If you’re a busy solo or small firm lawyer then you need a PDF guidebook for lawyers, not some PDF book written for the general public.
Oh, and you also need Adobe Acrobat.
If you just want to read PDFs, and maybe do a few simple markups (e.g. underlining, or highlighting), then the free Adobe Reader software is fine. But you’re a busy lawyer, and you want to leverage technology to make your life more organized and less stress-filled.
So you need a program that lets you do more with PDFs than just read, navigate, and make simple markups. That means you need a version of Adobe’s flagship program: Acrobat Standard, or Acrobat Professional.
Yes, Adobe’s Acrobat software is expensive. Standard costs ~ $300 and Professional costs ~ $420.
Geez, you’re thinking, isn’t there some other software out there that’s cheaper?
I keep my eyes constantly peeled for lower-cost PDF software. I recently wrote this review of Nuance Power PDF software that’s pretty close to Acrobat Professional for $300 less. In the end, I found the Nuance software lacking in key features that lawyers would want, and which Acrobat has.
Attorney Sam Glover also examined 3 less-expensive alternatives to Acrobat, some of which he found enticing. In the end, however, Sam concluded: “if managing PDF files is essential to your practice, [Acrobat’s cost] should not be a make-or-break expense. Just get Acrobat and be done with it.”
If managing PDFs isn’t essential to your practice, then it’s probably because you don’t know what Acrobat software can do. Here’s a short list of some of the things you can do with Acrobat:
- Insert pages into a PDF: useful if you discover a missing page in a document that’s part of your case
- Extract pages from a PDF: useful if you need to pull out a few pages to send to an associate to review, or to a witness.
- Rotate pages: helpful when people send you a PDF with a few pages that are mis-rotated
- Form filling: you can take a paper form, scan it in, and have Acrobat locate the form fields which you then quickly type into. Save the form for future use.
- Bookmark pages: take the memo or brief your opponent sent you, and highlight the headings and subheadings and quickly create a table of content, with nested bookmarks that also act as hyperlinks so you can quickly navigate to any section in the brief or memo.
- Edit Text: yes, you can edit small chunks of text in a searchable PDF, which helps if you’re about to e-file a PDF and realize you need to update the date in the Certificate of Service.
- Make PDF Searchable: if the PDF you received was scanned in, as opposed to output to PDF from, say, Microsoft Word, then it’s not a Searchable PDF. You can quickly have Acrobat locate all the text components in the PDF and make the document searchable, which also makes it possible to highlight the text if you need to mark up key passages.
- Search for Text: you can use the free Adobe Reader to search for text or key phrases in a PDF, but you need Acrobat to make a scanned PDF searchable as just noted. With Acrobat you can also create a saved search index of a group of PDFs you tend to frequently search to make the search process faster.
- Bates-stamping: take a PDF, or a batch of them, and have Acrobat apply bates-stamping and/or bates-numbering. The process takes a minute for 1,000 pages, and Acrobat doesn’t miss any pages by accident like paralegals do when applying sticky notes, or (God forbid!) using an actual bates-stamp.
- Redaction: You can permanently remove passages in a PDF that are confidential, or otherwise not subject to being produced in discovery. The process is fast, easy, and reliable.
Those are just some of the many incredibly useful and amazing things that lawyers, and their staff, can do with Acrobat.
If you want a comprehensive guide to using Adobe Acrobat in your law practice, get my short PDF guidebook for lawyers (titled Acrobat in One Hour for Lawyers), which was published by the American Bar Association. It covers Acrobat Standard and Professional (both the Mac and PC version).
It’s written specifically for lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, and law students. It has over 120 screenshots demonstrating how to do the crucial recommended tasks, such as bookmarking, bates-stamping, redacting, and creating and using digital signatures.
If you want to check out a 40 page excerpt to get a sense of the information that’s provided, and how well it’s presented, click below.