"Beware the Hidden Costs of Bad Formatting"

Pretty poor reaction to need for increased training given that documents produced by law firms are so important!

"When talking to law firms about training, I often hear the following statements: 'It's so easy, you don't need training'; 'If you can't learn it in an hour, it's not worth knowing'; and my favorite, 'We're getting documents out the door.'

"Law firms often use arguments like those mentioned above to skimp on training. However, there can be real bottom-line consequences to this kind of thinking. Training your users on proper document formatting can mean the difference between a document that will cost your firm unnecessary time, money and productivity and one that won't. For example, you can compare two visually identical 30-page Word documents side by side. They may look exactly the same, but one could require 2 1/2 minutes to make three basic changes while the other takes more than 60 minutes. What makes the difference? Formatting!

"Document formatting is not a sexy topic, but if you run the dollars on how much money it saves, you quickly realize how important a consideration it really is. A document that is poorly formatted [PDF] behind the scenes is full of tabs, hard returns and manual numbering. With these documents, every time text is added or deleted, someone must go into the text and remove tabs, adjust hard returns and page breaks and manually renumber the paragraphs. All formatting is direct formatting so that if the point size for 50 paragraphs needs to be changed, all 50 paragraphs must be formatted."

Good examples of formatting problems are included in the complete article.

Author Roberta Gelb, a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board, is also president of Chelsea Office Systems Inc., based in New York.


"PowerPoint 2007 Takes On the Fear Factor"

Here's where presentation-savvy paralegals [PPT] can save the day (or at least the PowerPoint slides). Still, it's good to hear that "Microsoft Corp.'s upgraded presentation tool adds user-friendliness to increased visual interest."

"The very word 'PowerPoint' instills grim fear in the hearts of would-be speakers and dread lethargy in the minds of would-be listeners. No other software application can boast such ominous power over sophisticated professionals.

"I've personally witnessed scores of skilled attorneys desperately plead for help in using Microsoft PowerPoint to express their stilted, creative side; and conversely, I've been in the company of many audiences that collectively cringe at the sight of another text-laden, bullet-pointed slide. (The FutureLawyer also feels the "pain of PowerPoint" eloquently illustrated by comedian Don McMillan).

"While the solution to many of these issues requires an organic acumen of presentation techniques and psychology (Dennis Kennedy and Cliff Atkinson's book are great places to start), the Microsoft Office 2007 team recognized that some adjustments had to be made to PowerPoint. Team members on the PowerPoint & OfficeArt Team Blog lamented the fact that 'the vast majority of users fail to create [stunning] documents [and presentations]' and vowed to make it easier to design visually effective presentations in PowerPoint 2007. That apparently was one impetus behind the development of Office Themes."

Author Brett Burney writes a monthly legal technology column for LLRX.com and contributes to ALM's Law.com Legal Technology section and Law Technology News magazine.


"Can Data Have a Life After a Death?"

Of course! Just be sure to utilize some basic, but smart, computer management skills:

"Everyone who has worked with a computer, even before the arrival of the Internet, knows the sickening feeling of loss. Without warning, hours of your work suddenly vanish from the screen. You hope (and pray) that perhaps it's been saved in a backup or temp file -- but often it's not. As your internal soundtrack turns up the volume on Don Henley and Glenn Frey, you realize that your carefully crafted project is 'already gone' -- and that it's not the time for a victory song. Instead, you will have to painstakingly recreate the work you had already done -- but didn't get a chance to (or even forgot to) save before the crash signaled by the apparently ubiquitous 'blue screen of death.'

"Fortunately, this problem is an easy one to fix -- before the fact. Periodic automatic save features can be turned on in many programs, such as Word, and 'Control S' has become an automatic part of typing for many people. On a systemwide basis, network administrators can generate minute-by-minute backups -- many thanks to David, Steve and the Help Desk at my firm, because their efforts have often saved me during computer or system crashes and blackouts."

Author Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, a business lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen P.C., helps clients solve e-commerce, corporate contract and technology-law problems, and is a member of e-Commerce Law & Strategy's Board of Editors. Jaskiewicz thanks his legal assistant, Frank Manzano, for his research support for this article.


"A case of semantics"

I've got two complaints about this news article. One, the problem is with spelling, not semantics. Two, the reporter automatically assigned blame to a legal assistant for the typos:

"Court documents can say the most amusing things. What's wrong with this sentence?

"'We can only view AT&T's and Cingular's continued attempt to jeopardize NASCAR's relationship with NETEL as tortuous interference with this agreement."

[snip]

"Enough of being torturous of the poor legal assistant who probably made the typos. In his or her defense, 'Nextel' won't pass word-processor spellcheck in any form. And 'tortious' is such a fine legal term that it isn't in standard spellcheck memory. But 'tortuous' is.

"The point is that in this, of all cases, you'd think NASCAR's general counsel's office would be more meticulous in its proofreading."

Yes, you would.....


"Word 2007 Review: A Ribbon Runs Through It"

Microsoft Word users rejoice! Getting the "biggest boosts to your daily productivity," as this author suggests, makes me want to give Word 2007 a try:

"We love it, we hate it -- we can't work a day without it.

"I've witnessed more people gnash their teeth over Microsoft Word than probably any other software application. But no matter how many times we cuss at the automatic bulleting/numbering feature, we will continue to use Word to edit documents.

[snip]

"The Ribbon has become the de facto moniker for the new look of the Office 2007 products, including Word 2007. For years, we've been programmed to use the 'File,' 'Edit' and 'View' toolbar commands at the top of Word. That's where things belong.

"The Ribbon in Word 2007 -- nobody choke here -- nullifies that bygone line of commands with an incredibly functional row of controls unfurled before our eyes.

"I know what you're thinking -- the same worries crossed my mind about how I finally learned how to use styles and create a table, and now Microsoft goes and changes everything. You won't believe me until you actually use Word 2007 for yourself, but the Ribbon could provide one of the biggest boosts to your daily productivity than you've seen in a long time."

Author Brett Burney writes a monthly legal technology column for LLRX.com and contributes to ALM's Law.com Legal Technology section and Law Technology News magazine.


"Will Lawyers Flip for Adobe Acrobat 8?"

Oh, I think so! This new version of Acrobat seems to solve some serious problems:

"When a major software company offers features that appeal directly to the legal community, it makes me happy. Version 8 of Adobe Acrobat blasted on the scene recently with some tasty ingredients that appeal directly to legal professionals, such as form field recognition, a "true" redaction tool and a Bates numbering wizard.

"Obviously, Acrobat users from all walks of life can benefit from the new features, but legal practitioners are sure to gain the most from the improved software."


"What's a Little Metadata Mining Between Colleagues?"

So, an organization sends a document to another without deleting the doc's metadata. And then it complains about that data being acessed!

"When Florida Bar president-elect Henry Coxe III brought up metadata mining to the Bar's board of governors, some board members conceded they had never heard of the practice.

"Coxe himself had only recently become aware that electronic documents could be mined for information about their history when it happened to a partner at this firm. At the board of governors meeting in December, he recounted the first time he became aware of metadata mining and its consequences.

"The partner at Coxe's firm had sent a brief to a lawyer at another firm who was working on a similar case. Based on the brief, which was sent electronically, the other firm was able to reconstruct every change that had been made to the document, including e-mails between Coxe's partner and his client -- a potential violation of attorney client privilege.

"Alarmed by the experience, Coxe urged the board to declare unethical the practice of culling through electronic documents to find hidden data about the history of the document.

[snip]

"Metadata and the law [PDF link] has also been cropping up in the news in recent years, as more lawyers and journalists become aware of metadata's existence. In 2004, SCO Group, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., filed lawsuits against DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone. However, metadata remained in the lawsuit revealing that it had initially intended to sue Bank of America, but switched defendants. The revelation, which was made by the media, not opposing counsel, amounted to a gift-wrapped argument for the defense."


"Dirty documents"?!?

Investor's Business Daily just published an article describing how documents -- like those created in Word & Acrobat -- may reveal more information than the authors intended:

"'Dirty documents'" have become another surprise glitch of the computer age.

"A dirty document is, in fact, most items written in two of the most popular formats there are: Microsoft's Word and Adobe Systems' Acrobat, which includes the PDF format.

"Word and Acrobat, as simply one of their normal features, can retain all early versions of any document [PDF link]. So all changes and notes made by document writers could be viewed by most anyone -- unless this feature is turned off or some other measures taken.

"In many cases, the feature is automatically off. But not always. And it's fair to say a large number of users don't know about this feature, to their occasional embarrassment -- or worse."

Kudos if you knew this already!