Not Just for Code Reviews: Using File Comparison in Legal Workflows

  • Natalye 
  • 6 min read

In the world of software development, file comparison is ubiquitous, as developers need to do line comparisons of code and text every day. But document comparison isn’t limited to the tech world; plenty of other jobs have workflows that require comparing changes across files of all kinds. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a job where file comparison software has no use, especially when you consider how versatile it is.

Before home computers and software programs streamlined this process, comparison consisted of printing out two versions of a document and reviewing them line by line to determine where things were added, changed, or deleted. But the main problem with manual comparison is that it’s both time consuming and prone to human error. 

Enter Kaleidoscope. 

What Is Kaleidoscope?

Kaleidoscope is a file comparison app that allows you to compare text files, images, and folders on your Mac. When working with text, it captures changes on the paragraph, line, and character level — additions, deletions, and everything in between.

With Kaleidoscope, there’s support not only for text files, but also for Word and PDF documents, so there’s no reformatting necessary. Simply drag and drop your documents and the app shows you the plain text, making it easy to focus on the content.

Now that you understand what it is, we’ll talk a bit about how to incorporate Kaleidoscope into workflows for drafting, revising, and comparing legal documents.

Asset Purchase Agreement

For freelancers and other business professionals, dealing with contracts is a regular occurrence. Consider a contract for purchasing an asset, in which details like the buyer and seller information, costs of acquisition, and what the purchase entails are included. These terms can be altered in the back and forth between two parties, which is where comparing a document is helpful in seeing amendments to a file. We put this to the test ourselves when we used Kaleidoscope to compare the changes in the contract when we were buying it.

Comparing two different versions of a Word document to easily spot the exact changes made.

In our case, the contract went back and forth between ourselves and the previous owner of Kaleidoscope multiple times, and each time, things were added or removed. To see what changed — and to avoid agreeing to an undetected change — we were able to use the app to compare files and get a quick overview of differences between two versions of a document.

Contract Renewals

A similar yet different use case is that of an independent contractor working with a company on an ongoing basis. For reasons that protect both parties, it’s not uncommon for the contract duration to be set to three or six months, with a new contract sent out to renew the preexisting terms. If details about the cooperation haven’t changed, it’s easy to assume nothing has changed between contract versions, but that’s not always the case.

Let’s look at an example, a services agreement between an individual contractor and a company:

Two service agreement documents side by side. It’s tedious to spot the differences.

Inspecting the two documents in Kaleidoscope, you can immediately spot that a clause was added in line 32, specifying that the Data Processing Addendum from the previous contract — though absent in the new contract — still applies.

Comparing two PDF documents, which were originally in a tabular format (see above). Kaleidoscope helps you focus on the text content.

The above change wasn’t significant, and it didn’t alter the contract terms, but it’s still useful and reassuring to see firsthand what’s different. Even if you trust the other party, it’s worth checking the changes to make sure important parts weren’t changed. 

Everyday Use

And of course, just as there are people who occasionally need to compare legal documents, there are others who need to do it almost daily.

Alex Fajkowski, who develops and designs apps with his company, Apparent Logic, LLC, uses Kaleidoscope on a regular basis. “As a software consultant, everything I do requires a legal contract,” he says. “I rely on Kaleidoscope to show me the changes in every contract before I sign. Kaleidoscope has saved me time and money by quickly identifying unexpected differences, and by helping me sign new clients with confidence.” 

“I rely on Kaleidoscope to show me the changes in every contract before I sign. Kaleidoscope has saved me time and money by quickly identifying unexpected differences, and by helping me sign new clients with confidence.” 

Alex Fajkowski, Apparent Logic, LLC,

Meanwhile, people who are studying or practicing law can also benefit from using an app like Kaleidoscope, which makes the redlining process easy and intuitive. Adam Eckart, a professor of legal writing at Suffolk University Law School, has recommended it to his students and colleagues. He says apps like Kaleidoscope are “helpful lawyering tools, assisting with both document creation and revision,” and that law students and lawyers alike “should be aware of and able to use such tools to assist them in their writing.”

Conclusion

As you can see, Kaleidoscope is an essential tool for anyone who works with legal documents. Whether negotiating and renewing contracts, or collaborating on and revising text documents, having a powerful file comparison app is crucial for streamlining your processes. 

You can try Kaleidoscope free for 14 days or purchase it for $19.99 (iPad) or $69.99 (Mac). Head to the App Store to experience firsthand how it can improve your business workflows.

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