Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2013

On Professionalism

Easier Acrobatics:
New Adobe Acrobat Features Especially Appreciated by Attorneys
By Sheila Blackford

What did we ever do without PDF? Portable Document Format has passed into our daily life and the term has become a verb: we speak of “PDFing” a document the way we once “Xeroxed” a document.

Adobe Acrobat was developed by Adobe Systems to allow users to view, create, modify, print and manage files in PDF. Are we so fond of Adobe Acrobat because we are so familiar with using the free Adobe Reader that has enabled us to read and print PDF files from the Internet? Who knows? What we do know is that Adobe Acrobat remains the gold standard for creating PDF documents despite the many competitors out there selling products that can be used for creating PDF files such as Nitro’s Nitro Pro 8 and Nuance’s PDF Converter Pro 8.

Adobe Acrobat is the market leader for good reason: Acrobat is an important tool, powerful and stable with robust features that are especially appreciated by thousands of lawyers and law firms internationally. With this latest version, Adobe Acrobat XI, the features most important to lawyers are easier to use, which means they will be used more frequently. I appreciate technology, but I do not consider myself an Über Techie Practice Management Adviser. So read along as I kick the tires on Adobe Acrobat XI.

Acrobat XI Pro or Standard?

Both versions of Acrobat XI contain features that help busy lawyers to interact with their clients.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the features most useful to lawyers in Acrobat XI Standard and Acrobat XI Pro. Please visit the Adobe website to review the full Buying Guide Product Comparison, located at this shortened link: http://tinyurl.com/2gxmz6r/. (See chart on page 27.)

As the chart demonstrates, there are some important reasons you may need Acrobat XI Pro, such as the ability to redact sensitive information when complying with discovery requests. There are a couple of other features that require Acrobat XI Pro, such as the ability to create forms and web forms from either scratch or from a variety of templates using the new included Adobe FormsCentral. Adobe FormsCentral is a slick desktop app that lets you create new PDF forms that your clients can complete using the free Adobe Reader software. Think of sending them a client intake form they can easily fill out using Adobe Reader. You can build web forms, if you sign up for a free subscription to Adobe’s FormsCentral online service, which allows anyone to complete within a web browser. Another feature allows you to collect PDF responses with Acrobat from a maximum of 500 people. This would be a nice way to get your clients to complete client satisfaction surveys. For the adventuresome, there are some enhanced options with Adobe’s premium FormsCentral online subscription, such as taking payments from credit cards or PayPal if you have a PayPal business account.

Two Features Important to Lawyers in Pro Version

There are a couple of other features that require you to have Acrobat XI Pro as you can see in the chart. Two that are especially important to some lawyers are the ability to create PDF Portfolios and the ability to do redaction of visible information from PDF files. The two things are very easy to do, as you will see in the following four-step instructions.

PDF Portfolio. A favorite feature has gotten easier in Acrobat XI Pro: the ability to create professional-looking PDF Portfolios that will make you shine in the eyes of your clients. Acrobat XI Pro has improved your ability to combine files into such a portfolio. Those of you who do estate planning, for example, will impress your clients when you can send the estate planning documents in a professional-looking digital format with an interactive impact. These portfolios are easy to organize. Imagine presenting Mr. and Mrs. Client with a digital portfolio that has their names on the cover with your firm name and logo in color, followed by an introduction to their estate plan with their goals and documents to accomplish them. Everything is neat, attractive and indexed, with trusts, wills, powers of attorney, advance directives, instructions and explanations all together in a portfolio that makes them glad they came to you for estate planning.

How to Create a PDF Portfolio in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in Acrobat XI Pro.

1. In Acrobat XI, choose File > Create > PDF Portfolio.

2. Choose a layout, or choose Import Custom Layout.

3. Click Add Files and select files you want to share in the PDF Portfolio.

4. Rearrange files as desired and click Finish.

Redaction. Lawyers will frequently have the need to securely remove confidential information from a document before distributing it. If you have ever had to do redaction of discovery documents, you know this can be labor intensive using redacting tape. Acrobat XI Pro makes redaction of PDF documents a very easy task as shown in the simple steps below.

How to Remove Visible Data or Do Redaction from PDF Files in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in Acrobat XI Pro only.

1. In Acrobat XI, choose Tools > Protection.

2. Click Mark for Redaction.

3. Go through your PDF and highlight the text or images you want to redact.

4. Click Apply Redactions. Acrobat permanently deletes the selected information from the file, replacing it with black blocks or other formatting of your choice.

Important Features Provided by Both Acrobat XI Standard and Pro

These last features are important and can be done using either Acrobat XI Standard or Pro: setting passwords and permissions for a PDF file; sanitizing hidden data or metadata from a PDF file; and using an electronic signature in a PDF file.

Protect PDF Files. Technological security is very important to all of us. Client confidentiality is an ethical duty of lawyers that clients have always relied upon. If you are sending confidential information by email, why not ensure its confidentiality by protecting it with a password? You want to send drafts of Mr. and Mrs. Client’s will to them in a secure manner to preserve their confidentiality and to prevent any unauthorized access to their financial information. You can set up individual passwords that Mr. and Mrs. Client will both easily remember, e.g., the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, so you won’t need to send them a special password that they may forget. Acrobat will allow you to apply PDF passwords and to assign permissions. Let’s look at how easy that will be for you to do.

Passwords and Levels of Permissions. Acrobat XI allows you to take file protection to the next level and set different levels of permission for a PDF file. You might want some people to open a document, but want others to be allowed to both open and edit a document, and still others to open and print a document. With Acrobat XI, you can easily set levels of permission to allow or restrict documents from being opened, copied, edited or printed, or even to allow someone to comment, fill out a form, or add pages.

How to Protect PDF Files by Setting Permissions in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in both Acrobat XI Pro and XI Standard.

1. At top right from within Acrobat, click Tools pane, and Open Protection panel.

2. Click Encrypt and Select Encrypt With Password. Confirm Change Security of the Document.

3. In Password Security Settings Dialog Box, choose Type of Password: a) Document Open Password restricts who may open document; b) Permissions Password restricts printing, editing and copying as you select them.

4. Click OK and then click Save.

Metadata. Everyone knows about metadata — hidden data about your documents, that you may need to remove. There is an Oregon Formal Ethics Opinion about Metadata, 2011-187 Competency: Disclosure of Metadata. Removing it is very easy to do in both Acrobat XI Standard and Pro versions.

How to Sanitize or Remove Hidden Data (Metadata) from PDF in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in both Acrobat XI Pro and XI Standard.

1. At top right from within Acrobat, click Tools pane, and Open Protection panel.

2. The Sanitation tools are listed under the heading Hidden Information. To permanently remove metadata, comments and file attachments, select Sanitize Document. Click OK.

3. To have more control over what is removed, select Remove Hidden Information.

4. Type a name for your file, and click Save.

Electronic Signatures. Last, you will probably enjoy the convenience of electronic signatures. They are legally binding and very convenient when you must get documents signed when it isn’t convenient to print out, sign, and then scan and email a document. Here is how to do this in Acrobat XI.

How to Apply an Electronic Signature for the First Time in Four Easy Steps:

This can be done in both Acrobat XI Pro and XI Standard.

1. In Acrobat XI, choose the Sign pane > I Need to Sign > Place Signature.

2. Select a method for creating your e-signature.

3. Click in your PDF where you want to place your signature.

4. Optional, click Send Signed Document to send the file to others using Adobe’s EchoSign, which allows you to track the signing process and store the file online.


Lawyers have tightened their belts in past few years and adapted to lean times. If you love a bargain, take advantage of Adobe’s largesse with their upgrade pricing. If you have Acrobat Standard 8, or 9 or 10, you can upgrade to Acrobat XI Standard for $139. But for $60 more, you can upgrade to Acrobat XI Pro for $199. This is the price Adobe is charging for users of Acrobat Pro 8, 9 or 10 to upgrade. So it is the same price to upgrade from a Standard to Pro version as it is to upgrade from an earlier version of Pro to the newest Pro version. Don’t forget that Fujitsu bundles its ScanSnap Scanner with Acrobat Standard, so you could buy a great scanner, get a legitimate Acrobat Standard free, then pay only $199 for an upgrade to Acrobat XI Pro instead of buying a full copy of Acrobat XI Pro for $449 — or you can pay $139 for an upgrade to Acrobat XI Standard instead of buying a full copy of Acrobat XI Standard for $299.

Upgrading to Acrobat XI Pro is a good deal whether you have an existing copy of an earlier version of Acrobat Standard or Pro and pay to upgrade to Acrobat XI Pro, or you acquire a copy of Acrobat Standard along with a ScanSnap scanner, which would entitle you to update to Acrobat XI Pro.

Another way to get Acrobat XI Pro is by subscription. You can subscribe to get it for Windows or Mac platform for a full year for $19.99 per month, or on a month-to-month basis for $29.99 per month. This may be an option if your budget is too lean to purchase Acrobat XI Pro outright.


These five features alone will be well used by you and your firm. There are many others you will want to learn about from the Adobe’s tutorial short videos or from my favorite, “Acrobat for Legal Professionals.” Rick Borstein’s Acrolaw Blog is tailored to helping lawyers make the best use of Acrobat at http://blogs.adobe.com/acrolaw/. It is hands down the best resource for law firms.


Sheila Blackford is an attorney and practice management adviser for the OSB Professional Liability Fund. She is editor-in-chief of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s Law Practice magazine. You can contact her directly at sheilab@osbplf.org and at (503) 684-7421 or (800) 452-6139, ext 421.

© 2013 Sheila Blackford

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