This article was originally published by Debra Bruce at Raising the Bar Law Practice Management Thoughts and Tips on January 12, 2012.  Debra is President of Lawyer-Coach LLC.   She draws on her extensive legal experience, as well as a degree in Psychology and well over 500 hours in training as a professional coach, to help lawyers improve their management skills, increase productivity and bring in more business.
 
A few months ago, one of my attorney clients called on his way home from a hearing to discuss the briefing schedule the judge had outlined for our case.  The judge had also clearly indicated his preference for electronic briefs with hyperlinks to the cited legal authorities.  I docketed the briefing deadline and began to research the additional steps required to provide the judge exactly what he wanted.

The first step for any litigation project is checking the applicable rules of civil procedure, county and local court rules.  I then downloaded several electronic brief samples and carefully examined the document organization.  It was easy to see why any judge would prefer this format.

Litigation support firms offer electronic briefs, but those services can be expensive.  You will definitely need to examine the size of your project and the available budget before deciding how you want to tackle your project.  A third party contractor would mean closing out the brief early to meet the vendor’s time requirements for the project.  This was just a small brief in the grand scheme of things.

After considering my options, I found some guides to help me prepare for my first electronic brief project.  The tips outlined below were very helpful.  I was happy to discover that my Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro software was the only software I needed to complete the project.

Guide To Creating Electronic Appellate Briefs  (Texas Supreme Court)

Video Guide To Creating Electronic Briefs (Adobe)

How Do I Hyperlink Court Briefs? (A2L Consulting)

E-Briefs, eBriefs and Electronic Briefs (A2L Consulting)

Electronic Brief Tip #1:  Be sure to set your PDF document properties so that the bookmark panel will be visible when the document is opened by the reader.  Modify the Bookmark text to clearly outline the organization of your document.  Check accuracy of links between bookmarks and document text.

Electronic Brief Tip #2:  Assemble PDF copies of all legal authorities several days before your deadline.  Give some thought to the download format.  Westlaw and Lexis offer several formats.

Electronic Brief Tip #3:   Be strategic in creating link destination points.  Your link from the List of Authorities will probably point to the beginning of the case.  (Example 1)  A link created in the body of the brief could point directly to the quoted text.  (Example 2)

EXAMPLE 1:

          List of Authorities Hyperlink – Set Link Destination at Case Intro

EXAMPLE 2:

Quoted Reference in Brief Body –

Set Link Destination at Quoted Text Within the Case

Multiple Applications

Creating bookmarks and hyperlinks requires extra preparation time, but the process adds organization and a professional appearance to your finished project.  The process can easily be applied to any lengthy document file including medical records, administrative records, document productions, briefs, pleadings with numerous exhibits and settlement brochures.  Links to the appropriate place in supporting documents will increase the likelihood that the reader truly understands the legal claims asserted on behalf of your client.

 

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