From deciding when to use PDFs to properly introducing native files, here are nine tips for getting a handle on your electronic exhibits.
Reprinted with permission of Mike Murray and National Association of Legal Assistants. This article originally appeared in the October 2022 edition of the Facts & Findings.
Electronic exhibits have been a part of the legal process for a long time – probably longer than many of us realize. The PDF file format became an open standard all the way
back in 1993, and the Electronic Court Filing technical specifications were agreed upon more than 20 years ago.
Despite this long history, the adoption of electronic exhibits from depositions to trials has increased exponentially in the past few years. Today, according to a survey by Veritext, 89% of attorneys expect “one party to be remote occasionally or more often” going forward, requiring the use of electronic exhibits.
1. SECURELY SENDING DIGITAL EXHIBITS
The first challenge with electronic exhibits is simply getting them from one place to another in a secure manner. With hacking, phishing, and social engineering attacks on the rise, ensuring your confidential data remains confidential is more critical than ever. It might surprise you that email is not, and never was, sufficient for sending digital documents – an email is more like a postcard than a sealed envelope. It is far more effective to use a secure cloud storage application, like ShareFile (www.sharefile.com), which sends a secure link to download the file rather than the file itself. You can email the link, and the recipient can open it securely in a browser, preventing any unauthorized access in transmission.
2. SECURELY RECEIVING DIGITAL EXHIBITS
The flip side of this issue is receiving files – your client or expert may not have the tools to send secure links. However, the same tool you use to send the digital files can be employed to request digital files. Most cloud storage applications, like ShareFile, can create a link that can be sent to users to prompt them to upload any documents they would like to send via a secure connection. As a bonus, unlike email, there are no size limitations when you
use the cloud. These services also allow you to create shared folders, enabling your clients and experts to routinely exchange files with you. Setting up a means for sending and receiving digital exhibits at the start of your case will ensure you are in compliance
with ABA Confidentiality Standards.
3. DOES IT NEED TO BE NATIVE?
When determining which documents to use for an upcoming proceeding, another factor to consider is whether they will be presented as PDFs or in their native format. For example, an Excel file can be converted to PDF or introduced as the native Excel file itself, which enables users to open it and view it in its original form. With many native files – for example, CAD, MRI, or video – information is lost when it is converted to a PDF, if conversion is even possible. This may help your strategy by removing extraneous metadata, or it may impede it by hiding formulas and other data that witnesses may need to see. No matter the tool you use to introduce electronic exhibits, the ability to share any type of native file is important.
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