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Making PDF Software Work Smarter for Legal Professionals

Slavena HristovaLegal professionals work with varying types of documents ranging from case records, writs, pleadings, patents, contracts and mandate files. Most of these originate as paper and scanned to digital, but a growing number are being born digital. In response, legal IT professionals have incorporated PDF software to quickly transform documents to become court-ready. However, obstacles still exist that are draining efficiency and productivity, such as non-searchable scans, PDFs with sensitive and often hidden client information, and inability to edit some PDFs. A tool that can equally support both digitally-born PDFs and scanned paper documents is needed. 


The Truth about PDF Software

Regular users of PDF software have found a hidden truth – it is either easy-to-use yet underpowered, or feature-rich but hard-to-use. Another truth is not all PDFs are the same and users can get frustrated when some PDFs "misbehave." For example, being unable to select text to copy, or when searching for a word they know exists in the document but search results come up empty.

In these cases, we are dealing with a scanned PDF – a digital document that originated as paper. Having a PDF tool that automatically detects scanned PDFs and applies optical character recognition (OCR) to them is extremely helpful because OCR makes the information in any document to be immediately searchable and editable. And because a lot of PDFs are scanned PDFs, having good quality OCR is important for efficiently working with documents. Otherwise, the keyword may still not come up in search results because the conversion was not accurate, or the copied text needs so much fixing that it may have been better and faster to actually retype it. 

Power Uses for PDF/OCR Software

Your firm may be underutilizing the power of PDF/OCR software in common time-consuming tasks. Here are four areas where legal professionals can leverage their software to work smarter.

  1. Case preparation - When preparing for a case, you want to quickly find information in scans, images and PDFs and process it immediately into a consistent format, such as in Microsoft® Office or within the PDF. Using the “Read and Search” features, legal professionals can extract or use text passages, graphs and tables without having to retype or reformat them and use the information in a completely new document. This is where robust OCR matters to enable information within all PDF documents accessible. 
  2. Contract management - Legal professionals cannot afford to miss changes when exchanging documents with clients or opposing counsel. Using the automatic document comparison feature eliminates manual, error-prone comparison of document text swiftly, accurately, and efficiently. The smallest modifications of text are quickly identified, even comparing the same document across different digital file formats such as scanned images, PDFs, Microsoft Office, and others.
  3. eDiscovery & archiving - When you need to go through stacks of documents to find relevant information, using the PDF tool to convert any file type to and from PDF increases productivity. By automatically converting batches of documents into searchable PDFs, staff saves hours of tedious work. Furthermore, batch processing, automatic conversion based on a schedule and Bates numbering will minimize your administrative workload for long-term archiving.
  4. Information governance and compliance - Documents that contain sensitive information need to be handled appropriately before being shared with third parties or archived. Use your PDF software to redact sensitive information or remove "hidden" elements such as metadata, file attachments or text layers from digital documents. You can also protect documents or parts of it from unauthorized access through password protection, make searchable document not searchable again (for opposing party), or sign documents digitally to ensure their integrity and authenticity.

Legal IT Today #19

Legal professionals can meet the need for fast case processing, short reaction times to client enquiries and transparent accounting models by efficiently working with documents across multiple formats with an all-in-one OCR and PDF solution. Tasks from document retrieval, case preparation, court filing, and service of process, are all made much faster when the process is fully digitized.

Slavena Hristova leads product management and marketing of the ABBYY FineReader product line in Western Europe and North America. She manages the product lifecycle from market requirement and go-to-market strategy development, to creation of sales enablement and training offerings for channel partners. Slavena has several years of experience in product management and marketing in the areas of text recognition, information and document management.

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