Thursday
Mar012012

eBriefs - Novelty or Necessity?

One response I often hear from attorneys regarding why they don’t submit eBriefs is, “My brief doesn’t warrant an eBrief”.  I used to just accept this at face value, but then I began asking myself, “What kind of brief does warrant an eBrief?”  eBriefs have been around for quite some time, and in their infancy, like many new technologies, they were considered a novelty.  However, now that courts are becoming more tech savvy and younger clerks are coming in, not to mention the pure volume of material being submitted to an already overloaded system, the use of technology in briefing is starting to become more of a necessity.

Appellate Briefs

Submitting an eBrief is practically a no-brainer for appellate briefs. The record is usually already in place and the issues raised are really narrowed down.  Most Federal appellate courts are aware of the eBrief technology and accept it with no issues.  If you are uncertain whether your court accepts eBriefs, the information is typically easily found in the rules on each court’s website.

Post-Hearing Briefs

Post-hearing briefs also lend themselves to eBriefs, as they usually contain many cites to the hearing transcript as well as the exhibits used in the hearing. Having all of those cites hyperlinked directly to the page of the transcript along with links to the exhibits makes the triers-of-facts’ lives so much easier. The eBrief eliminates the need to browse through a disc of PDF files searching for an exhibit or page through a transcript that in some cases  may be 1000’s of pages long just to find the citation.

Trial Briefing

Last but not least, eBriefs are great for Motions for Summary Judgment, Class Certification and Claims Construction. The judge can easily navigate the argument and will have all of the motions in one package for easy review.

A common misnomer is that a brief needs to be over a certain number of pages for it to be worthwhile. In my numerous years of experience, the average page length of a hyperlinked averaged brief is between 35-65 pages.  However, I have created eBriefs for motions that were only 5 pages long because the attorney recognized the value that creating links to key evidence could bring to his/her filing.  At the end of the day, creating an eBrief for any key submission, regardless of page length, is worth the time and cost involved.

Sunday
Jan012012

eBriefs - You Don't Know What You're Missing Until You Know What You're Missing

I heard this statement over the holidays – “You don’t know what you’re missing until you know what you’re missing.” It was actually part of a really great sermon, but it also got me thinking about … eBriefs.

I remember when I first got a BlackBerry. It was amazing! I could receive and respond to e-mails all the time and not be tied to my computer. Sure I had a brick strapped to my waist, but I didn’t leave home without it, and I don’t remember what I did before I had it. Fast forward a few years, and I am now an iPhone addict. Not only can I check and send e-mails, but I can surf the web, watch a movie, listen to music, take pictures, shoot movies, and of course play Angry Birds. I didn’t know what I was missing until I knew what I was missing.

After more than 10 years of creating eBriefs and seeing the overwhelmingly positive reactions from lawyers and triers-of-fact, I firmly believe these hyperlinked gems also fall into this category. Shockingly however, there are still many myths surrounding the eBrief:  it is too much work, I can’t consider doing one while I’m writing my brief, it is too expensive, or my client doesn’t see the value are just a few of the more common statements.

Believe me, I have heard all of the reasons not to do one.  In 2012, I encourage you to step a little out of your comfort zone and submit an eBrief. Either hire a vendor to create one (prices vary, but typically range from $2,000-$6,000+ for a 50-page brief) or learn how to make one yourself. In almost every instance, the eBrief is submitted as a supplement to your hard copy or e-filed brief, so you don’t even need to start preparing it until after you have filed.

With every key cite being hyperlinked to the relevant material, it is hard to believe that the end user will not find this technology invaluable. The clerk and/or trier-of-fact can review your brief quickly with the click of a mouse, rather than searching through boxes of paper or a list of PDF files to find the cited document.  You may actually be helping to speed up the deluged court system!

EBrief creation is not a new technology, but it is a technology that is grossly underutilized. If you’re on the fence about giving it a try, talk to someone who has submitted or received one.  I venture they will tell you they didn’t know what they were missing until they knew what they were missing.

Tuesday
Nov292011

Bookmarks are the Bomb!

Probably one of the most helpful, yet underutilized feature of Acrobat is the bookmark tool. I like to think of a PDF is as a binder of paper. That binder is obviously useful since all of the paper is in one location and you can page through it, but what makes that binder even more useful? The tabs. You wouldn’t put a group of exhibits in a binder without tabs to denote the exhibit breaks, would you? So why not treat your PDFs the same way? Adding bookmarks creates your “tabs.”

Creating bookmarks is a skill that should become second nature to anyone using PDFs to review a set of documents. This post will be a quick overview of how to use bookmarks in Adobe Acrobat X on a Windows PC.

For this example, I have a 291-page PDF which is made up of numerous exhibits. First, I am going to check to see if there are any bookmarks in the document by selecting the bookmark button located on the left hand side of the screen.

 

Doing so opens the bookmark panel.  In this case, there are no bookmarks.

 

Now to quickly create a bookmark, the keyboard short cut is Ctrl+B. This will create a bookmark to the current page. You can then type in whatever text you want for the bookmark. In this example we will simply call it EXHIBIT 1.

 

Now paging through the file I come to a slip sheet for EXHIBIT 2, and I will create the bookmark by following the steps above.

 

You can easily test the functionality of the bookmarks. Clicking on the EXHIBIT 1 bookmark will take you to Exhibit 1. Same for EXHIBIT 2. Simple, right?

Now if your document is text searchable, magic can really happen. Let’s page through to Exhibit 3. Select the Selection Tool for Text and Images.

 

Now highlight the text on the slip sheet.

 

Now that the text is highlighted, press Ctrl+B. BAM!

 

How awesome is that!

Now paging through the remainder of the file, I am going to add bookmarks for the rest of the document breaks.

 

Sometimes this is all that is necessary to make your document easier to navigate. But let’s say you want each exhibit to be its own PDF document. We can use Acrobat to split the file by its bookmarks.

First, select the Split Document option under the Tools heading.

 

A dialogue box will open for options. Select Top-level bookmarks then the Output Options button.

 

The Output Options are pretty customizable, but for this example I am going to keep it simple and keep the files in the same folder and use the bookmark names for the file names. Then click OK. The Split Document dialogue box will open once again. Click OK.

 

 

The process will run and a dialogue box will appear once it is complete.

 

Now navigating to the folder you will see that each exhibit is now its own PDF named by the bookmark.

 

As you can see bookmarks can make navigating a PDF much easier and are simple to add once you get the hang of it.  Want to learn more about the power of bookmarks in creating hyperlinked eBriefs, check out our e-manual, Creating eBriefs – A Step-by-Step Guide for the Legal Professional, available in both the iBookstore and at Barnes and Noble.

Thursday
Nov172011

Are eBriefs Truly Green? Easy Ways to Really Make a Difference

Just about any company who prepares eBriefs will remind you in their marketing materials or their sales pitch that submitting an eBrief is the eco-conscious thing to do.   But is it really?  You definitely earn some points by submitting an eBrief and saving a few trees by not printing as many copies; however, if you are serious about reducing environmental impact, there are a few key steps in the preparation and completion of your eBrief that you want to make sure to follow:

File transfers.   There are a handful of good eBrief vendors out there, and chances are none of them is located in your city.   Don’t let this deter you from hiring one just because you think you’ll have to ship them your documents to prepare the eBrief.  To create a truly green eBrief, you want to avoid air freight whenever possible. Aside from the cost, it consumes far more fuel per mile traveled than any other mode of transport.  Plus, shipping obviously increases your turnaround time, and there is a far more efficient option.

It is likely you or your vendor will have access to an FTP site, which has long been the standard in electronic file transfers.  If your vendor is handling the transfer, be sure there isn’t an additional charge associated with FTP setup.  An even better option is to set up an account with one of a number of companies offering secure file transfer.  We really like YouSendIt.  It is simple to use and affordable – the perfect solution for the small or mid-sized firm.  Dropbox is another popular alternative. If you are dealing with large amounts of data, you may also want to check out Accellion.

Media and packaging.  One of the major advantages of eBriefs is of course the ability to pop in a CD or DVD and instantly access the brief and all the hyperlinked supporting materials.  For many clerks and judges this is far more preferable than sifting through binders of documents or batches of PDFs on a server.  But what about the environmental impact of CDs and their plastic cases?  Every year, millions of CDs and DVDs find their way to the landfill or get incinerated, releasing toxic dioxins into the atmosphere. And then there are the jewel cases, generally produced from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the least recyclable of all plastics.  If you want to have a truly green eBrief, there are options to this media. 

  • Have your vendor electronically transfer your final eBrief using one of the options outlined above and provide your finished product to the court on a reusable thumb or flash drive.  You can even have it branded with your firm’s logo!        
  • If you must use CDs or DVDs, opt for recycled packaging.  We are big fans of Rebinder.  You can purchase their cases in bulk, and they too can be branded.

At the end of the day, providing an eBrief to the court in any form is preferable to printing and shipping reams or boxes of paper.  Adopting the simple steps above will help your firm go even farther in reducing the impact of legal profession on the environment.

Friday
Nov042011

Shortcuts that Simplify eBrief Creation

Keyboard shortcuts are helpful in many programs, but I find them to be indispensable in having a good Acrobat experience. I’m not sure Adobe thinks they are that helpful since they turn off the single key accelerators as a default, and the table for the keyboard shortcuts is found in Chapter 19 (of 19 chapters) of the help guide.

The first thing you will have to do to enable the single-key shortcuts is to open the Preferences dialog box, and under General, select the Use Single-Key Accelerators To Access Tools option.

There are many keyboard shortcuts - here are the ones I use the most when creating eBriefs.

Ctrl+D - This brings up the Document Properties. Here, you can change the Initial View of the PDF as well as change the Title, Author, Subject and Key Words. Other settings can be changed here, but Initial View and Description are the two I most often edit.

Ctrl+B - This short cut will create a bookmark to the page and view that you are currently on. Bookmarks are very helpful in navigating PDFs and creating them is a task anyone using Acrobat should master. If the document has searchable text (OCR) and you highlight a piece of text and then press Ctrl+B, the bookmark created will use the selected text. You can see where this comes in handy in our Creating eBriefs manual.

Ctrl+Shift+N - Go to a specific page number of a PDF

Ctrl+Shift+I - Insert Document

Ctrl+Shift+D - Delete Page(s)

L - The Link tool - the meat and potatoes of eBriefs

T - The Touch Up text tool - In eBrief creation this tool is helpful in changing font colors in your PDF. This does not replace your word processing program for major text changes but comes in handy for small text changes, like modifying a character or two.

U - Highlighter tool - pretty self-explanatory

H - The Hand Tool

V - Text Select Tool

Z - Marquee Zoom Tool

Home - Will take you to the first page of a PDF

End - Will take you to the last page of a PDF

I also recommend checking out the common keyboard shortcuts for Windows found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/126449. Once you have mastered these shortcuts, your fingers will be dancing across your keyboard like Liberace, minus the candelabra of course.

For you experienced Acrobat users, are there other keyboard shortcuts not listed here that make your life easier? Feel free to post them in the comments section below, I would love to hear them!

 

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