The easier way to bring your files to court.
By John Harding (California)
How many times have you dragged an entire banker’s box worth of documents to court, never opened it, and then dragged it back to the office? Think about it. Do we really need to carry a set of binders with us for a case management conference, or a settlement conference? My answer to you is no! There is an easier way.
We make extensive use of Adobe Acrobat in our firm. Every document for a case is converted into an Adobe Acrobat .pdf format file. Those files are then attached to and stored within the client’s electronic file on our computer systems. In our office, this conversion process is completed with our copy machine (most if not all commercial copiers now come with network connectivity and a .pdf conversion engine as part of the standard software). The beauty of this system is that it allows everyone in the firm to have easy access to every document in any case. There is no pressing need to retrieve paper files from the storage room, or to wait if someone else is working with the paper file. Any of our team members can access a file when working in the office, and when working remotely. This system also allows us to transfer entire client files to laptop computers or tablet (for me, an iPad). That is how we get rid of the banker’s boxes.
With Adobe’s free Acrobat reader installed on a laptop computer, or with an affordable reader app on an iPad or tablet computer — I have taken a fancy to both GoodReader and ReadleDocs — the .pdf files can be readily opened and viewed on a mobile computer. The electronic case on your mobile device file then replaces the banker’s boxes and binders.
Keep in mind that the migration of files to a laptop is at present a bit simpler than the migration to a tablet. For a laptop, you simply log on to your network, drag and drop the electronic client file from your network storage to your laptop hard drive, and you are done. For tablets, the process can be a bit more cumbersome. The easiest way to transfer data to your iPad is via iTunes. However this requires a USB connection, from the PC that hosts your iTunes, to your iPad. You then drag and drop the .pdf files via iTunes.
You can also use the Dropbox app to accomplish the transfer. Here’s how: First, open the Dropbox app on your PC, then select the files for transfer over the Internet to your Dropbox account. Second, open Dropbox on your iPad or tablet and download the files. The process works great.
The GoodReader and ReadleDocs apps can synch automatically with your Dropbox account. However, because the transfers are accomplished over the air, more time is required. You can also program GoodReader and ReadleDocs to log on to your office network over the Internet. The apps can then pull the files directly. This requires a bit more high-end technical savvy, and you may need to consult with your IT support for help.
Will this box-less process work for every case? No. The boxes still come with me when I go to trial on a case, because I never know when I am going to have to produce an original, or a hard copy of a document. However, it does work brilliantly for less formal proceedings. With iPad in hand, I have access to any document I may need to answer a judge’s questions, or to respond to or make a point with opposing counsel. I have also successfully employed the system at less complicated adversarial hearings and law and motion proceedings. As a bit of insurance, I do print out the moving papers and responsive pleadings for the particular hearing, and that has always sufficed. When a question has come up that goes beyond those printed papers, I have always been able to adequately resort to the pertinent .pdf document on my computer in lieu of digging through the banker’s box.
And a final note: practice a bit before you get to court. Verify that all files have transferred to your mobile device. Then spent a bit of time familiarizing yourself with the names of the files, and the order in which they are listed on your device. This will help you to seamlessly integrate the device into the presentation of your case in court.
John E. Harding, JD, CFLS, AAML is the principal of the law firm of Harding & Associates, with offices in Pleasanton and Walnut Creek, California. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is certified as a specialist in the practice of family law by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Harding has maintained an active family law practice in Northern California since 1989. He practices family law litigation and divorce mediation exclusively.