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Small firm lawyers are intensely aware of the need to improve efficiency and effectiveness, especially when litigating against larger firms. While small firms may employ a variety of technology tools — including word processing, legal research, litigation support, case management systems, and Web resources — users typically only scratch the surface of those resources. With a little time and attention (read: training), that software can offer huge productivity payoffs. For example, how many Microsoft Office users understand how to automate repetitive tasks with macros and effectively use templates? The same is true for another “off the shelf” application: Adobe Acrobat. Almost everyone uses the ubiquitous, free Acrobat Reader; Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) files are a common information currency. PDF’s primary advantage is that it provides a “locked down, final form” version of a document that is not editable, but easily viewable. You view Acrobat PDF files via a Web browser and download and exchange PDF files with your associates and clients. But professionals who do not purchase the full version of Adobe Acrobat are missing out on the software’s true power. Acrobat can be used to craft a searchable litigation repository for document-intensive litigation. For starters, you can use Acrobat’s “catalog” function to create a searchable catalog of PDF files and generate indexes for directories. You can organize PDF files by case matter and relevant subdirectories. Once the index is created, you can search for text across the entire repository and use the enhanced search options to do even more. SOURCING DOCUMENTS Litigation documents come from many sources: transcripts, depositions, court filings, public law, private law, publications, research, etc. These documents fall into two broad categories: electronic and paper. Electronic files include word processing files, e-mails, presentations, spreadsheets, text, etc. You may already have these files organized in a directory structure or in a case management document repository. These files are readily converted to PDFs using the “Convert to PDF” toolbar option, which Acrobat installs to Microsoft application tool bars. For other applications you use the installed PDF printer driver, which lets you redirect any print job to a PDF file. Document scanning and OCR helps you convert paper documents into electronic form. Scanning the paper document into an image gets you halfway there. Recognizing each word in the document image as a searchable entity is the final path to the finish line. In the legal arena, just recognizing OCR text is not enough. We need both the “exact legal copy” image of the document and the searchable text. A “PDF searchable image” combines the exact image of the page and searchable text hidden behind. There are a number of systems for converting paper to PDF Searchable Images. You can download Adobe’s free Capture “plug-in” (limits you to 50 pages). Or you can purchase OCR software such as Scansoft’s OmniPage and Adobe’s Capture — both the limited functionality, free Plug-In and fully functional version — to add additional functional and productivity features. To find out how much searchable text was OCR-recognized and is hidden behind the PDF, simply use Acrobat’s Edit Menu, Copy to Clipboard function and paste the hidden text into your word processor. INDEXING DOCUMENTS For each PDF, you can edit the documents properties. Standard editable fields include: Title, Subject, Author and Keywords. You can use these fields to index each repository document. These fields are available for repositorywide searches on an individual basis and in combination with other fields and text. Once your repository is assembled and indexed you now have a valuable litigation tool for discovering evidence and assembling case facts. Acrobat catalog search functions are very powerful and can help you search electronic document text, OCR’d text from scanned documents, and document properties. Be sure to turn on Acrobat’s search preferences to include Document Information, Word Options and Date Filtering (Edit/Preferences/General/Search). You can use “Boolean Operators” for “and,” “or,” and “not” search combinations. For example, you can search for all documents containing the words Don Smith, but not Sarah Smith. Or, if you use the Subject field to specify the documents repository directory, you can also include or exclude documents from certain litigation subject directories. This is just the tip of the iceberg on powerful litigation repository searching! Search speed is near instantaneous, and a “relevancy ranking” icon displays for each search result to help you judge the importance of each result. Finally, Acrobat displays the document at the first point where the discovered text occurs, and then highlights other occurrences. This is incredibly important in quickly locating key evidentiary facts. DOCUMENT MARK UP Lawyers can mark up documents using sticky notes, free-form text and graphic pencil. Documents can be shared with clients and associates for review and comments. The integrity of the underlying document is preserved, and comments are just a layer on top of the original document. You can turn comments on or off, and filter by author, type and time. WEB CAPTURE Turning a Web page into an electronic, searchable and printable document is often a challenge. Web-Capture converts a specific Web page or entire Web site into a PDF. For example, let’s say you are collecting evidence using online press releases. Web-Capture lets you append each release into a single PDF and store it in your repository directory for press release evidence. You can assemble a PDF document by dragging and dropping pages from source PDF documents. For example, an exhibit list is assembled from a PDF containing exhibit title pages created in Microsoft Word and then converted to a PDF. You drag and drop the title pages and the exhibits from other source PDFs. The resultant “locked down,” PDF exhibit package contains exhibits from electronic form and scanned/OCR’d documents. Another useful tool is a document dictionary, which provides a report based listing of all documents sorted by document referenced ID number, title, date, etc. With the help of a third-party PDF tool, PDF Summary Maker by Traction Software, all document properties from the repository can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. You can create a document dictionary sortable by document title, subject, date and document ID number. SECURITY When document security is an issue, PDF files can be encrypted and securely shared with a list of recipients you define. You can digitally “sign” a document to show that you have read and approved it. PORTABILITY Why keep the repository locked up in the office? Take it to clients, depositions, trials and court appearances to help alleviate the paper shuffle. With low-cost “burners,” case repositories easily fit on CDs or DVDs for transfer to laptops. The repository is searched directly from the CD/DVD or transferred to a laptop’s hard drive for increased performance. This is just the beginning. Adobe has recently announced its latest update. No doubt document management will get even faster, easier and better! Richard Simon is president of Acclivity Development Corp., which provides technology consulting services to legal firms. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.acclivitydev.com.

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