On the one hand, it’s nice that PDF documents are basically just electronic versions of paper documents. It makes it easier for non-techie people to wrap their heads around paperless documents. On the other hand, if you cannot get past that simple analogy, you aren’t taking advantage of the medium.

All federal courts are now paperless to some degree, and have been for some time. That means your documents are submitted electronically in PDF format (although many judges still require a paper copy). So if a judge is looking at your PDF, and wants to look up a case you have cited, she has to select the citation (non-trivial on a tablet), switch over to Westlaw or Fastcase or Lexis, paste the citation, and look up the case. Or if your citation is to the record, she will have to scroll through PACER’s antiquated interface to find the document, pull it up, and scroll to the right page. It’s not overly difficult, but it’s a small hassle the judge will have to repeat over and over again.

Or, you could use hyperlinks in your brief so that all the judge has to do is click on a link to be taken to the case or the document in the record. One click and the judge is where she needs to be.

Judges will be grateful for this. At Hercules and the Umpire, retired federal district court judge Richard Kopf says “I hope that happens, and very soon.” In fact, judges are already ahead of you in doing this.

It’s not even hard. Kopf includes links to two tutorials:

Both of those links will take you to the Nebraska federal court website, but they will give you the right idea no matter where you practice.


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