Lawyers still don’t seem to appreciate the power of PDF. I’ve posted some thoughts on the benefits of moving towards a digital office, using Adobe Acrobat. Even if you aren’t [yet] committed to making the switch to almost-paperless, there are ways that you can (and should) be implementing Acrobat and the PDF format into your everyday legal practice.
I was reminded of this by Raymond P. Ward, at the (new) legal writer in his post, Owning Your Downloaded Legal Authorities. Mr. Ward made my list of the Top 30 Writing Blogs and for good reason–his blog is a valuable resource for legal writers. As highly as I regard Mr. Ward and his normally sage advice, I must disagree with him a little on the argument he made in his post. But just a little.
Ward advises readers to take a few extra steps when conducting online research to save time and effort later. Agreed. Next, he advises that, when downloading a case from LexisNexis, Westlaw, or other online legal database, attorneys should save the case “in a word-processing format (Word or WordPerfect), not PDF.”
He explains that, by downloading the case before printing or saving it, you are able to reformat the document, cleaning it up for easier reading, and annotate the case for later reference. All excellent ideas. But these ideas can be better executed in Acrobat PDF, rather than Microsoft Word or WordPerfect.
Here are some of the reasons Ward urges readers to save research in a word-processing format:
- If you find the case difficult to read, re-format it. Change the type face or enlarge the font size.
- Delete all the headnotes having nothing to do with why you downloaded the case, saving only the pertinent headnotes. This simple tip not only saves you the trouble of wading through dozens of useless headnotes; it also saves paper when you print a hard copy.
- While you’re at it, delete the lawyers’ names. Every little bit of clutter-elimination helps. And nobody will mind except the lawyers’ mothers.
- Use Word or WordPerfect to highlight the parts that are most important.
- Instead of writing in the margins of a hard copy, use Word or WordPerfect to insert comments. That way, your comments will be saved on your electronic copy.
- Edit the document header to add all information needed to cite the case. This will later save you the trouble of printing an entire 24-page case when you only need one page with one juicy quotation.
Each of these objectives can be accomplished in Acrobat with ease and, in many cases, with more functionality. The most obvious way to accomplish any of the cited features is to save the document to Adobe PDF and then, if you later find you want to edit the document in MS Word, simply export the PDF to Word, an easy trick when using Acrobat 9. But let’s go through how you can accomplish Ward’s suggestions without converting PDF to Word.