If you’re often working sans assistant (whether you’re a solo attorney or not), you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels trying to be both attorney and staff. Save time and get out of busywork mode faster with these five essential Microsoft Office tricks:

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Format with One Click Using Styles

Knowing how to manipulate Microsoft Word Styles (essentially, collections of text formatting instructions for normal text, headings, etc.) can save you a ton of time in formatting your text, particularly in longer documents that need consistent formatting of headers, etc., for structure. Bonus: using Styles also allows you to move entire sections of your document from one spot to another with the Navigation pane, accessible by checking the box “Navigation Pane” on the View tab.

Hands Off the Mouse! Learn Shortcut Keys for Speed Typing

Microsoft Word has hundreds of key combinations that allow you to skip the menus and perform functions directly. Fortunately, you only need to memorize (or keep a list of) a few to help keep your hands on the keyboard and off the mouse (good for speed) and speed up formatting and editing:

CTRL-B, CTRL-I, CTRL-U – Bold/Italics/Underline
CTRL-Space – Clear character formatting (italics, fonts, etc.)
SHIFT-F3 – Change case (UPPERCASE, lowercase, Title Case, etc.)
CTRL-SHIFT-N – apply Normal style
CTRL-L, CTRL-J, CTRL-C, CTRL-R — Justify paragraph left/full/center/right
CTRL-Q – Clear paragraph formatting (indents, justification, etc.)
CTRL-C – Copy
CTRL-X – Cut
CTRL-V – Paste
CTRL-A – Select all text
CTRL-S – Save document
CTRL-K – Create hyperlink

To find out what keyboard shortcuts are available on your own installation of Microsoft Word, run the ListCommands macro and keep the list handy for easy reference.

Another quick tip: want to find out what the keyboard shortcut for your favorite feature is? If it has one, it’ll probably be displayed when you hover your mouse over it, assuming you have “show ToolTips on hover” turned on. Make a note for future reference!

Employ Templates to Create Common Documents Faster

The few minutes you’ll spend “genericizing” a document for future use now and saving it as a template file (with the extension .dotx) will pay off in time you’ll save in drafting future versions. The next time you need a substantially similar document, you just create a new document with the template you’ve saved and modify from there. Faster than cutting, pasting and cleaning up text from old client files, yes?

Access Boilerplate Text Instantly With Quick Parts and AutoText

If you’ve got text snippets you use a lot (discovery objections, form email replies, standard headers/footers, etc.), you’d be crazy not to store them in Quick Parts or AutoText. Available in both Word and Outlook, these snippets can make short work of otherwise repetitive typing and/or pasting.

Get Single-Click Access to Commands via the Quick Access Toolbar

Sure, it might not take you that much longer to click a couple of menus on the Office Ribbon to get to your favorite commands. But those extra clicks add up, robbing you of valuable time. Get direct access to your most-used commands and dialog boxes by placing them on the Quick Access Toolbar (located just above or below your Ribbon, depending on your settings). Just click the down-arrow at the end of the QAT and choose More Commands to add your own.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinaphotography/6912731931/)