Reduce PDF for Court E-filings

Compressing or reducing PDF  document file size for e-filing with a court

E-filing documents saves a tremendous amount of time. But, getting file sizes right can be a huge headache. Our local e-filing (Utah) limits file size to about 7mb. Our local federal district court limits PDF file size to 10mb. Often times, a file that seems too large to upload as a single document can be compressed or reduced in size. PDF files now come from a variety of sources (clients, opposing counsel, online). We have no control over the settings when creating the original document. Cleaning up the pdf can often reduce the file size and allow filing without splitting up the document into multiple uploads. However, if you think you can compress a 452 page exhibit down to 10mb, you’re probably dreaming. File size remains a function of the analog document. Keep in mind that reducing below 150 dpi using any of these procedures may make small text virtually unreadable and may also effect the ability to convert to usable OCR.

Option #1 – Print and rescan the entire document and scan ‘good’ scan settings, i.e. 150 dpi. Of course, printing and re-scanning the document eliminates many of the efficiencies associated with using electronic versions of the file and wastes a tremendous amount of paper.

Option #2 – Use built in tools for Acrobat, Preview or PDF PenPro. In Preview, select file > export, then choose ‘Quartz Filter’ and ‘Reduce File Size’ from the drop down menus. Using Preview, you’re likely to get a reduction that makes small text difficult to read. PDF PenPro uses the same ‘filter’ as Preview, so you’re not going to get much mileage there. Acrobat has some very powerful file reduction features and granular control under the file > save as (from drop down choose Adobe PDF Files, Optimized). But, if there are any oddities in the document, you can end up with errors coming from who-knows-which-page. If you keep it simple and don’t muck around too much with the settings, you can get a good result. Pro-tip: Create a ‘temp’ folder on your desktop. Copy all exhibits to that folder. Create a batch process for reducing file size and run it on all exhibits after they have been put in the temp folder. Now you can visually see which of those files, even after reduction, is not going to pass the through the e-file size restrictions.

Option #3 – Use a ‘paid-for’ utility from the app store. Right now there are three paid utilities on the Mac App Store, PDF Squeezer ($3.99)(View in Mac App Store) allows you to create your own filter settings and has built in settings which work well, but no batch procession; PDF Compress Expert ($3.99)(View in Mac App Store) a little bit clunky interface with no option to rename documents, but does allow batch processing; PDF Compressor ($29.99)(View in Mac App Store) which also allegedly allows ‘batch processing,’ but is simply too expensive to purchase for review here.

Option #4 – Roll your own or DIY. The ‘paid for’ versions are, at bottom, doing something that any user can do using Automator or AppleScript. There are at least a couple articles out there that teach you how to create your own ‘filter’ on the Mac which will then be accessible in either PDF PenPro or Preview. If you are a hacky type, go roll your own.

For now, it does not appear that there is an easy way to accomplish PDF file size reduction using an iPad.

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Back to Basics – iPad eFiling

The last post identified iCab as a means for uploading, aka efiling, documents and  pleadings from your iPad. Folks have, however, struggled with some of the basics. Here’s a short picture story on how to get the job done.

1. From the app where the document resides, look for an arrow/box in the upper right corner. This is called the “Open In” button or dialog. Most apps are standardized on the iOS interface which locates it in the upper right corner. For example, with Dropbox it looks like this:

Step 1 Open Inv

2. Once you tap that open in button, scroll through your various apps until you locate iCab and tap that icon. iCab will no open and load the document you were looking at in the previous app.

Step 2 Choose iCab

3. Open a new tab in iCab and log in to your e-filing account. When you get to the button or dialog that requires you to select your pleading or document for upload, tap that button and iCab will display a list of available documents, including the document you just chose through the “Open In” dialog. Select that document and iCab should upload it to the e-filing portal. Your mileage may vary depending on the portal, but I’ve not had problems yet here in Utah.

Step 3 Login Upload

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iPad: E-filing & Uploading Docs

As more and more lawyers adopt iPads, and more and more courts move to e-filing the question inevitably arises: How the ?>#!* do I upload that Motion to Kiss My Ass from my iPad?*

After researching the issue, not a lot of options exist for uploading documents from the iPad. The built in Safari web browser doesn’t support uploading to a website. PDF Expert, GoodReader and iAnnotate also lack the ability to log into an e-filing portal and upload. However, a $1.99 iPad browser called iCab does allow uploading for e-filing pleadings. I tested it with our local court e-filing here in Utah and with the Utah Federal iCab Efiling Web BrowserDistrict court ECF. It worked on both systems. As always, Your Mileage May Vary based on your particular jurisdiction and, of course, the substance and tone of your filing will neither be improved nor reduced by using iCab to e-file court documents.

* (See, Washington v. Alaimo, 934 F. Supp. 1395 (S.D. Ga. 1996)).

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Siri, vCards and Private Me

Siri: Your Personal Assistant, But Maybe a Bit of a Blabber Mouth.

By now you probably know that you can tell Siri to “send a message to my wife” or “give me directions home” and she will do so. If not, she probably doesn’t yet know your wife or home address. So, tell Siri “My wife is [First Name] [Last Name].” The same, or similar, can be done for your home address.

Trouble begins when you go to share your business contact information by sending someone your vCard. Your contact card now also carries a whole bunch of info (home address, wife’s name, father’s name etc.) that you may not want to share with a professional colleague or client.

The solution lies in the Contacts app. Open up Contacts, Open Preferences and check the box that says “Enable private me card.” Now, open your personal card, click edit, and you can select the information you want to share or uncheck boxes next to information you wish to keep private.

vCard

 

Contacts

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Google Reader Closing – Alternative for RSS Feeds

Google Reader has provided my (and most everybody’s) sole source of news feeds from  favorite blogs for a number of years now. Google will close the Reader service on July 1st. After playing around with a few alternatives, I’ve landed with Feedly as my new RSS reader. Feedly is actually a very pleasant improvement over Google Reader. The web based service also has apps for iOS. Feedly’s iOS apps are very slick and sync with the online service. Marking items read, starred or tagged through a browser or an app syncs that info across all the platforms. Feedly also offers one-click sharing and archiving with a number of services. One click sharing includes LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. Archiving can be done in a single click to Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket and Del.icio.us. The all important ability to export from Feedly, however, is still in the works. The developers state that OPML export is on the way.

If you’re not convinced to use Feedly and still want to poke around looking for alternatives, here are some good round-ups:

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Switching to Macs in Your Law Office? Handy Guide Here.

Macworld published a really user friendly conversion table showing the Mac equivalent of Windows system settings and basic programs. If you are a lawyer or attorney switching to the Mac, the table is a really great quick reference that I wish I’d had available when our office made the switch.

Switch to Mac - Conversion chart for Windows software and settings.

Switch to Mac – Conversion chart for Windows software and settings.

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Timestream Case Analysis Tool & Review

Case Analysis Using Timestream

Well designed and smooth interface. A nice approach to viewing cases from a chronological perspective and virtually no learning curve. Features a bit limited on the 1.0 release given for review and few quirks. Lawyers looking for a different view of their case facts might find a place for Timestream in their toolkit.

Getting Info Into Timestream

Putting events into Timestream is fairly straightforward, but with a few quirks. Events consist of date, time and description. Files can also be associated with an event via the Finder or drag and drop. Tags can be added to events. Tags are a bit quirky. If you have ever used a tagging system with software before (Evernote, DEVONthink etc.) you probably expect to be able to just start typing a tag in the Tags field and, if the tag already exists it will autocomplete. If the tag does not exist, hitting return will add a new tag once you finish typing the word. Timestream requires each tag to be entered using a mouse click on a “+” button and selecting the tag. This must be done for each tag added to an event.

Filtering & Searching Case Info

Searching can be done on the fly by selecting a tag, using word search across titles and descriptions or a combination of both. Searches on words can be single word, boolean and include at least rudimentary wild card support, e.g. surger* will return all results for surgery and surgeries. Saved searches can also be created using either or both, but with the added benefit that more than one tag at a time may be used for the search. Selection of more than one tag requires that ALL of those tags be present. I.E. it is an ‘and’ type search and cannot be changed to an either/or search for multiple tags. Searching only occurs on information entered in Timestream and does not extend to attached files, so it won’t search through any of the attached PDF text.

Case Analysis Mac Software Timestream

Summary

At this point, the software is well developed, does not seem buggy and provides a useful tool if you aren’t already doing case analysis in a manner that allows you to see your case facts chronologically. A few more features would be nice, including the ability to see events in a list or spreadsheet view as opposed to being stuck with the timeline view. It would also be good if the app searched the text inside attached files which contain searchable text. Additionally, import and export functions would be much appreciated and perhaps help with data entry as well. Finally, it would be great if all of your hard work could be shown in a ‘presentation’ view format or at least be exportable for use by other time lining software such as BeeDocs 3D Timeline. Although Timestream bills itself as capable of converting a timeline into a ‘multi-modal, multi-media presentation tool that runs in any web browser,’ that feature is not currently available in the testing program provided for review.

Timestream is cross-platform and there are plans for iOS apps as well. Pricing is not yet available.

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Jury Selection or ‘Voir Dire’ With an iPad

The maturing iPad and iOS system offer a a number of approaches and apps for use in jury selection, or voir dire. Here’s a review of a relatively new player JuryPad, recent updates to JuryStar and reference to old standbys using a spreadsheet or Bento. One caveat to all of these methods for jury selection: During attorney conducted voir dire, you need someone running the iPad. Attempting to track juror responses and engage in a meaningful give and take with jurors during questioning while simultaneously operating an iPad is just too complicated. [March 15, 2013: Original post omitted coverage of iJuror, now covered below].

JuryPad: iPad App for Jury Selection – Review

JuryPad ($24.99) offers a fairly intuitive and standard iOS interface. Large icons and text make it easy to navigate. JuryPad uses a form input method for gathering juror information during selection process or pre-populating with information prior to selection if you are in a forum that allows access to jury pool names in advance.

JuryPad lets the user set the rows columns for the pool which is very nice because not all courtrooms have the same number of chairs/rows for holding the pool. The user can then place the jurors in the appropriate pool seat as they reflecting the actual courtroom layout visually. Each juror is represented by an avatar reflecting the sex and race of the individual juror. The inclusion of race in each avatar is a nice feature for Batson issues and giving a quick visual as to what is going on.

From the courtroom/pool screen, juror detail information can be quickly accessed, and you can complete any unanswered questions and fill in new information as it arises. From the layout screen it is also very easy to strike jurors for cause, as a peremptory by either side or chosen for being a member of the jury. JuryPad accommodates both the ‘seat and strike’ method as well as the method where all questioning is conducted prior to exercising strikes at a bench conference. When seating jurors, once the designated number of necessary jurors has been met, the app pops up a box telling the juror that the selection process is complete.

Visual cues are also included for jurors who have been stricken, but it would be better if the app indicated whether the strike was for cause or which side exercised the strike. Additionally, the ‘custom’ jury selection questions only allow for ‘yes-no’ type questions. This is probably the greatest problem for use in jury selection as open ended questions are the preferred method of eliciting information and opinions from jurors. Additionally, ‘custom’ jury selection question templates are an all or nothing approach. You must select a single set of custom questions to include in each trial. This is unfortunate because there are discreet issues in every trial which lend themselves to template based questioning, but which do not arise in all trials. For example, in a civil tort case, liability might be conceded but there is still a need to question regarding bias in deciding damages. It would be better if individual modules of custom jury selection questions could be added, rather than being forced to pick one long outline.

Last, JuryPad offers the ability to share a single trial with other trial team members. Allowing one team member to create the basic jury selection plan and share it with all others is a smart move and an easy way keep everyone on the same page.

JuryStar: iPad App for Jury Selection

JuryStar ($39.99) has been around longer than JuryPad. The app was originally considered for review on release in December of 2011. Unfortunately, JuryStar used a ‘locked’ jury grid which made the app useless for anything other than the seat and strike method, and even that was questionable considering that jury rows and number of chairs vary from courtroom to courtroom. Several updates from the developer have cured this original limitation, allowing customization of the number of rows and columns for juror pool seating.

Unlike JuryPad, the app does offer a more flexible load of ‘custom’ voir dire questions. And, individual modules of questions can be loaded in as necessary. JuryStar also uses a ‘slider’ to rate jurors on each area of questioning. The slider compliments and makes possible open ended questions resulting in a more natural  information flow during of voir dire. As information is gathered and jurors rated, the rating summary at the bottom of the jury box changes to reflect the bias of the potential juror. For example, the rating for each area of questioning is displayed in the juror’s box, i.e. an abbreviation for SPD reflecting attitudes about special damages displays a number -5 through +5 and provides a total of all question areas at the bottom. The app also provides a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button which changes the color of the box from yellow to red or green. JuryStar gives the lawyer an easy reference to raise strikes for cause and intelligently exercise peremptories.

When exercising strikes, the juror is removed from the pool and placed in a box reflecting peremptory us, them or court stricken. The undo button, however, can be a bit finicky. During use, the undo button only works for the last juror stricken and stops working altogether if you go back to the voir dire screen. A small mistake here could lock you into a pool that does not accurately reflect the strikes and completely derail the setup in JuryStar.

JuryStar gets a bit hung up on the user interface end. The app is a little bit unintuitive and is not iOS standard. Accordingly, there is a bit more of a learning curve with JuryStar. Additionally, JuryStar operates only in portrait mode with no rotation to take advantage of the wider screen in landscape.

 

Overall, it’s a tough call as to which app is better. JuryPad wins not only on price, but also ease of use. JuryStar wins on feedback, ability to rate jurors during voir dire, and custom question templates but loses ground for it’s interface and undo function. Both would be recommended in the absence of any other approach and both certainly excel over the old scribbled notes on yellow legal pad method.

iJuror: iPad App for Jury Selection

Almost immediately after posting, the developer of iJuror contacted me asking to include that app in this post as well. iJuror ($19.99) provides many of the same features discussed above. But, iJuror offers just about the best over-all summary/visual feedback for rating each juror. Both color and rating can be made to appear, as well as race/sex on each individual juror. The panel can be customized and, best of all, roulette style pickers can be customized as well for quick data entry during selection on important key issues. While offering some benefits over JuryStar and JuryPad, iJuror is somewhat confusing in layout and user-interface. There are two modes for jurors, info and note, yet the notes field is contained in the info mode while none of the detailed demographic and stock info is detailed in the note mode. Additionally, answer space for custom text questions is limited to only about a single sentence. Exercising strikes is relatively easy, and jurors can be placed in the box by drag and drop. The app also offers two additional ‘in-app’ purchases: Juror Scoring ($4.99) and Juror Behavior ($9.99) which expand the capability of the app beyond initial voir dire and selection.

Old Standbys for iPad Jury Selection

There are also a few old standbys for jury selection. The spreadsheet method, which still gets used from time to time, can be easily modified to incorporate a wide variety of issues and circumstances. Numbers on the iPad is a simple, easy to use spreadsheet app and can easily adapt to creating a jury selection template. It’s not that great, but it’ll do in a pinch. There’s also this old but simple Bento approach to jury selection developed here on MacLitigator some years ago. The Bento template is still my preferred method to this day mainly because of the filters built in which allow marking jurors as those to be stricken (either peremptory or for-cause) and then viewed as a final panel. JuryPad and JuryStar, however, are both getting very close to replacing that old Bento approach.

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Trial Notebook iPad App – Review

TabLit recently released Trial Notebook ($69.99), an app aimed at making trial preparation easier and more organized for lawyers. The app is a great concept with a good start, but is still a bit rough around the edges and a bit of a learning curve as it took about 2 hours to become familiarized and comfortable working with the app.

Trial Notebook Concept

Any lawyer who has taken more than a few cases to trial is familiar with the concept of a trial notebook. Everything that matters gets placed into the three or two ring binder ‘notebook’ and neatly organized by tabs. Though each lawyer may have their own preferences, the basics in a civil case usually include tabs for: Case Info/Summary; To-Do List; Witnesses; Jury Selection; Jury Instruction; Damages; Exhibits; Pleadings/Orders; Opening; and, Closing.

Making the Trial Notebook Electronic – iPad

The iPad begs to be used as an electronic version of the trial notebook. Transitioning the trial notebook concept to the tablet platform makes perfect sense. TabLit’s approach takes the standard concept of a trial notebook and adds in the features which would be expected of an electronic version, including word search for the entire notebook. In each ‘tab,’ Trial Notebook allows creation of two main types of page: outline mode or checklist mode. In addition there are two other types of page: a ‘document’ based page and a ‘contacts’ based page. The contacts page will pull info from iOS Contacts. However, it is a bit unpolished in use because it doesn’t allow searching or sorting of iOS contacts, making it virtually impossible to locate the contact you want to add to your trial notebook.

Trial Notebook currently allows Dropbox integration in a ‘download’ only mode with no two-way sync. Documents, including images, PDFs, and Word docs all download fine and are viewable in the app. In fact, Trial Notebook was extremely fast and stable while downloading an entire set of folders and subfolders on a complex litigation case that is just weeks shy of a jury trial, including a prior trip up the appellate court ladder. Many other apps have choked and crashed trying to download data this large from Dropbox. PDFs are not indexed even if they have been OCR’d, only text within the app shows up in searches. The app also includes the ability to track the admission of exhibits, i.e. documents are added from the main library to an ‘Evidence’ or ‘Exhibits’ page and they can be check-boxed (customizable). The developers plan to include two-way Dropbox sync as well as PDF annotation in a not-too-distant release. A premium pay-to-use service is also in the work. The service allows staff to collaborate and add items to a notebook via an online interface. Allowing staff to modify and add items through a web-based interface at the office and sync those directly down to the iPad is a good idea for attorneys on the go.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the ability to pick an item from anywhere else in the notebook and drop it on the page you are currently viewing. So, in use, you could include a reference to an exhibit within a witness examination outline and the reference would also pull the checkboxes for admitted/denied. At that point in the examination, after moving admission, you could then check the appropriate box and the check would also be reflected on the main exhibit list page. Checklist items (for example for elements of proof) could be used in the same fashion. Additionally, tapping the hyperlink will jump you directly to the referenced item. Unfortunately, there is no plan to allow presentation of the exhibit via an AppleTV or VGA adapter cable. Also, beware: there is no ‘back’ button or recent item navigation so it may make it hard to find your way back to the examination outline in the middle of trial.

Text formatting on the outline pages is a bit odd, with icons that are pixelated and reminiscent of Word ’95. Additionally, there are many spots in the app that, from a user interface standpoint, are just plain silly. For example, when creating a New Checklist type page, you are presented with the option to save or discard the new page via an ‘X’ button or save via a ‘floppy disc’ icon…. Really. A floppy disc icon on an iPad.

Picking nits aside, the app really is a great concept and the developers are very responsive. As the app matures and further develops these 1.0 bumps will, no doubt, be resolved. If you don’t already have a system in place for an electronic trial notebook (such as Circus Ponies Notebook; OmniOutliner; PDF based or otherwise), TabLit’s Trial Notebook could provide you a useful starting point.

 

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Fantastical for iPhone

Calendar Alternative for iPhone

Fantastical has been released for iPhone. Long available for the Mac, Fantastical for the iPhone is exactly, precisely, what a calendar should look like and how a calendar should function on your iPhone. Limited time initial release pricing is only $1.99 and so so worth it.

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