Inside Track: 14 PDF Tools All Law Firms Should Have to Maintain Client Confidentiality:

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    14 PDF Tools All Law Firms Should Have to Maintain Client Confidentiality

    Lawyers face unique document production challenges, from the filing requirement of courts and other governmental agencies to the need to maintain confidentiality of client information and prevent unauthorized changes to documents. In this video, Nerino Petro, State Bar practice management advisor, talks about the basic PDF features all lawyers should have in their offices.
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    June 5, 2013 – The ability to create and edit PDF documents is becoming increasingly significant for lawyers and law-firm employees. With federal and state courts and local governments adopting PDF as the standard for storing electronic documents, having basic PDF tools on your computer is even more important.

    In this video, Nerino Petro, State Bar practice management advisor, talks about how to maintain confidentiality and prevent unauthorized changes to documents.

    According to Petro, at minimum, a PDF solution for lawyers and law firms should have the following 14 PDF tools available on at least one desktop in their office:

    1. Firms should have the capability to create PDFs from multiple sources, such as, word documents, Excel spreadsheets, presentations, and scanners.

    2. Addons on your tool bar give you more control over creating the PDF, so you can create the PDF directly from your word or Excel document.

    3. Creating searchable PDFs is another essential tool. When you scan a document, the computer must be able to read the optical definition so the computer can search the text.

    4. Adding comments is important when you are exchanging a PDF with a client or another attorney – as well as saving your comments for your own edification at a later date.

    5. The Bates Numbering tool is a method of indexing legal documents for easy identification and retrieval. Bates numbering may include a prefix and a suffix, using any alphanumeric characters.

    6. Being able to convert PDF documents into a word document, RTF document, or Excel spreadsheet is another essential PDF tool.

    7. Using Typewriter Tool is helpful when you download a form that you want to add information to. You can literally type on the face of the form, save it, and print it off.

    8. Redacting a document allows you to remove portions of a PDF that you don’t want the other party to see. If you don’t use a true redaction tool, you may remove the text on the page but you won’t remove the underlying text that can be searched by a computer.

    9. Removing metadata is also important. When you convert a document from word or another format, some of the information comes over with it, such as author and date created.

    10. Security protections, such as password protection, or limiting whether anyone can change or edit the document, and even allow printing of a document. The program should allow you to impose and to enforce security.

    11. Creating stamps, such as an image of your signature will allow you to sign documents electronically.

    12. Digital identification and security certificates allow you to digitally sign a document and to allow a recipient to verify your identity and whether any changes have been made to the document since it was created.

    13. Integration with other products and services, such as document management systems, cloud storage, and SharePoint, is helpful.

    14. PDF/A Standard Format assures that documents archived in that format will maintain their appearance and readability regardless of which applications and systems were used to create them. This standard is required by federal courts.

    “Several products for working with PDFs are available, but as with most technologies, products are not identical, and a product good for one firm is not necessarily the best for another firm,” said Petro. “Generating a basic PDF file can be done with many products, including Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office, and a number of other free and low-cost PDF creation tools; however, these solutions do not include some capabilities that most lawyers need.”

    Petro describes the highlights and drawbacks of four PDF products that have many law firm appropriate features in the June issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine. The article also includes a handy comparison chart of available PDF software.

    For more information, contact Petro at org practicehelp wisbar wisbar practicehelp org.

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