As a data conversion service provider for attorneys and law firms, we know that the legal industry deals with an overabundance of information. Paper-based data is huge, which is ideally scanned and converted into a suitable digital format. Now, most legal documents are created and read electronically, and lawyers have started including hyperlinks in their memos and briefs. Hyper linking is a process when a section of words, known as anchor text, is connected to a different section of text or an external piece of information. It is a standard way of knowing more in detail about a specific information. Commonly, hyperlinks are used for citations to legal authority and to other sources. Lawyers can hyperlink to cited law, attachments, CM/ECF filings in their brief etc. This allows quick access to particular sections of the case or specific filing. Hyperlinks in court filings are very useful for court chambers. Court submissions which include links to relevant case law and case filings are easy for chambers staff to review and the attorneys’ arguments can also be immediately verified in the context of the relevant law. Even judges have started preferring hyperlinks in the briefs and memoranda filed in court.
Different Types of Hyperlinks
- Internal links: Each and every document must have electronic bookmarks and hyperlinks can be used to connect the main sections and headings to where they are discussed further down into the document. This enables easy navigation and understanding of lengthy documents.
- Link to local rules: You can provide an extra layer of context to your point by linking to a local rule.
- Filed attachments and exhibits: If you have filed other documentation along with the primary document, you can hyperlink to that piece of evidence, and it must be officially filed.
Here are some of the best practices if you want to add hyperlinks to your court documents.
- Don’t substitute: Even though hyperlinks are accepted in courts, these must not be used as a substitute for referring to standard references to law or opinions. Quoting specific precedents is a traditional practice in courts, which courts may not want to be replaced with hyperlinks.
- Show the full URL: Articles are usually hyperlinked with relevant phrases or snippets of text to direct readers to information that is most related to those words. Judges or clerks may not click through this link. That’s why certain states clearly specify that when hyperlinking, users must write the entire URL out in the text, rather than putting it into other words. For e.g. the full URL https://www.managedoutsource.com/blog/what-is-ediscovery-and-what-does-the-process-involve/, not just eDiscovery.
- Link to public websites: Federal courts are always open to hyperlinks but all state level courts have access to these accounts. So, strongly prohibit linking to any website or online document that is not available to the public for free and if you had to sign in to get to it, don’t hyperlink.
The hyperlinked documents are known as e- briefs or electronic briefs. So, to build your own e-brief you have to consider the following steps:
- All documents must be in electronic format: Make sure to scan all documents that your brief will link to and convert them to PDF format.
- Making documents searchable: To make your hyperlinked briefs searchable, ensure they are scanned with OCR or use Acrobat Pro’s built in OCR functions.
- Set up your Hyperlinking Team: Turnaround times are usually very short and, in such cases, you will usually need to split up the hyperlinking among many people.
- Divide the brief into small pieces but centralize the content: If you want to build links that work regardless of location, it is vital to build the e-brief using documents stored in one location.
- Having a license to Acrobat Pro: Make sure that people who hyperlink have a license to Acrobat Pro.
- Adobe Acrobat’s Hyperlinking Tool: Build each of your hyperlinks and back up your electronic brief frequently using adobe acrobat hyperlinking tool.
- Reassemble the distributed parts of you re-brief
- Check accuracy: Quality control in the e-briefing process is essential as even one bad link can destroy trust and the reading experience for the judge or clerk. It is best that you convert all relative links to absolute links.
- Build an Intuitive Interface: There are many tools available on the Internet that allow an interface to be built. A simple user interface can even be built in Acrobat.
- Distribute the E-Brief on DVD or USB Flash Drive: Be careful to make sure you do not break your links by moving relative.
Courts and states have their own opinion regarding whether and how they want hyperlinks. In the United States, federal courts have found hyperlinking very useful in court documents because court officials can access information and verify it more easily and efficiently. But for any courts to switch to hyperlinks, it requires digitization of vital documents with the support of data conversion company. You need to find out your court’s position on using hyperlinks in court documents before using the same.