Silly but true: we are dorks for great formatting.

Be still, my heart. I was so excited this afternoon when, in catching up on some recent rulings in employment/executive compensation, I came across a decision in the Netflix-Viacom unfair competition dispute currently pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court. In his December 10th “tentative ruling,” Judge Jon R. Takasugi set out his interim thoughts on the motion, setting up the explanation with the following paragraph:

Excerpt from Judge Takasugi’s thoughtfully formatted judicial opinion.

What’s so special about this paragraph, you might ask?

Well. Let. me. explain!

Enumerated lists are a thing of frequent conversation amongst transactional attorneys: To tabulate or not tabulate – a table (i.e. bullet points) will make the contract longer, which clients hate. But it’s actually much easier to read a list of similarly formatted / aligned bullets and incorporate the import of that category items that have been designated to have particular legal characteristics. So what I loved so much about this decision wasn’t the substance (I have no dog in that media giant fight) but the formatting of this part of the opinion: He made the subsection numbers bold!

I’ve been known to split the baby by keeping a paragraph format but bolding the numeric sections. Brilliant, I thought! Best of both worlds! Here’s an example from a recent independent contractor agreement:

And today, reading Judge Takasugi’s explanation of the questions presented to the court in the Netflix/Viacom case, I was finally vindicated in my preference! Someone else thinks this makes sense!

Anyway, I’m just glad I’m not the only one, and that even litigation-lawyer types such as judges see the benefit of this non-traditional formatting convention.

Sometimes, you know, it really is the little things…

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