Minter Ellison bets on PDF for external docs

With an existing internal document management system in place, legal firm Minter Ellison has become one of the largest local PDF production sites by rolling out a publishing application to some 1750 desktops.

Minter Ellison’s national applications manager Garry Miekle said the firm now has more than nine million documents, mostly in word format.

“We use iManage for our document management system which includes the necessary macros and templates so users work with a consistent look and feel,” Miekle said. “The document management system lets us store all our Microsoft Office documents and give each one a unique identifier.”

After numerous problems with using Word-format documents externally, Minter Ellison now uses Adobe’s Acrobat Pro to create external documents which can be read using Acrobat Reader.

“We’ve adopted PDF as the primary standard for external documents for a few reasons,” Miekle said. “We had problems with the formatting of Word documents and needed to secure them against accidental changes. Since we are a legal firm, and with e-mail, instead of paper, now used for delivering documents, PDF format gives our documents a consistent look.”

The PDF documents can also be inserted into the document management system, which has its own version control.

“We use Acrobat as a publishing tool to render documents as PDF; therefore we needed to put it on everyone’s desktop,” he said. “The biggest issue we had with Acrobat was teaching people how to go through the process of ‘PDFing’.”

Minter Elison’s backend data systems are a mixture of mainly Oracle – which is used with iManage – SQLServer, and Domino.

“We are running Office 97 so are at the back of the pack in terms of compatibility with more recent versions,” Miekle said.

“Now clients don’t have a problem opening documents and there is little potential for problems with larger documents.”

Although Miekle was unable to comment on the cost of the implementation, he described the migration as “crucial to conduct day-to-day buisness”.

“There isn’t really an ROI associated with a project of this type as it is an essential tool [to enable] us to operate,” he said. “We don’t do anything flash with Acrobat.”

Since implementing Acrobat, Minter Ellison has looked at other products, but will stick with Adobe.

“Acrobat allows multiple documents to be placed in one PDF and although password crackers for it can be downloaded, it has a reasonable level of security,” he said. “Most importantly, we have removed issues with distributing documents in native format.”

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