How to Set Up a Legal Document Format

By Mason Howard

Although legal document parameters are more flexible these days, many legal documents still need to be made using traditional standards. Many legal documents, for example, have to be on legal-sized paper, which is 8 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long. There are also standards in margin sizes for legal documents. Today, legal documents are most often formatted with Microsoft Word. Follow these basic steps for setting up a legal document format in Word.

Word XP and Earlier

Step 1

Open a new blank document in Word.

Step 2

Change the standard letter size of 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches to legal-sized paper. Pull down the “File” menu. Select “Page Setup.” Pull down the “Paper Size” menu and switch it from “US Letter” to “US Legal.”

Step 3

Change to the appropriate margin sizes if and when necessary. The top margin for the first page should be 2 inches. The top margin for all following pages should be 1 1/2 inches. The bottom margin for all pages should be at least 1 inch. The left margin for all pages should be 1 1/2 inches. The right margin for all pages should be 3/4 to 1 inch. Justification is optional. If you justify the right margin of your document, the margin should be 1 inch. Change margins by pulling down the “Format” menu and selecting “Document.” Click on the “Margins” tab. Type the appropriate margin size into the corresponding fields in the “Document” window.

Step 4

Select a standard serif font type such as Times New Roman, Courier or New York. Serif fonts are those that have little strokes, dashes or hooks at the ends of major letter lines. Use a 12-point font size. Bold, italics, underlining or larger font can be used for text that needs to be highlighted or emphasized.

Step 5

Set and adjust the spacing as necessary. Most legal documents use double spacing for the major body of text; however, single spacing should be used for indented text, and triple spacing should be used after headings and between party identifications. Change spacing by pulling down the “Format” menu and selecting “Paragraph.” Pull down the “Line Spacing” menu and choose the appropriate setting.

Word 2007

Step 1

Open a new blank document in Word.

Step 2

Change the standard letter size of 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches to legal-sized paper. Chane the paper size by clicking on the "Page Layout" tab. Under "Size," select "Legal."

Step 3

Change to the appropriate margin sizes if and when necessary. The top margin for the first page should be 2 inches. The top margin for all following pages should be 1 1/2 inches. The bottom margin for all pages should be at least 1 inch. The left margin for all pages should be 1 1/2 inches. The right margin for all pages should be 3/4 to 1 inch. Justification is optional. If you justify the right margin of your document, the margin should be 1 inch. Change the margins by clicking on the "Page Layout" tab. In "Page Setup," click Margins. Click "Custom Margins" and enter the correct amounts.

Step 4

Select a standard serif font type such as Times New Roman, Courier or New York. Serif fonts are those that have little strokes, dashes or hooks at the ends of major letter lines. Use a 12-point font size. Bold, italics, underlining or larger font can be used for text that needs to be highlighted or emphasized.

Step 5

Set and adjust the spacing as necessary. Most legal documents use double spacing for the major body of text; however, single spacing should be used for indented text, and triple spacing should be used after headings and between party identifications. The change spacing, select the "Home" tab. In "Paragraph," click Line Spacing. Enter the correct number or select "Line Spacing Choices" to choose from available options.

Tips & Warnings

  • Microsoft Word has several templates, including templates for legal documents such as contracts, that can be downloaded and imported into Word.