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3 PDF Tips for Lawyers

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 18, 2015 10:05 AM

If there's a single file type out there that makes life simpler, easier, and more efficient for lawyers, it's the humble PDF. Forget .docs or .ppts. The portable document format (that's the PDF in PDF) blows them all away.

It's simple to use, with the ability to add complexity. It's file agnostic, allowing you to bring multiple file types together in a single document. And it does a good job at securing files and metadata. Here's how to put the PDF's handy features to work for you.

Use PDFs to Assemble Documents

PDFs are great for archiving single documents, but they're even better for bringing many disparate files together in one place. Instead of, say, a zipped folder full of documents which each have to be opened in Word, PowerPoint, or Excel, PDFs allow you to combine all those document types into a single file.

Using PDFs to assemble your document files can greatly improve productivity. Dean Sappey, president and co-founder of DocsCorp, recommends that lawyers use PDFs for such tasks as assembling closing books during case settlements. "By bundling various file formats and bookmarks within the documents into a single PDF," he writes, "the Closing Book can be created much more efficiently than manual methods." Your resources, and billable hours, can then be put to more effective uses.

Securing Documentation

Attorneys should also consider PDFs as a way to secure their documents. The PDF/A format (those are PDFs for specially formatted for archiving) helps preserve files for long term storage. It removes problems, such as font linking, that could arise years down the line.

But more importantly, PDFs also allow you to include password and rights protection within the file. That means that files can't be viewed, changed, edited or even copied without special permission.

Removing Metadata

And then there's metadata, the semi-secret document information that attaches to files. Metadata, for example, can reveal what changes have been made to your documents and by whom. That's not exactly something that you want opposing counsel to have access to and PDFs are a great way to get rid of it in your filings and communications. When you convert a file to a PDF, much of that metadata can be removed in a few simple steps.

Of course, these are only a few of the many things the simple PDF can do. If you want even more tips, check out this great YouTube tutorial by Louisiana lawyer Ernie Svenson.

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