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Are you properly redacting your documents?

When eFiling, you will often file documents with confidential information like Social Security numbers, taxpayer-identification numbers, account numbers, and date of birth. Redaction is essential in filing these kinds of documents.

Hand Redaction

Whereas confidential documents used to require sharpie and multiple copies, technology now enables a quicker and more effective redaction process. One such way is by scanning a document onto a computer, converting the file to a PDF format, then redacting the private information via the PDF software.

Modern Redaction

The most widely-used PDF softwares are Adobe Acrobat and Nuance. Keep in mind that it is most likely the “pro” versions of these products that will have the redaction tool. There are other cheaper workarounds but using them may put your client’s information at risk. Be sure to use software specifically made for redaction. Drawing a text box or black highlighting confidential content within a document is not properly redaction.

In addition to software, the individuals who handle confidential documents need training on how to properly redact them. Do not assume your staff knows how to properly use the redaction tools in PDF software. Check-in with them and provide training if necessary.

The American Bar Association (ABA) approved a change to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make it clear that attorneys have a duty to be competent in technology. This includes redaction technology.

Redaction Examples

Whether you use Nuance’s Power PDF Advanced or Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, the process has three steps. First, use the software’s redaction tool to draw a box the information you want to redact. A red box will appear marking what you want redacted.

After you have marked the content for redaction, apply the redaction. This will delete whatever content is within the box and replace it with a standard black box. This is referred to as “burning in” the redaction.

Finally, you must save the redacted document. The redactions will not be final until the document is saved. All three steps must be completed for the redaction to be proper.

Successful Redaction

While redacting documents needs to be taken seriously, it does not need to be stressful. When you use the right tools, you will be able to redact successfully and you may even have access to additional features. This might include Bates numbering, creating fillable forms, or the ability to add, delete, rearrange, and rotate pages. Advanced features might also allow you to search a multi-page document for a specific word, phrase, or pattern such as an account or credit card number.

Covering up confidential information with a Sharpie may be simpler, but lazy redaction processes put your clients at risk and your reputation in jeopardy. Invest in the right software and save yourself from the wasted time and hassle that could result from improper redaction.

Read the original article published in partnership with the Chicago Bar Association.

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Tisha Delgado
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