PDF Security: Sharing Your Work Product With the Public

You’ve got something to share. A newsletter, a brochure, a seminar handout. You’ve spent time making the document look its best. You converted it to PDF. Everyone can access your shiny new PDF and no one can steal your work product. Well, almost.

Unless your PDF is properly secured, its contents can be copied and pasted into a word-processing document, where your work can be manipulated or altered. Anyone with Adobe Acrobat and a little knowledge can reuse and repurpose the content, taking credit for your hard work.

But don’t worry. All is not lost. You can use Acrobat to secure your documents and protect your work product. The steps are listed in short form first, with a more detailed explanation below.

1. Open your PDF in Acrobat and select File, Properties from the menu toolbar. In the dialog box that opens, go to the Security tab.

2. From the Security Method drop-down box, choose Password Required. A new dialog box opens. There are several options in this dialog box but we only need one of them to accomplish our objective. (See Figure 1).

3. Under Permissions, check the box next to Restrict editing and printing of the document. Type a password in the Change Permissions Password box. (See Figure 2).

4. In the drop-down box for Printing Allowed, select High Resolution. If you select None, your readers won’t be able to print the PDF, which they likely would find particularly annoying. After all, the point of sharing your newsletter or other publication is for recipients to read it. Prevent printing and you defeat the purpose to a large degree.

5. In the drop-down box for Changes Allowed, select None. And make sure that the check box next to the Enable copying of text option is not checked.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Here’s a tip about password selection. Choose one easy-to-remember password that will be used for all documents created internally that you want to share with the public. The purpose of the password is to protect the contents of a quarterly newsletter. Although this is a perfectly legitimate goal, it doesn’t necessitate the same level of security as, let’s say, entrance to the NASA offices. Shoot for something that can be remembered and you’ll avoid the frustrating experience of being locked out of your own document.

Make sure that everyone who has any part in the creation or publication of these documents is given the password and knows that it is the only password that may be used. This includes your assistant, who may make any final changes to the document before converting it to PDF. It also includes the individuals responsible for posting these documents on your firm’s website. And it includes members of your marketing team who may send the documents to news and media sources. Everyone should know the password and should know to check the security of every document prior to releasing it the public.

She Shoots, She Scores! An Adobe PDF Tip for March Madness

Adobe Acrobat 9 holds iconic status in my office.  (See A Plea for PDF: How Adobe Acrobat Can Revolutionize Your Practice).   We love it. acrobat iconWe use it for “everything”–or so we think, until someone thinks of another way to put it to use.  There are so many unexpected ways to put the PDF to good use that we’ve started a list of them that’s shared throughout the office.  One of my coworkers, Felicia B., came up with a way to put Acrobat 9 to good use during March Madness.  I thought it was pretty creative so I’m passing the tip along to readers.  

Felicia used the Typewriter tool in Acrobat to make her basketball picks this year.  Unlike the scribbled brackets of her family and friends, Felicia’s brackets are neatly typed and ready for emailing–without a trip to the scanner. 

This tip isn’t computer wizardry.  It’s just a great example of thinking outside the box and putting software to work!  Thanks for the tip, Felicia!!

If you’re thinking about taking your office “paperless” (or, as I prefer, “digital”), here are some resources:

The Link Between the Digital Office and Improved Intangibles

Preparing to Make the Switch to “Almost Paperless”

Making the Switch to Digital: Legal Research

Making the Switch to Digital: Legal Research

Lawyers still don’t seem to appreciate the power of PDF.  I’ve posted some thoughts on the benefits of moving towards a digital office, using Adobe Acrobat.  Even if you aren’t [yet] committed to making the switch to almost-paperless, there are ways that you can (and should) be implementing Acrobat and the PDF format into your everyday legal practice. 

I was reminded of this by Raymond P. Ward, at the (new) legal writer in his post, Owning Your Downloaded Legal Authorities.  Mr. Ward made my list of the Top 30 Writing Blogs and for good reason–his blog is a valuable resource for legal writers.  As highly as I regard Mr. Ward and his normally sage advice, I must disagree with him a little on the argument he made in his post.  But just a little.

Ward advises readers to take a few extra steps when conducting online research to save time and effort later.  Agreed.  Next, he advises that, when downloading a case from LexisNexis, Westlaw, or other online legal database, attorneys should save the case “in a word-processing format (Word or WordPerfect), not PDF.” 

He explains that, by downloading the case before printing or saving it, you are able to reformat the document, cleaning it up for easier reading, and annotate the case for later reference.  All excellent ideas.  But these ideas can be better executed in Acrobat PDF, rather than Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. 

Here are some of the reasons Ward urges readers to save research in a word-processing format:

  1. If you find the case difficult to read, re-format it. Change the type face or enlarge the font size.
  2. Delete all the headnotes having nothing to do with why you downloaded the case, saving only the pertinent headnotes. This simple tip not only saves you the trouble of wading through dozens of useless headnotes; it also saves paper when you print a hard copy.
  3. While you’re at it, delete the lawyers’ names. Every little bit of clutter-elimination helps. And nobody will mind except the lawyers’ mothers.
  4. Use Word or WordPerfect to highlight the parts that are most important.
  5. Instead of writing in the margins of a hard copy, use Word or WordPerfect to insert comments. That way, your comments will be saved on your electronic copy.
  6. Edit the document header to add all information needed to cite the case. This will later save you the trouble of printing an entire 24-page case when you only need one page with one juicy quotation.

Each of these objectives can be accomplished in Acrobat with ease and, in many cases, with more functionality.   The most obvious way to accomplish any of the cited features is to save the document to Adobe PDF and then, if you later find you want to edit the document in MS Word, simply export the PDF to Word, an easy trick when using Acrobat 9.  But let’s go through how you can accomplish Ward’s suggestions without converting PDF to Word.

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Preparing to Make the Switch to “Almost Paperless”

There is an apparent misconception about the costs associated with converting to a digital office. Depending on the firm’s current operating system, the switch may cost nothing. That was the case for my transition–our firm had the resources already in place so the only change that was required was in the way I managed my documents.  The most common costs, when they do exist, are the costs associated with a purchase of additional or better quality scanners and the cost of additional software licenses. 

Of course, if the firm is starting from the very beginning, having made little or no previous investment in its technology infrastructure, substantially higher costs can be expected. Even then, the maximum investment involves expenditures in the form of an upgrade to the firm’s DMS, purchase of increased bandwith, or the acquisition of additional memory and electronic storage. Major investments, though, are the exception, not the rule. Blank Clipboard and pen

Does converting to digital require the conversion of archived files?

The expected cost and required processes involved in converting to a digital office will depend on whether the conversion is prospective only or whether there will be an effort to convert the firm’s archived files, as well. Obviously, the latter requires a great deal more organization, planning, and significantly more money.  Firms that are considering a total conversion should be aware of the expansive nature of this endeavor before making the commitment.  Realize, though, that there is no requirement to make the switch for all files all at once.  

It may be more realistic to consider a prospective-only conversion.  Not only will it be far easier to execute but also significantly easier to secure support for a more limited project. Wait until the firm has enjoyed the benefits of its new digital practice. After everyone has become comfortable with the process and has had the opportunity to develop trust in the system, then consider moving to the larger project of converting archived files.

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The Link Between the Digital Office and Improved Intangibles

I’ve posted about how Adobe Acrobat 9 can revolutionize your law practice by lowering operational costs and increased earnings.  And there’s plenty more to be said on both fronts. But, in this post, I’ll switch my focus from hard to soft costs; i.e., “intangibles.”  There continues to be an increased focus on “intangibles” in the workplace—the costs that, although difficult to quantify, have a direct impact on profitability.  Employee engagement and satisfaction are intangibles that are linked directly to client satisfaction and retention, firm revenue, and firm profitability. 

Similarly, employee turn-over can have disastrous consequences for firms that ignore the value of employee morale. The cost of repltaking notesacing an employee is estimated to be 100% of the individual’s yearly salary for staff members, 150% for long-term employees and management, and as much 300% for junior associates when partner mentoring time is factored into the equation. Based on these numbers, a firm’s intangibles can have an enormous impact—positive or negative—on the bottom line. 

And how can the digital office contribute to firm intangibles? The digital office enables firm staff to become more efficient in day-to-day tasks. Increased efficiency means more time for other tasks and different types of work. When freed from menial duties, such as repetitive copying and filing, staff can be given more challenging and substantive assignments.

The benefits of this should be obvious—a challenged and stimulated workforce is a more engaged workforce. Engaged employees are more motivated and that motivation leads to increased productivity. The more successes an employee experiences, the more engaged he or she becomes, thereby further continuing the cycle of positive results.

Additionally, the digital office enables attorneys to take their practice with them anywhere, provided they have access to an available internet connection.  Eliminating the need for attorneys to be in the office just for the sake of being there, workers in the digital office find that “work-life balance” may not be as elusive as once thought.  The modern workforce has made it increasingly clear that flexible work schedules are at the top of the priority list.  And Gen Y workers, the most recent generation to flood the recruiting office, have their own set of demands; and flexibility is high on that list.

Are you convinced yet?  It’s true.  Go ahead, start a digital revolution!

The Digital [Office] Revolution: Go Ahead, Make the Switch.

The paperless office may be a myth, at least according to authors Abigail J. Sellen and Richard H. R. Harper, who’ve earned Malcolm Gladwell’s stamp of approval.  But an office with less paper is very much a reality.  So let’s put our biases aside–from here out we’ll refer not to a “paperless office” but, instead, to a “digital office.”  For some background to this series, see yesterday’s post, A Plea for PDF: How Adobe Acrobat Can Revolutionize Your Practice.  In this post, we’ll talk about the potential cost savings that can result from switching to a digital office.  Tomorrow we’ll touch on the other, less tangible benefits.  Later in the week, we’ll get to the specifics about how you can go about implementing a revolution in your workplace.

What is involved with a digital office?

In the broadest sense, the phrase “digital office” means a business that operates with electronic, as opposed to paper, files. The “paperless office” was used initially but became less popular as it became less probable to actually occur. “Less paper” is more realistic and the goal of the digital office is not to never use paper. The goal of the digital office is to increase effectiveness while decreasing reliance on paper files.

In a more specific sense, a digital office is one in which all documents, records, and files are managed on the computer in electronic form instead of in filing cabinets in paper form. All documents, whether created internally or externally, are converted to an electronic file and kept in a document management system (DMS).paperless office empty records storage

How can a digital office lead to higher earnings?

Lawyers who have made the switch to digital experience any number of positive benefits. Perhaps the easiest of which to observe is the increased efficiency and time savings that result almost immediately. Time savings is a benefit enjoyed by staff, paraprofessionals, and attorneys alike.

By freeing staff and paraprofessionals from repetitive clerical work, they are able to turn their attentions to more advanced tasks. This enables attorneys to spend more time on client-specific work. In turn, the firm generates more revenue.

How can a digital office lead to lower operational costs?

In the long term, operational costs can be reduced significantly by converting to a digital office. Reduced paper consumption is, perhaps, a more obvious savings opportunity. But using less paper is just the start—think of all of the overhead costs required to organize, store, and dispose of that paper. From banker’s boxes to redwelds to file folders, the purchase of office supplies for storing and organizing paper files becomes unnecessary.

Photocopying costs are reduced dramatically. Documents can be accessed by any attorney in the firm, so the need to send a paper copy via interoffice mail is eliminated. When pleadings are received, the client can be sent a copy via e-mail instead of in paper format, in which case the savings extends beyond the copy cost to include the cost of an envelope and postage.

Another, more long-term, benefit of the digital office is reduced storage costs. In the digital office, closed files are not boxed up and shipped off-site for long-term storage. Instead, they are burned onto a CD or saved in another electronic format, which can then be tucked away in a binder in a filing cabinet and backed up on the firm’s server. If needed later, there is no need to call the Records Department and request the file be hauled back. Simply pull the needed documents from your desktop.

A Plea for PDF: How Adobe Acrobat Can Revolutionize Your Practice

It’s true. Adobe Acrobat 9 is the best legal-technology product there is.  Law Technology News confirmed this conclusion at its annual awards last week at LegalTech when it selected Acrobat as the winner for “New Product of the Year.”  (Second year in a row, by the way.) 

I am passionate about Acrobat.  No, really.  It has revolutionized the way I practice law and I am committed to communicating its benefits with others.  Just ask anyone in my department–they’ll attest to my near-zealous devotion.  I’ve been totally digital since 2005.  (I prefer the term, “digital.”  “Paperless” is a bit exaggerated.)  So I’m always surprised to hear others say that the conversion to digital is a pipe dream.  It’s not hard, I promise. 

There are so many benefits and features of integrating PDF into your legal practice that I can’t begin to address them all here.  Instead, I’m going to cover some of my favorites in a series of posts over the next several weeks.  To get you started, I’ll leave you with this video, called Stop Stupid PDF Syndrome Now.  If you don’t “get it” entirely, then you definitely should stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series. 

From the video’s creators:

Stop creating stupid PDF files for your printer. Preserve all the power of PDF by asking for Adobe’s PDF Print Engine technology.

This is a great introduction to the value of using the “print to Adobe PDF” feature instead of scanning hard copies of your documents.