It is easy to add hyperlinks to legal documents, but it seems to intimidate lawyers, because they rarely do it. I get a lot of Word documents as draft posts for Lawyerist, and very few of them contain hyperlinks. And I’ve seen a lot of pleadings and memoranda in state and federal court litigation, but none of them (other than my own) have had hyperlinks.
Adding hyperlinks to Word documents is easy, it is useful, and it is something you really need to know how to do.
Inserting Hyperlinks in Word Documents
For starters, you will need the URL of the hyperlink you want to insert into your document. Navigate to the web page or document in your web browser, and then copy the URL from the address bar. (Just highlight the URL and select Edit > Copy from the browser or right-click menu, or use Ctrl +C in Windows or Cmd + C on a Mac.)
Now, in Word, select the text you want to link to something. In a statement of facts, for example, you might select your citation to the record, like so:
Now, go to Insert > Hyperlink, right-click and select Hyperlink, or just press Ctrl/Cmd + K. The resulting dialog looks slightly different in Word for Windows and Mac.
Windows (Word 2010)
The Insert Hyperlink dialog from Word 2010 (Windows) is a stupid, confusing dialog.
The Insert Hyperlink dialog on Windows versions of Word is confusing, but all you need to do is paste your URL (Edit > Paste or Ctrl + V) into the Address field.1
Then, click OK, and that’s it, you’re done!
Mac (Word 2011)
Just paste your URL (Edit > Paste or Cmd + V) into the Address field, and click OK. Done!
Converting Word Documents with Hyperlinks to PDF
There is a right way and a wrong way to convert Word documents to PDF. The right way results in smaller files and preserves hyperlinks. The wrong way makes your documents look silly, with unclickable, blue, underlined words.
For the right way, go to File > Save As in Word, select PDF from the Save as type (on Mac, Format) menu, and save your PDF document. If you use Windows and have Acrobat installed, you will also have a File > Save as Adobe PDF option, which you can use instead. This gets you a text-based PDF, instead of a scanned image, which means it preserves most of the information your Word document had, including links. If you print the document and scan it, you just get an image. OCR can restore the text information (albeit with some errors, usually), but it will not automatically add things like links.
If you need to add your real signature (as opposed to an e-signature) to your document, then just scan the signature page, not the whole document. You can replace the blank signature page in your PDF with your scanned signature page. Do do this in Acrobat, just go to Tools > Pages > Replace.
For a lot more information about using Acrobat for legal documents, and in law practice generally, check out PDF for Lawyers.
Why You Should Use Hyperlinks in Legal Documents
When it comes to litigation, at least, because judges want you to. Linking citations to the record on PACER or your state’s e-filing system, if it has one, is a big time-saver for judges. When it comes to legal documents you draft for other purposes, it may be useful to add hyperlinks, but consider how the document will be used.
If people are likely to read the document on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and if hyperlinks would be useful, then you should definitely use hyperlinks. But you cannot click paper, so if there is no chance people will read your document in an electronic format, then it probably does not matter if you add hyperlinks, unless they are for your own use.
FYI, there is no point in linking to documents on your computer or a file server unless the recipient of your document will be reading it on your computer or, in the case of a document on your file server, on a computer on your network. This can be useful for internal documents, but it is useless for anything else. ↩