Luddite Lawyer needs help!
June 18, 2009 9:21 PM   Subscribe

CD-ROM with hypertext links to other documents on CD-ROM? I'm a luddite lawyer who needs help. So the Judge's rules say that I can file my brief on a CD_ROM and include hypertext links to exhibits on the same CD-ROM. I would love to do this since I will have many, many exhibits. How can I do this?
posted by bananafish to Technology (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Use relative links.

Create a single directory which will contain your whole brief. Inside there, you put the topmost HTML file. Create a sub-directory which contains the exhibits. To link to them, the link address would be "./exhibits/exhibit01.html".

You'll know if you got it right because it'll work correctly for you when you test it in your browser.

By the way, if you use the right composition tool that'll all get done for you automatically. FrontPage, for example, will create relative links automatically if you use its menus to find the thing you're looking for.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:23 PM on June 18, 2009

Actually, now that I think of it, the leading period isn't needed. So it would be "/exhibits/exhibit01.html".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2009

(Rats. second thoughts...)

What relative links mean is "Starting from where the current HTML file is located, here's how to find the thing I want to go to." So "/exhibits/exhibits01.html" means "in the current directory, find the subdirectory "exhibits" and look in there for a file called "exhibits01.html".

Once that's been done, if you want a link it that file back to the original, you would say "../toplevel.html". The convention ".." means "go up a level from here, go the the parent directory of the current location."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:30 PM on June 18, 2009

Actualy "exhibits/exhibits01.html" with no leading slash means "in the current directory..."
posted by zsazsa at 9:54 PM on June 18, 2009

(rats.) The leading slash turns out to mean "from the root" so Zsazsa is quite right.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:56 PM on June 18, 2009

So you need to use relative links, but you need to find someone else to tell you how since I obviously don't have it straight. (heh)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:57 PM on June 18, 2009

Btw, I don't know the answer but I know about PACER. These will be .pdf documents. The poster will draft them, print them out and sign them, and then scan them. The hyperlinks will be added later. He'll have to have all the documents on the disk first. So you will have to have a point of no return moment beyond which no edits are possible.

My only advice is buy Adobe Acrobat (not the reader), which should cost decent money. Then just read the help files to learn how to do it, or better yet, hire someone to do it and charge the client. Probably not billable time. Its tech work. I'd just hire somebody.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 PM on June 18, 2009

posted by jewzilla at 11:04 PM on June 18, 2009

I'm an attorney (do I need to say not yours?) and I have a lot of experience with brief filing, PACER, Adobe Acrobat, and hyper-linking. Extremely long comment follows.

First, what Ironmouth says is dead-on - you will absolutely need a for-pay copy of Adobe Acrobat, not the free reader. For attorneys, unless you are truly on a shoestring, I strongly recommend Adobe Acrobat Professional (as opposed to Standard), as this version contains the ability to easily redact portions of documents. That might not be important right now, but it if you're going to throw down the coin, make the investment worth your while for the future. Install that shit and make sure you see a couple of red-and-white buttons on your Microsoft Word toolbar, the first of which will say something like "Convert to Adobe PDF" when you mouse over it.

Second, Chocolate Pickle mentions something about "testing in your browser." That might make sense if you were submitting HTML documents (ie, the kind of file that you usually look at when you surf the web), but we're already assuming you are submitting PDF briefs. While you can look at PDFs inside your browser (usually), that's not necessary or even desirable here. You'll want to stick with the main Adobe software.

Okay, third. Ironmouth is suggesting an approach to PDFs which I do not recommend. Presumably you will be drafting your brief in Microsoft Word. (I hope you are not a WordPerfect holdout.) The only page which needs to be signed is the final signature page, so don't think about printing your entire doc, signing the last page, and then scanning the whole thing back in. It's slow, it wastes paper, and it'll make everything look crappier.

So, think about going through the process in this way - and forgive me if I'm explaining some basic Law Firm Day One crap here:

a) Draft your brief.

b) As you draft your brief, don't number your exhibits until you're ready to "go final" (ie, stop making any further edits)... so call them Exh. __, Plaintiff's Letter of 1/1/01 to Defendant, etc.

c) Once you are truly done with drafting your brief, go back through the brief and put in exhibit numbers or letters in the blanks (whichever the judge requires, if there's a requirement - but if you have more than 26, I recommend using numbers).

d) As you do that, rename the files which contain your exhibits accordingly. So if Plaintif's Letter is exhibit 1, rename the file to Exhibit 1 - Plaintiff's Letter of 1-1-01.pdf. Do that with all your exhibits. It may seem time-consuming, but TRUST ME, it's worth it to keep yourself organized.

e) Once you are done entering numbers into your brief and renaming your exhibit files, PUT ALL THE FILES INTO ONE FOLDER. When I say "all the files," I mean all of your exhibits AND the brief. This is a super-crucial step. Put them all in the same folder or everything will go to hell later.

f) Then, start going through your brief looking for Exhibit cites. When you find one, highlight it with your cursor (in other words, make the words Exhibit 1 or Exhibit A all highlighted). Then, go to the Insert menu, and go all the way to the bottom until you see "Hyperlink." You can also press Ctrl-K instead. (I really hope you are using Word 2003 or earlier here... if Word 2007, you're gonna need to do some figuring out on your own.)

A dialog box will come up. On the left-hand side is a column titled "Link to:". Make sure the top button - "Existing File or Web Page" - is clicked. Then, in the main area, find the folder where your brief and all your exhibits are located. Look for the file called Exhibit 1 - Plaintiff's Letter.pdf (or whatever you called it). Click it once and hit "OK", or double-click it. The text you had previously selected reading "Exhibit 1" should now be underlined and in blue. Congratulations! You've just created your first hyperlink. Test it by clicking on it. You may need to hold down the CTRL key as you click. Your Exhibit 1 file should pop up, probably in Adobe Acrobat.

g) Keep doing this for all your exhibits. If you refer to, say, Exhibit 1 multiple times, I don't know if the judge will want you to hyperlink it every time, but probably. Yeah, this is a time-consuming process.

h) When you are finally done, look for that little red-and-white Adobe toolbar button I told you about way up top. Click the mofo. It'll ask you where you want to save the PDF version of your brief. Save it in the same folder as your Word version + exhibits. When you name it, put a tilde (~) in front of the file name. This ensures it will appear "alphabetically" at the top of your file list, making it much easier for the judge or his/her clerks to find. Give it a clear name, like "~ Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.pdf"

i) Open that PDF file. Try clicking on the links. PRAY that they work - they should have been preserved in the conversion. If you get warning messages, just hit okay. I did a quick little test of this at home just now following exactly these steps and it worked fine, though I did get warnings when I tried to open external files through links. Like I say, just ignore the warnings and hit okay.

If the links don't work, throw something against the wall. Curse. Curse me for leaving out some step that seemed obvious to me but isn't to a novice. Then curse yourself for trusting dumb-ass strangers on the Internet. Then try starting over. :)

i) Now, print out a hardcopy of the signature page of your brief. Sign it. Scan it in - hopefully your scanner will scan directly to PDF. (Hell, hopefully you have a scanner. And even if you wind up with something like a .TIF or a .JPG file, Adobe should be able to open that anyway.) Save the single signed sig page into the same directory as all that other shiz.

Then, open up the PDF version of your brief you just created in step "h". Go to the last page. It's your signature page, of course, but unsigned. Go to "Document" on the menu, then to Delete Pages. Assuming your sig page is the very last page, the little dialog box should say something like From [39] to [39], if your brief were 39 pages long. Hit OK.

Then, go to Document -> Insert Pages. Find the sig page and select it and hit OK. Select "After" and "Last" and hit OK. If everything went according to plan, you have now replaced your unsigned sig page with a signed sig page.

j) Move the following two documents OUT of your special folder with all the shiz: Your original MSFT Word brief, and the one-page scanned signature file. You don't want to give these to the judge. Put them in some other folder for safe-keeping.

k) Put a blank CD-R into your CD drive. Don't use a CD-RW (it'll say on the surface of the disk).

l) Find your folder with all the stuff in it. Right click on the folder. Go to "Send To", then select your CD drive. The folder will either start copying immediately, or a little icon will appear in the bottom-right taskbar which, when you mouse over it, will say something like "Files Waiting to be Written to CD". A window should open up - click "Write These Files to CD" in the top left.

If this all works, sing hallelujah. Make a few copies. Test them out. Label them. Bring them to the judge's chambers.

If it doesn't work out, MeFiMail me and we can discuss a fee arrangement. (This is a serious offer.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:18 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

To avoid having to do everything in the i) step above, you could just pre-scan a copy of your signature, save it as a transparent .tif or .jpg and import and paste it onto any pages of your pdf that need it. This is how I "sign" any documents that require it but are otherwise easier filled out electronically. IANAL and I don't know if this is kosher from a legal standpoint, but it definitely makes sense from a "using technology to save time" one.
posted by bizwank at 11:30 PM on June 18, 2009

Bizwank, that's definitely something I've done in the past, though some of the attorneys I've worked with don't seem to like doing that. Folks often want a proper "wet signed" copy around. (I also didn't want to go into the vagaries of creating and inserting images into Word files.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:36 PM on June 18, 2009

Conrad's got it but let me also point out that there appear to be companies that will handle this for you if you are short on time or patience. Google "legal brief hyperlink" and you'll get some results for some companies that offer this service. I've never used them and can't vouch for legitimacy or results.

I'm guessing you can spare enough money for essential software like Acrobat, but if you need a poorman's substitute temporarily, consider PDFill. It lets you merge PDFs, append/delete pages, etc, which you could use to accomplish the signature page appending step. I only just found the software so haven't worked with it much. It appears to handle merging/appending just fine, though. Ignore the part about $19.99. There's a part you can buy for that, but the "tools" part is free when you download.

Btw, I made a dummy document in Open Office with hyperlinks to other documents on my computer and then converted it to PDF using the PDF printer driver that got installed along with this software. The hyperlinks which had been functional in the Open Office document were no longer functional in the converted PDF. I don't know if this is an issue with Open Office (and whether MS Word would do better) or a feature of this software or just the nature of the Ghostscript PDF printer driver. So bad news there, but maybe another free PDF converter or PDF printer driver would do better.
posted by kookoobirdz at 12:47 AM on June 19, 2009

Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell: First, what Ironmouth says is dead-on - you will absolutely need a for-pay copy of Adobe Acrobat, not the free reader. For attorneys, unless you are truly on a shoestring, I strongly recommend Adobe Acrobat Professional (as opposed to Standard), as this version contains the ability to easily redact portions of documents. That might not be important right now, but it if you're going to throw down the coin, make the investment worth your while for the future.

I'd like to respectfully disagree.

I'm not a lawyer; however, I am a tech professional who runs a database and makes pretty documents for a non-profit that works closely with the city of Denver. Manipulating these kinds of documents is a big part of my job.

First of all, for the kind of PDF creation Conrad is describing, Adobe Acrobat Professional is a tremendous waste of money. Acrobat Pro is rarely a good investment; it is worthwhile if you want to create very complex PDF documents like interactive fillable forms, password-protected PDFs, PDFs with embedded videos, high-resolution documents, and things like that. Redacting portions of documents is simple enough using the method Conrad described.

Second, every step Conrad described above is possible to do just as easily without spending a dime. In some instances, it's easier. Sincerely: installing Acrobat Pro in order to simply export to PDF from word is a tremendous waste. $450? Come on.

Just download OpenOffice Suite. This is Sun Microsystems' premier competition with Microsoft Office Suite; it includes a program for making text documents that are compatible with Word (OpenOffice Writer), a program for making Excel-compatible spreadsheets (OpenOffice Calc), a program for making PowerPoint-compatible presentations (OpenOffice Impress), and several others. More importantly for you, OpenOffice comes with print-to-PDF functionality that's actually better than the print-to-PDF functionality you get with Word+Acrobat (that is, more options and generally smoother, in my experience)—all built-in from the start.

From there, you can follow generally the same steps listed above:

(1) Open OpenOffice Writer and create or open each of your files. When you're done with each one and have it exactly as you'd like it, save the file as an OpenOffice document (.odt). That way you'll be able to go back and edit them whenever you want and make new PDFs out of them if you need to.

(2) To add links in your master document to other documents: like Conrad said, it's best to make sure that all of your files are in the same folder. Use these steps to convert your exhibits first; then, go back and link to those exhibit PDFs in your master document. To make each link: first, type the text you want to link to the document (like, for example, “Exhibit 12a”); second, select the text by clicking and dragging across it; third, click Insert -> Hyperlink, click the large Document icon on left side of the box that pops up, and click the small folder icon next to the Path line on the right to select the PDF file you want that text to link to. Then, click Apply and then Close; your text will now be linked to a file, and you can test this link by holding the Control key and clicking on it.

(3) To turn your documents into PDFs: click File -> Export as PDF…. This will bring up a box that says ‘PDF Options.’ Here, you'll really only have to do two things: on the General tab, make sure the PDF/A-1 box is unchecked; and on the Links tab, make sure that the Export URLs relative to file system box is checked, and that Cross-document links are set to open in default mode.

Pretty basic. You can then burn those files to a cd.

Let us know if you have any troubles; we're happy to walk you through whatever you need.
posted by koeselitz at 1:20 AM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

kookoobirdz: Btw, I made a dummy document in Open Office with hyperlinks to other documents on my computer and then converted it to PDF using the PDF printer driver that got installed along with this software. The hyperlinks which had been functional in the Open Office document were no longer functional in the converted PDF. I don't know if this is an issue with Open Office (and whether MS Word would do better) or a feature of this software or just the nature of the Ghostscript PDF printer driver. So bad news there, but maybe another free PDF converter or PDF printer driver would do better.

No; this isn't an issue at all. The problem is that you haven't set the options correctly. A PDF/A-1 file can't have hyperlinks. Just uncheck the PDF/A-1 box on the General tab in the Options dialogue like I said above. I've just tried it; it works perfectly.
posted by koeselitz at 1:27 AM on June 19, 2009

…okay, sorry kookoobirdz; I misunderstood what you were doing.

Generally, no matter what software you use, if you print to PDF you won't preserve hyperlinks. You have to export to PDF; in OpenOffice, that option is in the File menu.
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 AM on June 19, 2009

koeselitz will know better than I, but from what I know, please be aware that redacting - assuming that redacting is not the same as completely overwriting the redacted data such that not even the original pdf authour can see it - is not, from a technological standpoint, secure. Password-protected pdfs are secure (or at least roughly as secure as any other encrypted file), but any use-case restrictions on them are not.

If redacting really does destroy the data, then just ignore this statement altogether.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:01 AM on June 19, 2009

OpenOffice, as suggested by koeselitz, will probably give you the smoothest ride in the no-money-required department.

If, however, for some reason you can't live without MS Word, and do not want to spend any money, it seems like PDF T-Maker in combination with PDFCreator will let you create PDFs with hyperlinks directly from Word.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:25 AM on June 19, 2009

CCO'DO'D is right about most things. I do not know whether the links he suggests creating in Word will pass through to the ultimate PDF version. It would do well to learn the method of creating links in PDF (using at least Acrobat full) as demonstrated at the eHow site mentioned.

My observations:

1. The OP has not said that he is in Federal court, using the PACER system. Since he mentioned "the judge's rules", I would assume that he is not. So PDF may not be required. It is usually used, however.

2. I agree that printing or exporting from the finished Word brief is the proper way to go, vs. scanning the printed page. The latter is a true Luddite move, and results in files that are, on average, 30 times larger than the ones properly done.

3. Under Federal Electronic Court Filing rules, and under many other court rules, there is no need to scan the signature page. Under the ECF system, a simple /S/ on the signature line is considered the lawyer's electronic signature.

4. (Here is where I diverge from Conrad) It may not be necessary to sequentially number exhibits. The problem with doing so is that you would need to renumber your exhibits if you later think to add more arguments and document references in the middle of your brief. Since you are providing a link, there is no need to use an exhibit number to ensure that your reader is reading the same document you are discussing in your brief. A document name like "Acme Company safety manual" will do very well. This one is ultimately a matter of personal preference, unless the local rule requires numbering or lettering of exhibits.
posted by yclipse at 4:30 AM on June 19, 2009

If you are using Office 2007, you can download a free add-in that allows you to Save-As a PDF.
posted by tamitang at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2009

A tangential note on PDFill referred to above: I recently bought the $20 editor to--among other things--electronically sign PDF forms by dropping in a scan of my signature. While pretty damn clunky to use I did make it work -- and for a price well below any of the other PDF editors I reviewed. Just FYI.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:16 AM on June 19, 2009

I can't add much, except to clarify what people mean about relative hyperlinks. You DON'T want your hyperlinks to say something like:

file://c:\my documents\username\case12234\file.jpg



The first makes your product only viewable on your workstation. The second will work on other machines, as long as they have their CDROM installed as d:.

What you want is for the hyperlinks to be relative to their source drive, so that wherever the files are, they are visible. Something like:


But I agree that PDF is probably the way to go. You have more control over the presentation. And won't have to depend on whether the viewer has the correct version of Word or image viewer or media player installed.
posted by gjc at 8:23 AM on June 19, 2009

gjc: I can't add much, except to clarify what people mean about relative hyperlinks. You DON'T want your hyperlinks to say something like…

Helpful note:

If you insert hyperlinks into a document using OpenOffice, they will automatically be made relative, and you won't really need to worry about this, as the links will update themselves as long as you move the files around in one big block and not separately, if that makes sense.
posted by koeselitz at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2009

I'm in federal court and yes we're allowed the /s instead of scanning the signature page. I think the method CCOO mentioned will work for me. Thanks! I already own Adobe Standard so I think I'll use that. I don't need to redact anything right now, so it's not worth the extra bucks (we're a small firm) for Adobe Pro right now, but maybe later. Thanks everyone. This has been very helpful.
posted by bananafish at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2009

Kookoobirdz mentions sending the possibility of sending the job to an outside vendor. Personally, I have never done this. Maybe it's unreasonable, but I'd be pretty worried about them doing it right. And in order for me to set things up to the point where the final steps would be idiot proof, I'd be 90% done. So it's not an option I'd recommend unless it was an extreme pressure situation.

Koeselitz: The principal reason I suggest Acrobat Pro is because of its redaction features, which leave behind no metadata. (That is to say, Adobe has figured out how to do redaction right.) I also like the ability to create PDF packages. There may well be other programs out there which do this stuff for a lot less, but I haven't used them.

That said, your method for converting to PDFs sounds like a good one for doing it on the cheap. My only concern would be formatting getting effed up if you were converting a Word file to Open Office. It looks like the OP's firm has Adobe Standard, though, so s/he ought to be set.

And seconding what you said about preserving hyperlinks. The same thing will happen in Word if you try to print to PDF, which is why I repeatedly stressed using the toolbar button, which will preserve links properly.

Yclipse, one time, I got tripped up trying to /s/ sign something. If you are filing a brief /s/ signed by someone else, that can be a problem - one clerk called me to complain about that. After that, the partner in question just gave me his permission to use his PACER account. Problem solved.

As for not numbering exhibits because you're hyperlinking them, that's not a terrible idea. But I wonder if some judges might not like that - especially if, say, it's the clerk using the electronic version of the brief, but the judge gets a printed hardcopy.

I also tested links in Word and Adobe last night, and they all stayed relative - but only, as koeselitz says, if you keep all the files in question in the same folder (or, I suppose, in the same directory structure).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:46 PM on June 19, 2009

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