Right now, new technology is making it easier for lawyers to work with digitised documents. Most lawyers are familiar with pdfs: the standard file format for storing scanned documents, as well as for exchanging them with other parties. On the flip side, if you have ever tried to edit, copy or search through text in such a file, you’ll know just how frustrating pdfs can be to work with.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology changes all of this. Designed with lawyers in mind, Casedo’s OCR feature makes unreadable pdfs readable, allowing you to manipulate, search and extract text, just like you would with a Word document.
Here’s a closer look at how OCR works, and why this can mean a welcome boost in productivity and reduction in stress levels for lawyers, paralegals and support staff alike.
What’s the problem with scanned pdfs for lawyers?
There are good reasons why pdfs (portable document files) are used frequently within law firms. Originally developed more than two decades ago by Adobe, this file format lets you easily convert both electronic and paper documents into accurate digital versions of the original. Pdf documents are easy to share and to view, thanks to Adobe’s free-to-use Reader plugin. The files themselves are also relatively small, which makes it easier to send via email, and also makes it possible to store vast volumes of scanned documents on the firm’s hard drive.
Scanning and converting a document into a pdf creates an electronic image of the original. The file is non-editable, which can be useful from a security perspective when you need to show that a document is a true copy of the original. However, this characteristic also stops you from annotating, copying, searching through and extracting the text: bad news when you need to work on the document.
What does OCR software do?
Optical Character Recognition software changes the way your device processes pdf files; enabling the device to actually read the text, rather than treating it as an image.
For you, this means the document is transformed into an editable, machine-readable format.
How can I put OCR software to work?
Here are some of the many situations where OCR can prove especially valuable in law firms and chambers:
As part of the disclosure and inspection process, you receive a large volume of the other party’s scanned bank statements in pdf format. As part of your investigations, you want to isolate all transactions relating to a particular payee. Rather than printing out the statements and examining them line-by-line with a highlighter, an OCR feature lets you do a text search for the payee and identify all relevant entries in an instant.
Attached to the likes of medical and engineering reports, experts will often attach reference documents, such as research reports and articles from academic journals. These documents can often be dense in nature. Nevertheless, it is generally important to give them consideration for anything that might be especially relevant to the actual expert report and to your client’s case as a whole.
OCR allows you to search for the segments of these documents that are likely to be most relevant. It also allows you to easily copy sections and paste them into opinions, correspondence and pleadings.
One of the barristers’ chambers you frequently instruct has prepared a handy guide to tax law changes and has sent you a scanned version in pdf format. Some of the contents are directly relevant to a number of your cases. OCR enables you to annotate the document and extract useful sections and charts so you can add them to your casenote file on your case management system.
What are the benefits of OCR for lawyers?
OCR can help you in the following ways:
By effectively ‘unlocking’ scanned documents, OCR removes the (frustrating!) requirement of having to retype sections of text contained in scanned documents.
For many of the scanned files lawyers deal, only certain sections of them are specifically relevant to the litigation in hand. As we explored in our article, How lawyers can reduce stress at work with legal tech, as much as 20% of a working day can be wasted in searching for the information you need to get the job done.(1) Trying to identify the relevant parts of huge files can be a big part of this. By letting you search for and then highlight specific areas, you can cut out a lot of this waste.
This can be especially relevant when you have large volumes of financial records to analyse. When assessing text manually, even the most experienced lawyer can miss something important. With OCR enabled, you can use the search function in full knowledge that nothing relevant will be missed.
OCR makes it quicker to work with scanned documents, freeing up your time to devote to more valuable activities such as wider case strategy and building stronger client relationships. What’s more, because it creates less scope for error, there is often greater scope for delegating tasks such as document checking to more junior staff.
How to use Casedo software to convert PDF to text
With Casedo, you can now make unreadable scanned documents readable by following these simple steps:
- Import the scanned document into the Casedo workspace
- Right-click the imported file and select ‘Recognise text’
- The software will then process the text (this can take a minute or two, depending on the size of your pdf)
- Once the OCR feature has processed the text, you can search and edit it as you would a standard text document.
If you have one or more scanned documents and you want to search for specific words, you can simply import them all into Casedo, apply the OCR feature and search them together or individually. More detail on the Casedo OCR feature can be found in the How to section of our Knowledge Base, How to use OCR in Casedo.
For more information on how to boost productivity, beat stress and put technology to best use, be sure to explore our Insights Hub. To discover the difference Casedo can make to your firm or chambers, book a demo today.
- Noi, D. (2018). Do workers still waste time searching for information?. [online] Blog.xenit.eu. Available at: https://blog.xenit.eu/blog/do-workers-still-waste-time-searching-for-information [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].