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Best Authority

by Brett Burney

January/February 2008 Table of Contents


Many tasks in a law office can be frustrating, but creating a Table of Authorities usually ranks toward the top of the list. Levit & James’ Best Authority helps paralegals overcome many of the common struggles encountered with creating a TOA. While automation and software are not complete substitutes for manual proofreading, Best Authority provides an excellent balance between the two.

In 2006, Levit & James released Best Authority and the company released its first upgrade in August 2007.

Although Best Authority is easy to use, the company strongly recommends that new users take a basic training course to become familiar with the application. Levit & James provides free training, two or three separate classes, to law firms that purchase Best Authority Premium (as opposed to the new “Light” version, which offers an e-learning module). The classes for the Premium edition are conducted over the Web, and training documents are included with the installation of the software. Going through the training truly made me appreciate the subtle options available in the software.

Best Authority offers two different interfaces that feature basic and advanced menus. Everyone should start with the basic menu system before moving on to the advanced menu system. The basic menu offers all that most folks will ever need, with simple buttons for editing and formatting citations that are found and highlighted in the document. In the Light version, edits to the TOA are done with Word. In Word  with the Premium edition, users get a menu with many options to edit the TOA using Best Authority. Edits made through Best Authority Premium to correct an improperly formatted citation are saved in the document and are permanent. Edits made to something in the TOA generated by Best Authority also are stored in the document and are permanent.

Since Best Authority only works in Word, anyone who is familiar with Word can use the program. In Word, Best Authority installs itself
as a small icon in the standard Word toolbar. When you open a legal document in Word and are ready to create a TOA, you simply click the Best Authority icon to get started. Clicking the icon invokes the “Best Authority Wizard,” which walks you through the entire process. The Wizard allows you to change options and bring up the help menu.

There are three main steps for creating a TOA in Best Authority. First, you scan the document for citations by clicking the “Scan Now” button. Before scanning the document, Best Authority lets you dictate where in the document to start and end the scan so that it will not include information at the top and bottom of the document, such as front matter, tables of contents and signature blocks. You also will be asked to place your cursor where you want the TOA to be placed. Scanning a document takes about one second per page. A dialog box pops up at the end to inform you of how many citations were found. Next, you review all of the citations tagged in the scan. The last step is building and inserting the completed TOA.

The TOA draft is a basic table that will look nicer and cleaner in the final version, and the “Draft Review” is where you will spend most of your time. In this mode, Word is split into upper and lower screens. The upper screen shows the draft table of the TOA with all the marked citations. Clicking on a citation in the upper screen takes you to the citation’s location in the document in the lower screen. All of the long citations are highlighted in yellow and all of the short citations are highlighted in blue. When Best Authority finds a “suspect” citation (i.e., fragments of a citation, error in formatting), it highlights the citation in red. Since Best Authority is built into Word and uses native Word tools to highlight and link to citations, all of the corrections are made directly in Word. Since most people already know how to edit text in Word, fixing problem citations is easy. Most of the time, suspect citations simply need to be properly underlined, or the citation form just needs to be put in proper format. In addition to the double-pane view in Word, a box titled “Draft Review,” appears to the side with more options for marking and editing citations.

Once all of the corrections are made, you rescan the document so Best Authority can properly recognize the citations you corrected. If you still find problems, just edit the mistakes and rescan again until everything is perfect.

If you are not the primary author of the document and someone else needs to review the draft, Best Authority allows you to print the draft with all citations appropriately highlighted. Once you get the hard copy back with corrections made in pen or pencil, you can jump back into Word, make the corrections and rescan the document until everything is fixed.

I regularly am skeptical of utilities claiming to be the ultimate fix for a specific problem. However, I am very impressed with the finesse of Best Authority, especially since it’s such a new product. The years of experience that Levit & James invested in software development certainly shines through in this application.

Best Authority exemplifies the features that all good, helpful software should possess: It provides qualified assistance for a very common task. No software can create a perfect TOA for you because everyone has different styles, and no computer is as good as the human eye. But, Best Authority does the best job I have seen at recognizing the citations it thinks are important and giving you an excellent interface for reading over them all and making the necessary corrections.


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