Case management and presentation technology like TrialDirector offer a way to review and manage case documents more efficiently on a computer. But, to take advantage of this efficiency, your documents must be in the computer. You need to go digital.
There are several other benefits to going digital besides faster document review.
You can drastically reduce clutter. All the piles of documents around your desk could be gone, and you could walk in and out of your office without having to worry about toppling the paper city you’ve constructed over time.
With less clutter comes better organization. Using a computer makes it much easier to find documents and less likely you’ll lose them. Not much is worse than finding out a document was misfiled somewhere in the canyons of filing cabinets. When your documents are on a computer, they’re much easier to find if someone puts them in the wrong location.
Also, when you use technology to manage your case documents, there are countless tools available to make managing those documents much easier. You can quickly review, annotate, and eventually present much more professional-looking items in much less time.
But how do you go digital, exactly? What does it take, and what do you need to do?
In very general terms, you pretty much have two options for getting your documents into the computer:
- Ask for digital documents from the start of a case
- Scan each document manually
Let’s dig into both options.
Doing it from the Start
This option is by far the easiest and most cost-effective since you wouldn’t even have to waste time dealing with physical documents at all.
Usually, when a case starts, you are in control of how you receive documents from clients and the opposition. Instead of paper, simply request the documents be delivered on a disc or portable hard drive.
Even if the organizations delivering the documents only have physical copies, requesting digital copies puts the burden on them to scan them into a computer.
You might want to specify the file formats you prefer. You can request “native” file formats, if available, or “image” formats.
Native file formats are files that can be opened and edited directly in whatever program they were created with, like Word (.doc) or WordPerfect (.wpd). While it might not always be feasible for people to deliver native file formats to you, these formats are beneficial because they contain “metadata” by default.
Metadata basically provides information about the file in question. For example, it can give you the author of the document and the day it was created, making it easier for you to set up a chronology of where the document fits in each case’s story.
Image file formats are just pictures of documents. These may be much easier to come by than native files. The most common image types are JPG, PNG, and PDF. Note, while one JPG or PNG file is just one picture of one page of a document, PDFs can contain many pages of a document in one PDF file, making it much easier to store and keep track of multi-page letters or other court documents common in any case.
TrialDirector does provide options to organize image files like JPGs and PNGs into multipage documents, but having it done for you in a PDF is much more effective.
But, what’s that you say? Your case already started? You’re doing the research yourself, and all you have to work with are books and paper? There must be a transition somewhere. Here’s what you can do:
From Paper to Digital
To get all the information contained on all that paper into a computer, you need a scanner. There are all kinds, and the one you want depends completely on how much you’re willing to pay and how fast you want to go. You can get a cheap scanner that lets you do one document at a time, or you can get a scanner that lets you feed multiple pages into it at once and it will cycle through each page for you. Considering how many documents you’re probably working with; the latter may be the best option.
You might want to check the printer you’re currently using in your office. Chances are, it has the scanning features you need.
“But, scanning each of these documents, it sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t have the time.”
We hear you. We understand. Going paperless is a big undertaking, but in our opinion, it’s absolutely worth it. The initial time investment is minuscule compared to the amount of time you save down the road, especially if you commit to working with all your cases digitally.
But if you really can’t spare the time, you might consider hiring some temporary help to get you started.
Again, the initial investment will be worth it long term.
Also, as you scan your pages, you’ll want to think about the quality settings of each scanned image, especially resolution settings.
Every computer screen has a certain resolution and resolution is determined by pixels. Pixels are all the little boxes that make up the picture on the screen. So, the higher a resolution, or the more pixels, the clearer the picture will be.
However, some people mistakenly think setting the resolution of a scanned image to its absolute maximum is the way to go since they assume they’ll get the best, clearest image, especially if they want to expand that image to a larger screen, like in trial presentation on a projector. It’s not necessarily true, and there are other things you need to consider as well.
For one thing, images don’t need the highest resolution to be clear, especially on large screens. They only need what is sufficient, and a picture’s resolution can be pretty low to be sufficient even by today’s standards.
The reason you want to think about reducing resolution is the space each scanned image takes up on a computer. Each file you scan takes up space. The higher the resolution, the more amount of space.
Consider too, if the file is so big, it might not show up very fast when you’re trying to present it at trial, making long pauses and sometimes uncertainty or awkward situations. You don’t want that in front of a jury.
Another space consideration is if you also want to set a document up for Optical Character Recognition (OCR). When you OCR a document, you make the text searchable and selectable, making it easier to find what you’re looking for as you review documents. But OCR also makes the file size for the document bigger. Ask yourself if you really need this document to be searchable or if it is just a filler in the pile. If you don’t need the search and selection features, you may want to save the space.
So, there’s a quick overview of what it would take to go digital. But we understand there may be a nagging feeling still in the back of your mind…
Is It Worth It?
In short, yes. But let us flip a question back to you. Is the initial time investment worth the future peace of mind of having a clean office? Is it worth the monumental amount of time you save by not having to dig through physical paper to find what you need? Is it worth feeling confident as you want into trial with a simplified setup and more effective strategy?
We say it is, and we want those things for you. Don’t print another piece of paper again. Go paperless!
Once you go paperless, consider using TrialDirector, the leading software in trial technology, for your case management and trial presentation needs. Check out our website to learn more and connect with us on social media!
What file formats do you prefer when working with case items on the computer and why?
What scanners have you used that are especially useful?