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Why PDF Will Hold Up in Court (And in Your Law Firm)

Blog16Rewrite_Using_PDF_format_law_firms.jpgIn the legal industry, in order for a document to be admissible in court it must be in a format that cannot be altered without leaving an electronic trail.

There are multiple options when it comes to formatting a file that is unalterable (TIFF, JPEG, or GIF), but they don’t leave an electronic trail. You can scan and save print documents to these formats and save born digital documents to these formats as well. However there is one option that is the most economical and the most practical – PDF.

To put it simply, as an electronic document that is read only and that will leave an electronic trail if altered, PDF meets the needs for legal admissibility in court.

There are a few reasons why converting documents to a PDF format (especially in the legal field) is a good, and often the best, option.

Document-Level Security

Document security is imperative when sharing information over a network or over the Internet. With PDF, you can implement password security at the document level so that no one can view the document without entering the password – so your legal firm won’t have to fear an unauthorized user viewing documents sent in emails.

Analytics

If that password is breached, necessary actions are easy to take because recipients are able to see who has access to the information.

Compatibility

PDF was designed to create documents that can be shared and accepted across multiple computer platforms – the representation of the document is independent of the operating system, applications software, and hardware. What does that mean exactly? It means, whether you’re on a PC or a Mac, your PDF file will always appear the same way; making sharing important information quickly and securely simple (and making your day a lot less hectic).

Less Paper

PDFs can convert to paper documents, and vice-versa. Because PDFs can convert to paper documents (and vice-versa), PDF files serve easily as electronic paper. So, over time you can expect to see a lot more PDF files and a lot less paper files. And since online file cases can be sent via email in a PDF format, the inconvenience of faxing, mailing, shipping, or couriering is also eliminated.

Decrease File Size

With PDF you can decrease the file size and/or merge files (like spreadsheets, presentations, etc.) into a single file all while keeping the same quality. So you won’t lose the quality of a file when it’s converted to PDF.

Interactive Documents

With Adobe Acrobat (and a host of other PDF software suites) you have the ability to interact with the document. You can add hyperlinks, rich media, audio, text, and many other optional features to your file, which allows colleagues to add notes or comments to a legal file as they’re being shared or studied more simply and conveniently.

Searchable PDF

No more wasting time skimming a file or searching to find a specific section in a file.

With a quick search, you can easily find what you are looking for in a PDF – you can even link sections to their appropriate pages in the file by organizing the document with a table of contents.

Mobile

An office isn’t always your “office” – especially in a technology charged world – and having information available no matter where you are is growing increasingly important (and necessary). Adobe Reader allows you or anyone else the ability to access and view the files they need on any device, anywhere, anytime.

PDF as a Record

PDF is no longer tied to the creator of the format – Adobe – and is an international standard. Law firms will find PDF/A (PDF/Archival) a worthwhile file format to investigate using.

Here are five reasons PDF format is the way to go from a PDF Association post, The Legal Case for PDF/A (click here to read it).

  • Archiving e-mails as PDF/A: Today, more and more correspondence, some of it of a contractual nature, is being sent by e-mail. Archiving emails to PDF/A is easy to implement using the various PDF/A server-based tools available, including any attachments to the email (which can also be automatically converted to PDF/A).
  • Plans, maps, and design drawings: Digital maps, architectural drawings, and construction plans all form part of case archives and are usually compressed very efficiently to small PDF/A files that retain all of the formatting of these documents.
  • Signed digital contracts: PDF/A documents can be digitally signed to enable legally effective contracts to be concluded using only digital means, which is a vital benefit since an increasing amount of business correspondence is sent electronically.
  • Correct colours in image documents: An important advantage when working with digital image data in e.g. insurance claims and medical records is the accurate display of colours – PDF/A enables this.
  • Accessible PDF files: In the USA, accessibility in the digital world – especially for the Internet – has been an issue for a long time. It is now also the agenda in Europe to enable the accessibility of information to visually impaired members of society. PDF/A is ideal for processing accessible PDF documents that can be read out by screen readers, since it specifically supports structured content in PDF documents.

Need some help with PDF and file formats?

Here are four posts full of tips about the conversion process:

Still have questions? Let’s talk – we are happy to help.

 

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Topics: Legal Solutions Document Management