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Column: Innovative trial techniques on a shoestring budget

Editorial Indiana
November 23, 2011
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Tensions are high and sleep levels are low. Preparing for an upcoming trial often causes anxiety at every level within a firm. While most would like to prepare things more efficiently, it often seems that purchasing the “right” software would simply be too costly. The truth is most firms already possess many of the “right tools” and are merely underutilizing them, while other tools are easily attainable. Below are several common trial preparation tasks and affordable solutions to complete them in a more efficient and effective manner.

deanna finney Finney

The need to convert files to PDF format is very common these days. While many people are aware of the ability to scan to PDF, some do not recognize that electronic files can simply be converted to PDF without expensive software. In fact, users that have Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010 have a “Save to PDF” feature built in to the “Save As” options within all of their Office programs. With a document open, users can simply choose the “Save As” function and select “PDF” from the “file type” drop-down as well as the name and location to which they would like to save the PDF file. Another great option is CutePDF Writer (www.cutepdf.com), a free tool that allows you to “print” any file to a PDF format. Once installed, this tool will appear in the list of available printers. To convert a file to PDF, simply open the file or webpage and choose print. Next, select the “Cute PDF” printer and when prompted, enter the name and location to save the newly created PDF file.

Document markups can be painstakingly monotonous, including tasks such as bates stamping pages, redacting information and highlighting key points. While some people try to finagle their way through these tasks using things like whiteout, Post-it notes and a scanner, there is a much more efficient way that is cost effective, too. Many files are already in PDF format which makes editing the PDF an obvious choice. However, with the full version of Adobe Professional retailing for roughly $450 per license, it is not always a feasible solution for every firm. A great alternative that is a fraction of the price is CutePDF Professional (www.cutepdf.com). This tool allows users to delete and reorder pages, crop and rotate pages, combine multiple documents into a single PDF and quickly insert headers and footers including bates numbers. Redacting, highlighting and additional markup tools including a “typewriter” function are also available and easy to utilize. CutePDF Professional also allows users to easily convert PDF files to image files such as JPEG or TIFF.

Staying organized can be a challenge, especially in document intensive cases. While there are many great tools like Summation and Concordance, many firms choose not to use them due to their high price tag and extensive learning curve. A favorite alternate solution to maintain a hyperlinked exhibit list is Microsoft Excel. Keeping an exhibit list in Excel format allows users to easily sort, filter, keyword search and track lots of information about the documents in a tool that most firms already own. In fact, users can even hyperlink the corresponding document(s) on the list to easily click and open documents on demand. Excel hyperlinking is as easy as 1-2-3: 1. Select the cell to hyperlink. 2. Right click and select hyperlink. 3. Browse out and select the corresponding document. Voila! Now, the selected cell will appear with bright blue font and upon clicking, the corresponding document will automatically open.

The continual need to share information with co-counsel, expert witnesses and others can quickly become costly when CDs, DVDs and shipping are involved. Sharing files electronically has historically not been an option for many due to additional administration of remote servers and expensive software like Citrix. Some fear using online file sharing programs like Dropbox due to the bad publicity surrounding its security protocols and questions of data ownership. There is a secure and affordable alternative available at www.yousendit.com. YouSendIt implements a seven-layer security strategy to keep data safe and secure in addition to making it clear that they will “not claim any ownership rights in any User Files.” Even better, YouSendIt is a primarily free program with a paid option for users wanting to store or send more than 2GB of data at once. With YouSendIt, users can quickly upload and send documents that are too large to email or set up shared folders and make content available to others whom they invite.

It is often difficult to implement new solutions during the heat of trial preparation, so plan ahead and explore these solutions in advance. Small investments like these can greatly reduce the enormous expense of inefficiencies.•

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Deanna Finney (deanna.finney@miscindiana.com) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis-based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  • Positive Solutions
    I highly recommend Deanna and her team of professionals that serve the legal community. Great information and many thanks for sharing.

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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