With the advance of electronic filing and paperless offices, attorneys and paralegals use Adobe Acrobat Pro on a daily basis. Not only can you turn a Word document into a PDF, but you can also use it to sign, redact and Bates stamp documents. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to use these tree basic features with Adobe Acrobat XI Pro.
Save time and paper! Instead of printing, signing, scanning and then emailing your electronic document, sign your document directly with Adobe Acrobat Pro. Under Fill & Sign, select Place Signature. You have several options to create a signature:
Redaction is often used for litigation and public record requests. Once done, there is no going back. So don’t forget to save a copy of the original document before you redact it. Under Tools, select Protection and click Mark for Redaction. With your mouse, select the text you want to redact and click Apply Redaction. If you are looking for specific words to redact, use the Search and Remove Text function. You can also change the Redaction Properties if you want to pick a different color or add text over the redacted elements. You can even refer to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act provisions.
Bates numbering is used to organize and find litigation documents. Under Tools, go to Pages. Click on Bates Numbering and select Add Bates Numbering. On the top left corner of the window, click Add Files. Then you have the option to add files, folders or use open files. Let’s say your documents are already open. Click on Add Open Files. Select which open files you want to Bates number. When you’re done click OK. You can then format the numbering by choosing the font style, size and color. After selecting where you want the Bates numbering to appear on each page, click on Insert Bates Number. Select the number of digits and the start number. Add a prefix or suffix, if necessary, and click OK. A Bates numbering preview will appear. If everything looks good, click OK and Adobe Acrobat Pro will apply the Bates numbering to your documents.
Hope this quick tutorial was helpful. If you have any questions, comment below.
Thanks to the General Practice Solo Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar, I attended my first legal tech seminar last week. On Day 1, the speakers talked about courtroom technology, e-discovery, social media and blog ethics, Microsoft Office, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat. Day 2 was mostly on practice management. There was also an interesting conference on social media discovery and jury selection. I learned a lot and met great attorneys and paralegals. For those who couldn’t make it, these are my favorite tips of the Wild Wild Tech Seminar:
The GPSSF Section will host another legal tech seminar next January. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to keep up with legal technology and trends.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about Fastcase and Casemaker, two low cost alternatives to Westlaw and LexisNexis for solo practitioners and small law firms. Attorneys and paralegals can use another legal research tool to find case law and legal articles: Google Scholar. And it’s free!
As you’ll read below, you can’t only use Google Scholar to perform legal research and cancel your paid subscription to other legal research providers. But if you want to save your client money, use Google Scholar first to see what you can find. Here are some Google Scholar FAQs for legal research.
What is Google Scholar?
Google Scholar is a search engine for scholarly literature covering different disciplines and sources. You can look for articles, theses, books, abstracts and case law from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites.
What is the extent of the legal coverage?
Google Scholar covers federal and state cases, plus legal articles.
What are the benefits?
As I mentioned above, it is free. However, if you want to read the full text of legal articles, you may have to subscribe to the academic website. Another advantage of Google Scholar is that it includes limited unreported cases. Email alerts for new cases and the option to create a library are my favorite features.
What are the cons?
Google Scholar does not include statutes. Its citation service is not as good as Shepard’s or KeyCite because it does not show if the case is good law and how subsequent courts have treated it.
How do you search case law?
On Google Scholar’s homepage, type in keywords relevant to your legal issue. Under your keywords, click on case law and select the court(s). When you are on the search result page, you can filter case law by date and again by court. Under each case, you can find how to cite it pursuant to Bluebook rules by clicking on “Cite.” To read a case, click on it. At the top left-hand corner of the case, click on “How cited” to find subsequent authorities that have cited the case. The horizontal bars next to the “Cited by” case names represent the depth of discussion of the searched case.
Unlike Westlaw or LexisNexis, Google Scholar only uses the connector AROUND. According to Eric Voigt from R+W Legal Consultants, you can only use the word AROUND to search for a term that appears after another term. As an example, if you type “email AROUND(5) official AROUND(10) record”, Google Scholar will find cases where “official” appears within 5 words after “email” and where “record” appears within 10 words after “email” and “official.” Eric Voigt also explains that AROUND must be capitalized, have no space between it and the parenthetical and include quotation marks around the entire search string. Lastly, AROUND only connects individual words, not phrases.
How do you search legal articles?
On Google Scholar’s homepage, type in keywords relevant to your legal issue. Under your keywords, click on “Articles.” When you are on the search result page, you can filter your articles by date. Under each article, you can find how to cite it pursuant to Bluebook rules by clicking on “Cite.” You can also find if it was cited by other articles or case law. To read an article, click on it. It will bring you to the publisher or the academic website where you will find whether you have to subscribe.
How do you create an email alert?
Creating an email alert for new case law or legal articles is simple. When you are on the search result page, on the left sidebar, click on “Create an alert” where you will provide your email address.
How do you create a library?
First, you have to enable your library by clicking on “My library” on Google Scholar’s homepage. Then when you are on the search result page, under each case or legal article of interest, click “Save.” Saved cases and articles will appear in your library. Later on, you can create labels to organize it.
Hope this convinced you to try out Google Scholar. It’s simple and it’s free. If you have any questions about using Google Scholar, leave a comment below.
Starting a law firm is not an easy task. Most law schools still don’t teach future lawyers what it takes to start and manage a solo practice or small law firm. Nonetheless, there are a lot of free online resources for attorneys who want to hang a shingle. Below are some of my favorites.
Florida Bar Law Office Management Assistance Service
Even though it is geared towards Florida attorneys, LOMAS provides useful information for anyone looking to open a law firm. It offers free on-demand CLE courses from the ABC’s of starting and managing your law practice to building a small firm marketing program. LOMAS gives access to over 100 administrative forms including a contract for legal services, a general partnership agreement and a new law practice office checklist. It also has a help line and a FAQs section with topics ranging from trust accounts to planning for vacation when you have a solo practice.
ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center
Like LOMAS, the ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center offers advices, tools and resources to successfully manage a law practice. Their topics include, but are not limited to, marketing, work and life balance and staffing. They also have a form bank and an active listserv, SoloSez, where you learn about events, networking opportunities and ask for advice.
General Practice Solo and Small Firm Sections
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, there are several benefits of being a member of your state bar section or ABA division. There are numerous networking and referral opportunities, reduced price CLE and monthly publications.
There are several blogs for attorneys looking to build their own law practice. Lawyerist has resources, articles and product reviews. My favorite features are the technology oriented articles and its forum where anyone looking for help can asks questions about the practice of law. My Shingle is another blog inspiring solo and small firm lawyers. I especially like the Start a Law Firm Guide page where blog posts are listed by subject such as setting up and growing your law firm. Finally, Attorneyatwork offers a daily law practice tip that can be delivered straight to your inbox.
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, what are your favorite online law practice resources?
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for legal professionals. This month we are going paperless!
Creating a personalized email signature is a great way to show professionalism and market your law firm. You can also use it as an online networking tool just like a business card by including your logo, contact information, your website or blog link and your social media profiles. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to create an email signature with Outlook and Gmail.
Click on the New Email icon. When the new email opens, click on Signature. Click New and type a name for your email signature. In the Choose Default Signature section select the email address you want to use your signature for. Select the name of your email signature for New Messages and Replies/forwards.
Now it’s time to create your signature in the Edit Signature block. Type your contact information such as your name, title, company, mailing address, phone number and website/blog address in any font style, size and color you would like. You can add your logo by clicking on the Insert Picture icon and selecting it. For your social media profiles, you have the option of typing a word or phrase such as Google+ Profile or inserting a social media icon. If you use the first option, after typing your phrase, you select it and click on the Insert Hyperlink icon. You then type your Google+ profile hyperlink.
As for the second option, you first have to find a social media icon (between 12-30 pixels). You can find one if you do a Google search and then click on the Image tab. Save the image you want on your computer and insert it to your email by clicking on the Insert Picture icon. Once your image is inserted in your email, you select it and click on the Insert Hyperlink icon where you type your Google+ profile link. When you are all done, you click Save and then OK. That’s it! Your email signature will now appear on all your emails.
Gmail is somewhat different because you have to use an image url instead of an image saved on your computer. To have an image url, you must save your image on an image storage program such as Google+ photos and Facebook albums.
First, you have to go in the Settings. Under the General tab, there is a Signature section. Click on the circle to allow a signature and also the box titled Insert this signature before quoted text. Type your contact information in the Signature Box. To insert your logo or social media icon, find your image on your image storage program, right click it and select Copy. Then go back in your signature block and Paste the image where you want it to be. To add a link to the image, select it, click the Link icon and type in the link. When you are done with your signature, don’t forget to scroll down and Save it.
Now that you know how to create a personalized email signature, go ahead and make one. It’s a quick and easy marketing tool for your firm.
After closing on a real estate transaction, clients like to receive a closing binder including all relevant documents to the deal. However, creating a closing binder can be time consuming and costly to distribute. An electronic closing binder is a great alternative to the traditional binder. It is fairly simple to assemble if you are familiar with Adobe Acrobat. It is also environmentally friendly. Finally, attorneys can save electronic closing binders in their document management systems, making it easy to search and find them.
PDF Binder or Portfolio
Adobe Acrobat Professional offers two options to create a closing binder: a PDF binder or a PDF portfolio. A PDF binder is similar to a traditional binder. It includes bookmarks in the sidebar and a table of content on the first page with links to pages in the document. A PDF portfolio is like a briefcase holding different kinds of documents such as PDF, Word and Excel documents. If you click on a document icon, you will only see this specific document. PDF portfolios are quick and easy to create. However, they do not have a table of content. Your clients must have Adobe Reader 8 and up to be able to view it.
Once your binder or portfolio is created, you can simply email it to your client. Your client can then make the decision to print the document(s) or simply retain the electronic version.
If you would like to know how to create a PDF binder or portfolio, Rick Borstein wrote an excellent guide called Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9.*
If you do not have the time or personnel to make an electronic closing binder, contact Your Paralegal Help Desk. We will be happy to create one for you.
* Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9 is from the Acrobat for Legal Professionals (Acrolaw) Blog at http://www.adobe.com/go/acrolaw. The images used in our blog post were taken from this guide.
Startup solo practitioners and small law firms often have limited means. Some of them can’t afford to subscribe to Westlaw and LexisNexis. As useful as they are, there are free and low cost alternatives that can accomplish similar results. Let’s take a look at two of them.
Fastcase is a legal research service that covers federal and state primary law. Its collection includes statutes, constitutions, cases, a newspaper archive, legal forms and PACER search of federal filings. Unfortunately, some state regulations and court rules are missing. Fastcase prides itself in being the only legal research system that sorts the best results to the top of the list like Google. It also features an interactive map of search results so you can see the most important cases at a glance. Even though Fastcase flags cases with negative treatment, it is not a complete citator like Shepard’s. Nonetheless, for the price, it is well worth it. Fastcase offers two payment plans under $100 per month depending on the type of legal research coverage you need. It also offers a 24-hour free trial. It's good to know that several state bars, including the Florida Bar, offer Fastcase for free to their members.
Casemaker’s coverage is similar to Fastcase. It provides federal and state primary law. However, there are three services that differentiate it from Fastcase. Casemaker offers digests that include summaries of state and federal appellate cases classified by practice area. It also offers CaseCheck+, a citator that rivals with Shepard’s and Keycite. Finally, attorneys can use Citecheck to upload briefs and find out if citations remain good law. Casemaker’s subscription plans are in the same price range as Fastcase. Like Fastcase, Casemaker partners with bar associations to offer free basic legal research to their members.
Even though Fastcase and Casemaker may not be as comprehensive as Westlaw or LexisNexis especially for state coverage and secondary law, they still offer a viable low cost option for legal research.
Security of confidential information is a real concern for attorneys because it is at the foundation of the attorney-client relationship. If an attorney fails to take appropriate steps to keep electronic documents secure, it can result in a release of sensitive information, a malpractice suit and disciplinary sanctions. Therefore, it is important for attorneys to verify the virtual paralegal they contract with takes the following steps to keep the attorney’s information secure and confidential:
If you still have concerns regarding the security of confidential information, your virtual paralegal should involve you in the decision making process as to how file sharing takes place and how electronic documents are retained. Don't hesitate to contact Your Paralegal Help Desk if you have any questions on this matter.
Attorneys know about freelance paralegals who come to their office to assist them with legal work. However, they may not be aware that these same tasks can be done remotely by a virtual paralegal. The technological advances of the last decade has allowed paralegals and attorneys to communicate, handle projects and file documents electronically. Virtual paralegals are part of an emerging trend that is here to last. Below are some frequently asked questions attorneys may have about virtual paralegals.
What is a virtual paralegal? A virtual paralegal provides on-demand paralegal services to licensed attorneys and law firms from a remote location. A virtual paralegal is not an employee, but an independent contractor.
What are the benefits of contracting with a virtual paralegal? Attorneys save money by avoiding overhead costs associated with a full-time employee. They also cut cost by only paying for the hours a paralegal work to complete a project. Law firms can make a profit when contracting with virtual paralegals because paralegals rate is lower than what law firms bill their clients. Best of all, virtual paralegals are highly skilled and educated professionals who keep up with legal trends and technology. You get an experienced paralegal you do not have to train.
Who contracts with virtual paralegals? Solo practitioners, law firms of all sizes, corporations and governmental agencies contract with virtual paralegals as long as paralegals work under the supervision of licensed attorneys. Solo practitioners and small law firms use virtual paralegals when they have fluctuating workloads and cannot afford to hire a full-time paralegal. Some law firms or corporations may need a virtual paralegal because their paralegal employee is on maternity leave. Law firms and governmental agencies also contract with virtual paralegals when their in-house paralegals are overwhelmed with projects that must be done now.
How much do virtual paralegals charge? It depends on the virtual paralegal's experience, the legal field and the tasks requested. Some virtual paralegals charge by the hour. Others use a reduced-rate retainer or have a set fee per project. Virtual paralegal rates are higher than full-time paralegal employee rates because we are operating a business and providing our own benefits.
How do I contract with a virtual paralegal? You must first discuss and explain the legal services your firm needs with Your Paralegal Help Desk. We will then give you a rate for the requested services and an independent contractor agreement will be presented for your approval. Once, we receive your approval and deposit, we will start work immediately.
How do you communicate with attorneys? Virtual paralegals typically communicate with their clients by emails, phone or online conferences.
How do you access our documents? There are many ways we can access your documents. We can use software programs to remotely log in on your computer. We can also use a cloud-based program or we can simply exchange documents by emails.
How do you protect our confidential information? Keeping your information confidential and secure is very important to us. We always do a conflict check before accepting a project. We also use a security software program to protect all information retained on our computers from unauthorized access. We use secure file sharing programs that are widely used by the legal community. Your confidential information will not be shared with third parties.
Why should we hire a virtual paralegal when we can contract with a temp agency? When you contract with a temp agency, you may get a different person each time you request a temp. However, if you contract with Your Paralegal Help Desk, our paralegal can be your "permanent temp" whenever you need her. You will get consistency, always receiving work from the same skilled virtual paralegal. Our goal is to build a long term relationship with you.
If you have any other questions about virtual paralegals and how they can assist your practice of law, don't hesitate to email or call Your Paralegal Help Desk. We are here to help you.
Next week we will talk about how an idea becomes a law in Florida.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.