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Your Microsoft Word Documents Can Rat on You

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5 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Funny story. (From a reliable but source, i.e., not an associate who didn’t make partner. Of course it, like all stories could be an urban legend.) L.A. BigFirm had been using boilerplate operating agreements (or articles of incorp. – whatever) for years. They’d bill clients dozens of other hours for entity formation documents and opinion letters. A couple of years ago, they sent Tech Company the documents in Word.

    Now, we all know that you if you go off a good template, you can write a small company’s OA in an hour or two, and if you’ve helped out with a few start-ups, you can crank out everything you need in under 12 hours. Of course, Tech Company was billed for several dozens of hours of work. So Tech Company pulled out the meta data and figured out that it only took 45 minutes to create some of the same documents there were billed many hours for. They threatened to sue, and BigFirm (rather than be exposed as crooks) gave them a nice amount of start-up capital.

    BigFirm reformed its practices. No, it didn’t tell its associates that overbilling was theft. Rather, it now ensures its employees strip all metadata from outgoing documents.

  2. Dave! says:

    1. A good reason to use OpenOffice.

    2. There are a number of ways to minimize metadata in Office documents:

    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA010776461033.aspx

    3. Microsoft even has info specifically for lawyers:

    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011400341033.aspx

    Frankly, if you are a lawyer or a law firm who hasn’t implemented something to mitigate potential metadata disasters, you need to seriously rethink your skillz.

  3. Simon says:

    Isn’t this a salutory warning against using .doc – which is a drafting format – as a document exchange format? If you’re going to circulate documents, print then to PDF.

  4. John Feeney says:

    Thank you Simon !! HELLO!!!! This story has posted on numerous blogs. Simon your the first one I have come across that even mentioned PDF.

    This story should be used as the marketing tool for any manufacture of PDF. Imagine how many proposals I get as a disc duplicator, we’re in the business…WE LOOK AT METADATA…

  5. Metadata Redux

    An update on my earlier post, Your Microsoft Word Documents Can Rat on You. Bruce Schneier has an interesting discussion of the issue along with links to how to cleanse documents of metadata….

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