7 ways formatting documents by a specialist can help you

7 ways formatting documents by a specialist can help you

7 Ways formatting by a document specialist can help your business

Creating formatted documents needs a specialist: from brochure to proposal, order form to invoice, internal admin and client reports, to name just a few examples.  The document lifecycle is improved with smart formatting.  Here are 7 ways how a document specialist can help you.

Formatting fillable forms in your PDF

Collecting information from your customers is easier by using a PDF form.  PDF (portable document format) works on all of your recipients’ devices and so they don’t need to print/scan.  Unless you are collaborating on editing a document, you should always send a PDF.  Remember, not all of your recipients will have Word (or similar editor) installed on a phone, tablet or a PC.  A document specialist will reformat your text and convert to PDF and will then use Adobe Pro to create your fillable form.

Sending documents for e-signature

The natural progression from creating a fillable PDF is to ask for e-signatures.  There are many products that offer e-signature and many different features available.  Some things to consider:

  • Do you need a secure verification of the recipient signature?
  • Do you require a lot of signatures each month? If so, consider a product that offers some integration with your business systems.
  • How many people in your business are asking for signatures? Cost, training, integration with systems will have an impact on your decision on which product to choose.

Switching to e-signatures is easy and the benefits to you and your clients and customers is huge!

Formatting standard document precedents

Are you using the same documents over and over again?  Or are you copy and pasting similar paragraphs?  Creating a standard template document will save you tons of time and give you consistency and ease of use.  A professional suite of documents will not only make you look great but save you time.  A document specialist will always create a base template which takes into account your house style (your branding) and use styles so that formatting documents is quick and easy.

Automation of your numbering, cross references, table of contents: document specialist skills

Your documents should have easy-to-use automatic numbering, automatic cross references and tables of contents (where applicable).  All word-processing features are designed to save you time. If you’re collaborating with your documents – that is more than one person is involved in editing – then you should invest your time to make it easy for all parties involved.  A professional document specialist can fix your formatting for you.

Version control, track changes, document protection

HR documents, policy documents, operations manuals all have one thing in common.  They are strictly controlled and should contain version and editing notes.  A document specialist can ensure that your documents contain a version control cover sheet, the document is protected (read only often helps), and any changes can be shown in track changes.

Converting from PDF

Whilst some versions of a PDF document will allow a conversion to a Word document, it often doesn’t retain the word-processing formatting.  Having an editable text version of a document is one thing, making is easy-to-use is another.  The correct formatting is essential when converting PDF documents.  Without it, automatic numbering and cross refencing won’t work and inserting track changes and comments become difficult.  A professional document specialist can quickly convert and re-format your document so you have a usable version.

Comparing documents: not necessarily a document specialist role, but …

Did you know that you can compare two versions of a Word document and the result will show the differences in track changes?  It’s a useful feature used by many lawyers and there are plenty of Word training courses out there to learn how to do it yourself.  But if you don’t want to learn the skills then a document specialist will run the comparison for you and it takes just 10 minutes to do.

Quick and easy document formatting

The most common phrases in this article should be document specialist, document formatting, quick and easy.  Never struggle with a document because the chances are we can quickly fix it for you.  We operate on a pay-per-document basis so please get in touch if you would like a quote on a particular document.

The new way to hire a temp legal secretary

The new way to hire a temp legal secretary

Finding a short-term legal temp

Short-term legal temps are used to cover holidays, sickness or sudden absence, and it’s still very common for law firms to employ temporary legal secretaries.  What’s becoming increasing difficult, however, is finding an agency that manages temps.  Finding a great legal secretary who can immediately jump into your business and be productive can be harder.

Temporary positions are usually offered for longer term cover for, eg maternity leave.  Finding a legal temp to attend your office for a week or two-week assignment isn’t easy.

Why temp legal secretaries are helpful

Nobody likes to return to work after a holiday to a huge backlog of work, neither is it helpful for your clients to have to wait for responses. If matters become urgent then stress just builds up and continuity of service is essential for good customer service.  Having a business continuity plan is also required by the SRA, legal practictioners’ regulator.  Having a temp legal secretarial service gives you both service continuity and a back-up plan.

What’s different about the new way of using temps?

Instead of asking for a legal temp secretary to attend your office to work, it’s now possible to ask for a service to connect to your office systems.

There is a remarkable change in attitude since pandemic to allow external suppliers to connect to office systems.  Where previously, concerns about IT and people security, the ability of workers to be remote and productive, and the naturally cautious mindset of lawyers would prevent the cultural shift that has and is now happening.

Outsourcing could almost be re-defined to insourcing as assigning tasks and projects across teams and departments is easier to do with technology.  An external supplier, connected to your office systems, looks and behaves the same as your internal team.

You have all the benefits of a temp on tap, but without the need to reinvent the wheel with regards to onboarding, training, and supervision.

What you need to do to make the most of a remote temp legal secretary

Each practice varies slight with different technologies, culturally how PAs and secretaries are used and, of course, the workflow. Here are the questions to answer when you’re onboarding a new temp legal secretary service.

  1. Can your secretaries already work from home remotely?
  2. Which digital dictation system do you use?
  3. Can you easily send out dictations, or would it be easier for a secretary to connect to use your system remotely?
  4. Would you like your temp legal secretaries to access your case management system?
  5. Or, would you be happier to receive completed work back as an attachment to email?

Building a knowledge base about you

When you use a service, rather than contract directly with a temp, information is collated, training packs are designed and used to train a team who will work for you.  The service removes the need for you to have to train and supervise each time you have a new joiner in your business.

So when you have a sudden absence, your back up service has you covered.  When you have busy work periods, your back up service can help you meet demands.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about how easy it can be to set up a reliable service.

Large Electronic Bundle Award Winner

Large Electronic Bundle Award Winner

Legal Innovation Award Winner for Largest Electronic Bundle

The annual award scheme, organised by Zylpha, recognises legal practices that have demonstrated innovative solutions and working practices over the previous 12 months.  There were five legal innovation award categories.

Bluebird won the category “Bundle of the Year 2022” to recognise the largest electronic bundle produced.

Innovation in E-bundling Services

At client requests to provide a resource, we quickly learnt that bundling documents is not a daily task.  Bundling is needed ad hoc and dependent on the progress of a client’s case.  We designed a flexible resource for our clients to tap into when they need it.  We adapted our existing cloud technologies and partnered with Zylpha for e-bundling.

Why an award for the largest electronic bundle?

If you can imagine organising, photocopying and bundling 4,500 individual documents consisting of around half a million pages, then you will see that it’s no easy feat.  The only difference between the paper  and electronic version of the large bundle is physical space.

It takes a lot of organisational effort and time to collate the documents in the required order.  Having reliable technology is essential to produce the bundle for the court’s requirements.  Managing electronic files needs a significant attention to detail and very clear processes to prevent errors.  The large electronic bundle consisted of 26 separate PDF files which, between them, contained 4,500 individual documents (around half a million pages).

Although the documents to be bundled were very well organised, the documents themselves were complex in that they had embedded plans and bibles which meant lot of megabytes and compression to reduce the file size.

A team effort for managing the large electronic bundle

Credit must be given to the legal teams and expert witnesses involved.  The index was very well organised, files were named in a structure easy to locate within SharePoint folders.  There were minimal missing documents and the legal teams were very quick with responses.  There must have been an inordinate amount of time spent in preparing the index alone.

What’s the difference between a large electronic bundle and a standard e-bundle?

The difference is the sheer volume of work involved.  Every client must have trust and confidence in us to manage their data.  We treat every piece of work as a high priority.  Whether it’s for a Litigant In Person or a huge multi-million dollar commercial dispute, for the individuals involved, it’s a stressful and high pressure task to meet very serious deadlines.  You can rely on us to treat you and your work with the utmost respect.

How does outsourcing digital dictation work

How does outsourcing digital dictation work

How to outsource digital dictation

The first question you want to know: how does outsourcing digital dictation work? And the answer to that is very simple.  Digital dictation takes the audio recordings of your voice notes (dictations) and sends them over the internet to the outsourced typist who will then return your completed transcribed document to you.

But that’s not all you want to know, is it? I expect you need to know what to dictate into, which digital dictation devices, if there’s any extra software needed, how does the typist know what to type?  Here’s the answer to the most frequent asked questions and my reasons for them.

Which digital dictation device is best?

Much depend on your style of working, whether you prefer to sit at your computer and if you already have a digital dictation system.

Since most of our work can be available on our mobile phones it will come as no surprise that there are plenty of options for digital dictation apps.  A dictation app will operate in the same way as any stand-alone device with the usual controls to pause, rewind, play and record.  The beauty of the app is it will send your dictations from your mobile so you have the freedom to work anywhere and at any time.

One of the main advantages of using mobile digital dictation apps is the software can sit on your phone and nowhere else.  You don’t need to install on your wider computer network and you can have all of the benefits of outsourced digital dictation within minutes.

That said, some businesses have internal secretaries and want to use outsourcing as a backup.  So there is a need for a more comprehensive system that can route work to different resources.  We recommend the cloud based system Speechwrite360 as it doesn’t touch your existing infrastructure and offers a full workflow solution with lots of automation features and full reporting.

What if we have an existing digital dictation system?

We can integrate with most existing digital dictation systems and the benefit means little or no change to how you’re currently working.  The main change is that instead of your recordings being transferred to your inhouse typist, you have the option of choosing to outsource so you have greater flexibility in how you work.

Producing your dictated documents in your format

Not only are your dictations transcribed into your templates but humans can far more easily understand instructions than any speech recognition.  For example, if you have a standard report template that is many pages long and contains standard text, you can dictate to us to fill in the blanks.

A long 30-page report may therefore only take 5 minutes of dictation to complete and you only pay for the dictation length, not the length of the document.  It’s straight forward to set up as we simply take a copy of any existing precedents and templates you have so you will always receive consistency from us.

Receiving your completed outsourced dictation work

There are a variety of ways to receive your completed work and the one you choose will depend on (a) ease of use (b) security of data (c) efficiency of working practices.

To start with, the easiest to use and which most people are comfortable with, is email.  We will simply attach the completed transcript and send it by email to an address you choose, whether that’s yourself or an administration point.

If security of data is paramount, then you may prefer to download your completed work from a portal.

If you have case management systems then you may decide to grant your outsourced team access so they can work for you just as an inhouse secretary would.  You retain all of the efficiencies of your case management system for template management, filing, time recording and diary management.

The choice for outsourcing is all yours

As you can see, outsourcing digital dictation has quite a few options as to how it works. It is easy to get started and quick to set up.  Contact us if you would like to discuss how you could work with outsourcing digital dictation and please visit our Pricing page for current costs. 

Formatting your e-bundle pagination

Formatting your e-bundle pagination

Not paginating an e-bundle properly causes confusion but the confusion starts with “what is page one?”

Formatting e-bundle pagination properly is a top concern for our clients, and rightly too, when a case may be sanctioned.

It’s a natural conclusion to make that we want our electronic bundles to mimic the paper version of a ring binder. Nobody would put a page number on the title page of a ring binder, would they?

But since e-bundles have been mandated, the interpretation of the rules by different courts is now causing some confusion.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s forget paper bundles ever existed, and simply focus on a single PDF document.

The PDF document must have continuous page numbering throughout. There are a variety of instructions on the internet on  how to insert continuous page numbering②, and how that numbering must be linked to the document index.

To add more confusion about pagination, if the bundle is split into sections, the index can have a different page numbering scheme③.

Overall, the page numbers will never match the number of the page of the PDF itself①. So, what do we do about that?

We can format e-bundling pagination to appear as you (and the court) would like it.

Obviously, it helps to know which court requires which specific pagination format.  This article contains useful links t

This image is an example of a standard bundle to be submitted to the Family Court. Its layout mimics the old-fashioned ring binder and the PDF is navigable from the bookmarks, the index page and simple scrolling.

If you require a bundle with a different pagination format it can be made for you, just let us know how you (and the court) want it formatted.  You can learn more information about preparing your ebundle here.

Update: Court guidance has been updated on 29th November 2021 and includes reference to page numbering.  In particular: 

“All pages in an e-bundle must be numbered by computer-generated numbering, not by hand. The numbering should start at page 1 for the first page of the bundle (whether or not that is part of an index) and the numbering must follow sequentially to the last page of the bundle, so that the pagination matches the pdf numbering. If a hard copy of the bundle is produced, the pagination must match the e-bundle.”

So that we can follow this request, we will no longer include a cover page to the bundle and page number 1 will appear on the first page of the index.  

e-bundle pagination