or will there be room for both? 

Here’s why Google Docs is so popular among young lawyers

So what made Google Docs popular among young lawyers?

First, it’s all about the minimalistic design and ease of use. The survey by LexisNexis shows that ease of use is the most important reason driving law students’ legal technology preferences. 

The next reason to use Google Docs is its online real-time collaboration. Take it from Jacob J. Sapochnick, an immigration attorney:

Most young lawyers prefer using Google Docs because of its collaboration qualities and its free access. File sharing, as an editor, makes everything easier.

Jacob J. Sapochnick
Jacob J. Sapochnick
Immigration Attorney & Social Media Influencer 
Founder of Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick

Both word processors can be used for collaborative work. But the best perk about Google Docs is real-time collaboration. When your clients or colleagues click the link to a contract, you’ll be able to view their name and their unique identifying color in-doc. That’s why students across the country use Google Docs to work on documents in a group collaboratively. 

Lastly, it’s all about free access. Millennials like free experiences without fees. Unlike MS Word, Google Docs does not need a subscription. It is a free word processor, and you can access it with all the features from any device.  Jennifer L. Bennett, Managing Attorney & Founder, mentioned that:

With your Gmail account, you automatically have access to many of the other Google amenities like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Cloud storage space, and so on. This provides a multifunctional collaborative opportunity with grace yet unmet by any other software service provider.

Jennifer L. Bennett 
Managing Attorney & Founder of Law Office of Jennifer L. Bennett

But why is Microsoft Word still the best tool for lawyers? 

Although a new generation of lawyers is more into Google Docs, MS Word is still the trusted and mostly-used tool among attorneys when it comes to working on complex documents. 

And here are some most prominent reasons why lawyers still prefer MS Word: 

  • Tracking changes. Track changes are what lawyers really care about. Although Google Docs also offers this functionality, nothing beats MS Office when it comes to sharing comments and tracking changes over a contract. 
  • Feature-set depth. MS Word offers flexibility to navigate complex contracts with multiple numbering schemes, formatting, etc. Working as an immigration attorney,  Jacob J. Sapochnick cannot imagine the work without MS Word: “I prefer MS Word to Google Forms as an immigration attorney. MS Word has significantly more organized tracked changes, extensive commenting tools, and clearer options for viewing the updates we want to concentrate on.”
  • Alliance with legal tech products. Many legal folks still prefer to use MS Word because of its developed system of integration with legal tools and add-ins, such as Loio that optimizes the work with legal documents thanks to AI-powered contract analysis.   

All these features make MS Word stand out among competitors. Besides, it’s all a matter of habit. Jennifer L. Bennett shared her personal opinion with Loio: “I have always used MS Word since law school. It is second nature to me and many peers in law. Nonetheless, I will be willing to take the time to learn Google Docs if I am given the right reason. Until then, I will stick with Microsoft Word.“

So is MS Word the ultimate winner among lawyers? 

Just to sum up – the primary tension between Google Docs and MS Word is the feature-rich nature of Word and the ease of use of Google Docs. For sure, the ease of use and free access are appealing. But when it comes to legal practice that is based on daily document creation, styling and formatting are critical. Besides, as long as legal tech tools remain Word-centric, law firms are not likely to move to a new word processor. Most equivalent tool sets just don’t exist in Google Docs.  

For now, Google Docs is just an efficient solution for simple structured and low volume documents.  MS Word is likely to stay the main word processor UNLESS Google Docs replicates everything Word does. So Word-lovers can relax. At least for the near future. 

However, Google already introduced add-ons for Docs, and now third-party developers create tools that contribute to Docs’ functionality, the scenario of WordPerfect is likely to repeat. Andrew Taylor, a founder of Net Lawman, believes that.

With increasingly effective security measures, there is a general shift towards Google Docs for it’s ease of accessibility on the cloud and through different devices and I suppose this is why younger professionals prefer it.

Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor
Director and Founder of Net Lawman

That’s why the future of MS Word seems to be uncertain in the long run. Let’s face it. 

Whatever happens, it’s not likely that MS Word will completely disappear from the legal practice. There are still law firms that still use typewriters and fax machines… and, for sure, WordPerfect. That’s why MS Word is not going away anywhere in the visible future. 

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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