PDF Best Practices for the Legal Profession

Many firms and their clients are moving toward paperless offices (or at least, toward less paper, which is a feat in and of itself for most businesses and legal organizations). Meanwhile, clients are accessing law firm publications on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and large multiple-monitor desktop environments. It’s safe to say that with the proliferation of these devices, reading many kinds of legal documents occurs more frequently in the digital realm than on paper these days.

Needless to say, PDF has played a big role in this shift. Communications between clients, lawyers, and the courts, that once took weeks, now happen in minutes. Attorney questions are answered on the web, often published via PDF software originating within the firm. Still the law has an immense appetite for documents that need to be archived, retrieved, shared, and posted. Which is where PDF software becomes even more important to the legal profession.

Here’s how can you and your legal organization take full advantage of what PDF software has to offer you.

PDF Best Practices for Legal

As new usability features are added to PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF, some apply to the legal industry most directly.

For example, if you’re expecting your PDF content, such as your firm’s marketing brochures, to be printed, or you plan to do a large campaign that may benefit from personalization, consider exploring the PDF/VT standard. It allows you access to far better graphics, which, in turn, make for better printing. And you treat your PDFs as personalized campaigns in which you can address each recipient individually.

As many legal documents may be archived for long periods of time but will need to be accessible far into the future, consider using PDF/A. This ISO-standardized version of PDF was created specifically to enable you to preserve electronic documents over the long haul.
But how about getting your valuable and informative legal documents found online when they’re in PDF? Fortunately, it’s easy to make PDF documents search-engine-friendly by using the same SEO practices used on the web in PDF documents, such as:

  • Adding internal links.
  • Linking PDFs to other web pages.
  • Using keywords.
  • Optimizing images.
  • Keeping file size down.

Some other best practices for publishing PDF-based papers include:

  • Increase navigation by deep linking PDFs. You can enhance usability by deep-linking web pages to pages within a PDF document so that readers can jump directly to subtopics, and re-orienting the initial view and screen-size for the audience when they’re likely to be using tablets or smartphones.
  • Use PDF/A when filing documents. Many courts and legal entities around the country are beginning to require electronic filing. Some even specify PDF as the required format. So again, it makes sense to use PDF/A as it’s adapted for digital preservation and omits features that won’t work in long-term archives.
  • Use PDF/A for scanned documents when archiving. You may be able to make your PDF-to-PDF/A conversion a single step by using your document scanner. Many have embedded software that can view your PDF document and automatically convert the data into a searchable PDF/A file.
  • Ensure your PDF documents are secure. Of course, legal matters often mean confidential matters, so you may want to keep your PDF documents protected from prying eyes by using state-of-the art PDF Security features such as password protection, certificate protection and other security techniques.
  • Authenticate and validate users. You may want to use digital signatures or even obtain digital IDs from third-party validators to authenticate the identities of users as well as the document content. (See Chapter 9 – Security in the Foxit PhantomPDF User Manual for details.)

PDF software will be part of legal web publishing for a long time so it makes sense to use the PDF format to the best of its abilities to make legal work as streamlined as possible. After all, you’ve got enough to keep you busy.

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