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The Changing Face Of “Documents” In Criminal Defense Law | Part Two

Best Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys Part Two in a series on electronic “document” issues and how they impact criminal defense law.

You might say that the pen is still mightier than the sword. The sword being the many off-the-shelf and enterprise OCR litigation support programs and the pen being good old fashioned handwriting. Despite many advances in predictive coding and OCR (optical character recognition) the handwritten notes or archived handwritten pages still defy a quick and easy solution to digital discovery in litigation.

Without hands-on review of handwritten or legacy documents (especially in cold case prosecutions) there is virtually no way to know what was on those pages. Predictive coding softwares may do a good job of isolating that which and it can read digitally and that which it cannot, but there is no way of knowing if that stray chicken scratch in the upper right hand corner of the page is from a chicken or the witness who may exonerate your client from serious charges.

For a busy law office providing criminal defense law in Seattle and Yakima as well as Pierce, Grant, Benton, Spokane, Dougas, Whatcom and Snohomish counties the ablility to handle both document intensive as well as smaller cases requires two different approaches. One using super-sophisticated litigation support software and the other, the extremely effective workhouse Adobe Acrobat.

For the average computer user Adobe may have made the same mistake Microsoft did when they named some of their softwares. The millions of hours they have been spent answering questions during support calls for persons and businesses in the history of consumer computer use, because Microsoft called their file structure “Explorer” and their browsing for going online, “Internet Explorer.” Makes perfect sense to a computer guy but it has confused and baffled millions, “But I am in the ‘explorer’. Why am I not online?” The computer geek replies, “Well, actually you are just in your files.” Well, Adobe called it’s PDF creator and remarkable database, annotation and design tool, Adobe Acrobat. The thing that everyone has their computer for free is the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Acrobat is a massive software resource. Reader basically lets you read. Not the same animal.

Especially in the field of law, Acrobat is the creator of of much of the ESI (electronically stored information) for most cases. It is not very expensive and can be used to create incredibly easy to use and accurate indexes.  It is a huge money and time saver for document review, sorting and printing. If I had to choose between a paralegal who is expertly versed in Summation, Concordance, Trial Director, Sanction etc. (softwares that take many hours to master) but knew little about using Acrobat and a paralegal who knew nothing of the high-priced litigation support stuff but was a master of Acrobat, I would take the Acrobat paralegal.

The OCR and Full-Text Index is worth the couple if hundred dollar price tag. The amazing on-the-fly db capabilities are astounding.

In dealing with documents you can lug boxes and binders about until you are blue in the face or you can take your case everywhere online and offline with a simple to use of a couple if hundred dollar program that you think is just making PDFs but can actually be a huge litigation support database and trial preparation asset.

The Crowley Law Firm in the Grand Central Building in Seattle has no affiliation with the makers of Adobe products outside of the fact we use it in big and small ways everyday.