Technology has brought so many enhancements to law practice. With the internet and cloud computing distance has become irrelevant, and the look and feel of the law office has changed. These technologies have streamlined traditional practice. Now it is possible to eliminate much of the paper that has been the traditional inventory of the law office. This digitalization of the legal product allows us lawyers to practice anywhere, anytime. It also allows us to communicate with clients, colleagues, and courts by a new model.
Face to face meetings, choreographed in-person document signing ceremonies, and the licking and stamping of envelopes have now been replaced by internet telephone conference calls, web cam video conferences, and electronically drafted and signed documents. With this new dawn in practice communications Adobe Acrobat has become one of my workhouse software programs.
Adobe’s PDF format has become the industry standard for creating digital documents, for collaborating on shared documents, and for signing documents. We lawyers routinely encounter PDFs as the default format for the delivery of correspondence, for e-filing, e-discovery, and e-mail attachments. To thrive in this new era of practice Adobe’s Acrobat software program is becoming de rigueur.
The current version of Acrobat is XI. The professional version, that I strongly recommend, has a street price of around $400. Not cheap, but well worth the money. It is packed with features for lawyers to avail themselves of. The program has a Bates stamping feature so that you can sequentially number records and documents. I have found this feature to be particularly useful in discovery. The program also has an optical character recognition, or OCR, engine that allows for documents to become text searchable. It has a palette of stamps, visual stickers if you will, so that documents can be marked “draft,” “confidential,” “privileged,” etc. With the program you can create fillable forms, and redact sensitive content from documents.
For my money one of the greatest features of the new version XI is the ability to add your actual signature to documents. I use this feature constantly. The process could not be easier thanks to the webcam signature capture in Acrobat XI.
Start by signing your signature to a piece of plain white paper. Then go to the Sign tab and select the Use a webcam feature in XL to take a picture of that signature. With your first try XI takes a picture of that signature with the webcam on your computer. The program will then save the signature in the XI program.
(Photo from the Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog).
Thereafter all you have to do is create a PDF document (as an example, Microsoft Word has its own built-in feature that allows you to save docs in PDF format), affix your signature with Acrobat XI, and send it. The majority of the letters that I write are now converted to .pdf, signed by this process, and then delivered via email. I eliminate the time and fuss of snail mail. Delivery is instantaneous. I can simultaneously send copies to multiple recipients. And I have an electronic copy for my file that did not necessitate a trip to the scanner after I signed it. I do the same for pleadings, discovery documents, contracts, the list goes on and on . . .
Technology exists to make us better and more efficient practitioners. Adobe Acrobat XI is one of the tools that serves that end. There are so many great features to be exploited in law practice. If you aren’t using Acrobat you are working harder, slower, and less efficiently than you have to.
John E. Harding, JD is the principal of the law firm of Harding & Associates Family Law, with offices in Pleasanton and Walnut Creek, California. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He has been certified as a specialist in the practice of family law by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. He practices family law litigation and divorce mediation exclusively. He has been recognized with an AV certification by Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings and as a Northern California Super Lawyer (2004 through 2014). He has written and lectured in the areas of civil litigation, family law, trial skills, case management, and legal technology.