BOOK REVIEW: Adobe Acrobat in One Hour for Lawyers

BOOK REVIEW: Adobe Acrobat in One Hour for Lawyers
By Ernie Svenson (Ernie the Attorney; Paperless Chase)
Published 2013 by the Law Practice Division of the American Bar Association 

            I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy, and use Adobe Acrobat every day in my practice.  I knew that the program had much more under the hood than I use, but without knowing exactly what that was, I thought I was getting about as much out of Acrobat as I needed for my law practice.   The task of really studying Acrobat to see if there was anything else it could do for me seemed to me to be too daunting for the slim possibility of some small reward.

            Then I was lucky enough to receive a reviewers copy of Mr. Svenson’s book.  This easily comprehensible short book unlocks some of the power of Acrobat that I had no idea existed. (I say some of the power, because the book is divided into Part I, Basic Skills, and Part II, Intermediate Skills, holding out the prospect that there will be a later effort to teach us some advanced skills.)

            Chapters 1 through 7 are pretty basic, but there are some gems included here as well as in the later chapters.  For example, did you know that by a simple click of the mouse you can choose to have everything you highlight in an Acrobat document added to your comments?  And that you could save those comments as a separate document with page references to the original?  It’s all in Chapter 1.  Chapter 2 explains options for viewing pdf’s.  Chapter 3 teaches you all you need to know about navigating through a pdf.  Chapter 4 is an explanation of the various Acrobat menus and how they are used.  Chapter 5 is all about the various ways of creating pdf’s and Chapter 6 talks about examining them.  Chapter 7 explains the pages menu with some very useful tips, such as how to rearrange pages in a pdf.

            Beyond the basics, the book is a treasure trove of information, explanations, and tips for getting the most out of Adobe Acrobat.

            Did you know that you can use bookmarks to split a long document into its various components?  This one little trick is worth the price of the book.  For example, I received an 1132 page administrative record in an ERISA case.  That record included medical reports, correspondence, insurance policy, summary plan description, and a computer log of everything that had occurred during the administration of the claim.  By using what I learned in Chapter 8, I was able to go through the long document and mark the beginning of each of its components; then, with one click of the mouse, I was able to save all the component documents with their correct names in the correct folder.  Wow!  This cut hours off the task of separating out each document, naming it and filing it in the client’s folder.

            Chapter 9 is all about commenting.  Remember that in Chapter 1, the author showed us how to convert highlights to comments.  Chapter 9 shows us how to add additional notes to the highlighted text that will show up with those comments, and contains other useful gems as well.

            Chapters 10 and 11 cover text editing and OCR.  These are very important tools for any lawyer who works with pdf’s.

            Chapter 12 is really cool.  Here, I learned how to create a digital signature that looks like one that was signed with pen and ink.  The next chapter is about digital signatures, but Chapter 12’s instructions about how to make a signature stamp that looks real is far better, in my opinion.  Besides, if you create a digital signature as you can learn to do in Chapter 13, you may have problems trying to file it in federal court using their CM/ECF system; I have been instructed not to use them.

            Chapter 14 shows you how easy it is to apply “Bates” numbers to pdf’s, and chapter 15 covers redaction of sensitive material.

            Did you know that every pdf you create contains metadata, some of which you might not want to make public?  You can learn how to remove it in Chapter 16. Chapter 17 contains a good exposition of the search capabilities of Acrobat and is worth the read, even if you routinely search pdf’s already.

            Chapter 18 explains how to protect your pdf documents in two ways.  You can limit who can read it by requiring a “document opening password” and you can limit what those who can read it can do with it by requiring a “document permissions password.”

            Chapter 19 is all about PDF/A’s – why they exist and how to create them.  You might think of a pdf/a as a stripped document.  They contain no hyperlinks, no imbedded files such as photos or audio files, and are meant for long-term archiving.

            The author also includes an appendix with recommended preference settings, a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet, sample workflows and a host of other tidbits for the lawyer who uses pdf’s in his practice.

SUMMARY:           Every lawyer who handles large PDF documents (and who doesn’t?) should have a copy of this book somewhere in his or her office.   Whether the lawyer uses it or some other person in the office does, Adobe Acrobat in One Hour for Lawyers is bound to increase the productivity of anyone who wrestles with pdf’s.

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