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Legal Tech Session: Focus on Excel

Part 1 in a Tech Series for law students of UGA's School of Law

Rachel Evans

on 13 January 2015

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Transcript of Legal Tech Session: Focus on Excel

So, what is the Audit?
"…hypothesis is that lawyers in general are woefully deficient
in using the software tools at their disposal –
e.g., Word, Acrobat, Excel."

The audit tests this by providing mock assignments.

Sample tasks include:
formatting a motion in
preparing motion exhibits in
creating an arbitration exhibit index in

The specific tasks are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should).
The Stats
So What Do I Need to Know?

such as
Average, Roundup

Use auto features like

Cell and Sheet Reference

Formatting for Text, Dates,
and more...
Lack of Training
"It’s not incompetence, it’s lack of training."

There is a new
American Bar Association rule
for this: amendments were added in August to the ABA’s rules that govern professional competence which now expressly state a duty to be aware of and use technology.
The Reality of it:
Many, if not most, lawyers are shockingly bad at very basic skills, like making changes in Word documents, de-duplicating Excel spreadsheets, and redacting PDF files.

These are skills that should be expected of every attorney. Being able to do things like editing your own documents in order to make them presentable and preparing documents for e-filing are legal work.
The Legal Tech Audit
Focus on Excel
Audit was taken
10 times by 9 firms

(1 firm took it twice)
ALL the firms failed
The audit takes 1 hour (or less) to pass
Best= 2.5 hours
Worst = 8 hours
Average pace = 5 hours
Bay, Monica. "Big Law Whipped for Poor Tech Training." The American Lawyer Online. ALM Media Properties, 22 May 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.
First, let's take a look at the full list:
Microsoft Excel

How are Legal Professionals using Excel?
Excel is a multi-dimensional tool that is useful
in a variety of industries - including law.
& Certificate
Exercise #1 - Basics

Using your own personal budget as a starting point for data, we will familiarize ourselves with basic Excel terminology and formatting. You can create your own from scratch, or use a template for this.

Create headings (for ex.: Income and Expenses), types (for ex.: Rent) and areas for TOTAL.

Enter sample estimated / "projected" amounts for each section's cells.

Create a formula for SUM for your TOTAL cells. (Two ways to do this - manual formula and auto-sum.) Familiarize yourself with the formula tab and formula bar. Know where and how to search for functions.

Create a section and formula for subtracting expenses from your income to give you the expected balance. Add more cells for previous balance and savings if you like, and add formulas accordingly.

Create columns for months of the year (Jan through Dec) and set up calculations for them.

You may also be interested in displaying charts or graphs of your projections, and making areas for inputting totals by hand throughout the month (if you plan to print this sheet).
Sample Budget
Save this file so you can practice later. Play around with formatting text and using new formulas.
Exercise #2 - Legal Context

Using the supplied billing template as a starting point, let's expand on the basics. This will demonstrate how the skills you just learned and practiced could translate into the legal field for an individual.

The first template we will look at is for Billable Time. This is probably the most common way that legal professional can use Excel. To being, adjust column widths and heights and format text.

Enter some made up dates, clients, tasks and start/finish times.

Now let's format the dates into a style we like best. For this I will use M/D/YEAR (ex. 3/2/2005)

Next, let's calculate the hours of each row's start and end time by using ROUNDUP.

Lastly let's get Excel to calculate the total hours using Auto-Sum.

Want to print this? Set the print area, change to landscape, adjust and view as "print layout". Maybe even give it a title!
Track Billable Time
Exercise #3 - Legal Context
Using the supplied analysis template as a starting point, let's introduce multiple sheets and visualize the usefulness of Excel for a firm calculating their yearly activities and financial outcome.

Open the analysis template and let's look at a sample firm yearly spreadsheet set. This is similar to the individual sheet, but more complicated. Each sheet pulls from the previous one.

As we enter sample data, we can copy and paste to match the style of this already nicely formatted template.

Let's use another new calculation to come up with the duration of projects with DAYS360.

Now let's use auto-fill to duplicate the bottom TOTAL row and create a new row for AVERAGE. Now we can add sum and average for our final columns.

Flipping through the rest of the sheets now we can see they are populated since they use sheet and cell reference in their calculations. Clicking around in templates like this can help you to better visualize how Excel works and the types of calculations you can achieve.
Firm Analysis
On your handout, there is a link to the Excel portion of our tech audit readiness assessment template and instructions.

Attend all three sessions, complete each assessment, and upload them to

Deadline is March 27th
Next session is January 27th (PDFs)
Full transcript