PDF is both wide and deep. I don’t know if people recall the old ad campaign (when Acrobat Reader still sold for, like, $50) when Adobe basically promoted Acrobat and PDF as a better alternative to HTML for Web display. Then, in one of the most far-reaching business decisions of the era, Adobe decided to give the Reader away for free. And the print publishing world started to use PDF as a way to de-Babelize the files they used to prepare print materials. This led to the collection of tools we have today as Acrobat and the universe of non-Adobe PDF tools, almost none of which are specifically for the ‘legal market.’
Which brings us to Lawyers as Publishers. I don’t mean that as any sort of metaphor. We research, write, edit, and publish (under deadlines), just like journalists, authors, academics, etc. The good news is that, because of PDF’s roots in the publishing industry, there is a huge body of knowledge about workflow, automation, and customization of PDFs in that business. We legal folks would do well to learn from them, and to borrow their tools.
I’ve heard attorneys say that they don’t really have a ‘workflow’ like other professions, yadda yadda yadda, because every case is unique, blah blah blah. In fact, we do have such a flow, or no work would ever get out the door. Those publishing operations have spent huge amounts of money, effort, and time to optimize workflow. If you take the time to understand the ‘publishing’ aspects of your law business, you will be able to create a much more efficient flow yourself.
A law firm’s ‘publishing’ output is going to be print/paper, electronic filing (PDF), and archival. I hope that I can shed some light on ways to optimize your inputs and processes so you can get the output you need. Some of that will involve tools that aren’t ‘law office automation.’ So start thinking about how your firm is like the New York Times (or the Times-Picayune), and the ways those businesses use PDF as a critical business tool.