How to use Adobe Acrobat as a typewriter to fill in forms

I suspect many law firms have typewriters squirreled away somewhere just to fill in forms.

Ross Kodner, computer guru extraordinaire, has an article about how Acrobat Standard, Professional or Professional Extended editions can be used as a typewriter to fill in those forms. He gives very detailed step-by-step instructions about how to save the forms as pdfs and then how to fill them in.

He has his own blog,, and this and some of his other articles are also published in the Small Law blog at

There is no charge to subscribe to either Ross’ blog or the mailings. Subscribing to both is highly recommended.

A creative way to use Google street views: Using it to find a cheaper hotel room

The ABA Techshow was recently held at the Chicago Hilton located at 720 South Michigan Avenue. Even though the ABA got a discount on the normal room rate, it still cost attendees $199 per night.

While I was at the conference, I started speaking with someone who was attending who could not have afforded that rate. He told me how he found a hotel that was much cheaper and that was only a block away. How did he do it?

Here’s how: He went on Google’s street views and just “walked” from the Hilton to the next block on Michigan where he “saw” another hotel, the Blackstone, which was at 636 South Michigan. He called the hotel, and, in addition to being close, it was cheaper than the Hilton.

But, you might ask, how did he know that it was a hotel and what its name was? Simple. He could see a sign “from the street” showing that it was the Blackstone Hotel.

How to have the Post Office automatically update you on people’s new addresses

What happens when you send a letter to someone and that person has moved? Your letter will automatically get forwarded for the first 12 months after the service. But you won’t get the person’s new address.

Here’s how you can have the Post Office automatically send you the new address: Just place “Address Service Requested” on your envelope and you’ll get the new address – at the grand cost of fifty cents.

Think about adding the line to the return address on your envelopes. That is, unless you don’t want to get notified or pay the fifty cents.

You can see details and requirements here and here. The rules are also printed in the Postal Service’s Quick Service Guide, Publication 95, section 507d. There is also a “Quick Service Guide 507d, Additional Services, Ancillary Service Endorsements” here.

More sites for finding info on jurors, lawyers, and others

I wrote earlier about using pipl and other sites for finding information about potential jurors and others — including discovering what federal and state political contributions they had made and which parties or candidates received their contributions. 

While I was at the latest American Bar Association Techshow, Jim Calloway told about a site that was new to me. It’s  It’s a good source of information, and, if you search your own name, you might find yourself mentioned in cases or in articles that you had forgotten about.

Jim always has interesting information on his site, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog. If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

And, if you’re trying to find someone — or how old someone is – or their phone number – or perhaps even their prior addresses — try Zabasearch. It has an incredible amount of information — and it’s also free.

Out-of-the-box uses for Dragon NaturallySpeaking

 All of us – or at least most of us – have heard of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and its use as voice recognition software in law offices.

 But there are many more uses for Nuance Corporation’s Dragon!!

 Uses outside of a law office

I read a while back about how a husband whose wife was deaf was using Dragon to communicate with his wife while they were driving. Even though she could read his lips, she couldn’t use that facility in the car because she couldn’t see his lips while her husband was looking straight ahead while he was driving. What to do?

Solution: her husband put their laptop in the car, and, while they were driving, he would speak into a microphone – perhaps a lapel mike – and his wife could read what he was saying on the laptop screen. She could then orally answer and he could respond using Dragon. It changed their lives.

I just did a Google search, and found a variety of uses for Dragon on Nuance’s U.K. site. One of the user stories described in detail how a daughter communicated with her deaf mother using Dragon and a wireless mike.

Nuance has a page that categorizes user stories of how Dragon was used to improve the users’ creativity, their work, and their life.

One of the unusual stories detailing how life was improved was a story by a student who was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He used Dragon to complete his 107-page master’s thesis, and he noted that he could even use Dragon while laying down. He added: “It has truly been a new lease on life.”

Other stories include ones by a psychologist with chronic fibromyalgia, a multiple sclerosis patient, and someone with severe dyslexia. There are others, for a total of 9 pages of stories.

An out-of-the-box use in a law office

In addition to non-law office uses, I have come across an unusual use of Dragon in a law office. One time I was speaking with a secretary about Dragon, and she told me about the out-of-the-box way her office was using it. She told me that an attorney she worked for would often handwrite his papers and presentations. Rather than her typing them, as would be normal, she, as his secretary, was saving time by using the speech recognition software to herself dictate what the attorney had handwritten.

I’ve heard for a long time how attorneys have been using dictation software, but that was the first time I had ever heard about a secretary using it.

The Nuance U.S. site also includes a number of stories of how others with physical challenges have changed their lives and have become able to work in law and other offices.  It also includes stories of how one lawyer has used Dragon and has eliminated his need for a full-time secretary .

See a review and demo videos

You can see David Pogue’s New York Times review of Dragon version 10 here. You can also see his video review here.

You can also see video demos in English  or, if you want, a humorous version in Geman, an older version (9) in Italian,  and a current demo in Spanish. You can even see a demo of someone transcribing from an MP3 recorder to Dragon.

Please comment on other uses

It would be interesting to hear stories of how law and other offices use Dragon to communicate with clients, witnesses, or office personnel. Please add a comment that might help others if you have any such stories.

Lawyers can be mechanically creative

The New York Times recently had an article on techniques people use to show they were busy so they wouldn’t get fired: “Working Hard To Look Busy.” A lawyer in the New York office of an international firm had a creative approach. Perhaps putting aside other issues, he wanted to have the lights in his office on in the evenings so that it would appear that he was working late. But he had a problem: the lights dimmed when he left his room. What to do to trick the motion detector? What to do?

The inventive lawyer had an AHA solution: he put an oscillating fan in the room to keep the lights on.

An out-of-the-box way to find a solution for winning your case – - “Researching by wandering around” – - Using indexes to law review articles

Let’s assume that you live in Toledo, Ohio. Also assume that the state legislature, to induce an automobile manufacturer to construct an assembly plant, has authorized tax incentives, which, together with other tax incentives, will total perhaps $280 million. The trouble is that your client has a business which will be displaced if the proposed plant is built and your client therefore wants to oppose the incentives.

Or assume you’re an attorney for a group that is opposed to these types of tax incentives and the group wants to contest the tax incentives. Do you know what the winning argument was in the actual case in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals – - and would you have thought of it? (No, the winner was not an eminent domain argument. That argument lost in a related case.)

Here are the facts according to the Sixth Circuit in Cuno v. DaimlerChrysler, 386 F.3d 738 (6th Cir. 2004):

DaimlerChrysler entered into an agreement with the City of Toledo, Ohio to construct a new vehicle-assembly plant near the company’s existing facility in exchange for various tax incentives. DaimlerChrysler estimated that it would invest approximately $1.2 billion in the project, which would either provide the region with several thousand new jobs or allow it to retain most of the old jobs from the prior plant in its new plant. In return, the City and two local school districts agreed to give DaimlerChrysler a ten-year 100 percent property tax exemption on personal property as well as an investment tax credit of 13.5 percent against the state corporate franchise tax for certain qualifying investments. The total value of the tax incentives was estimated to be $280 million.

The plaintiffs filed suit in state court in 2000 challenging the validity of the state tax credits and local property tax abatements.

Now, what would have been your theory for a challenge? (There was a separate suit that claimed it was unconstitutional to obtain certain plaintiffs’ property by eminent domain. The property owner lost that case and the United States Supreme Court denied plaintiffs’ application for cert. on June 28, 2005.)

So, again, what would you have argued?

Here’s a hint: It’s a constitutional argument.

What did the plaintiffs argue?

Continue reading

Do you want to watch surgery being performed? You can now see different types of procedures such as cervical and thoracic disc operations and prostate procedures

I just learned of OR-live, a site that shows tapes of surgeons performing surgery and includes running commentary from physicians.

You can browse the site’s archives by its 17 separate specialities, such as, for instance, cardiovascular/cardiothoracic, gastroenterology, neurological/neurosurgical, obgyn, and orthopaedics. You can also browse the archives by the name of the institution where the surgery was performed and by the date it was performed.

The neurological/neurosurgical archive listing includes, for example, links to a herniated disc repair using a microdiscectomy technique, an anterior approach cervical discectomy with fusion, and a mini-open antero-lumbar interbody fusion.

Procedures in the archives for the urology specialty include a hernia repair and a radical prostatectomy by robotic surgery to remove a cancerous prostate.

You may also hear comments from the surgeons and from other physicians before, during and after the procedures. In addition, you may also hear questions from other physicians while the surgery is proceeding.

As an example of what you can find, if you go to the page for a webcast of the cervical discectomy, you will see that the procedure was performed in 2004 and that you can view the entire webcast, or, if you prefer, just preview the webcast or just see and hear the doctor comments. If you choose the entire procedure, the webcast lasts two hours and six minutes and includes both video and related slides in side by side windows.



Archives by category:

Cervical discectomy:

Neurological/neurosurgical archives:

Urology archives:

Hospitals can reduce if not eliminate medical malpractice and patient deaths and complications – - Some are already doing it

I have reported in a number of postings that the way to reduce the number of medical malpractice suits is to reduce the amount of medical malpractice. Here, for instance, are a couple of my postings:

“Here’s one out-of-the-box way to reduce medical malpractice suits: Reduce the medical malpractice — A new study reports that an average of 195,000 people have died annually due to errors in hospitals”“90,000 patients a year die from hospital-acquired infections – - How to reduce the number of medical malpractice cases by reducing the medical malpractice”


Well, hospitals are beginning to reduce if not eliminate some hospital-acquired injuries and infections.

The Washington Post, in an article entitled “Hospitals Cutting Patient Complications,” reports that “about 80 hospitals in Michigan and New Jersey have virtually eliminated ventilator-associated pneumonia and blood infections from neck and groin catheters.” (Registration required.)

The article continues that some New Jersey hospitals have reduced their ventilator-pneumonia cases and catheter-related infections by a third by following steps such as weaning patients off ventilators more quickly and using a stronger skin disinfectant when inserting a catheter.

Similarly, “[i]n Michigan last year, 77 hospitals cut the number of catheter-related blood infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia cases so much that hospital officials believe they prevented 73 deaths from pneumonia and four from blood infections.”

The article also refers to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which has a “100,000 Lives Campaign.” That campaign is to save 100,00 lives each year by focusing on six problem areas, including medication errors. As IHI further describes its goal:

IHI and other organizations that share our mission are convinced that a remarkably few proven interventions, implemented on a wide enough scale, can avoid 100,000 deaths over the next 18 months, and every year thereafter.


Click here for IHI’s Frequently Asked Questions

A postscript:

After I drafted this posting, it was disheartening to read an op-ed piece in The New York Times with the sub-headline “Bad hygiene is killing patients.”

The piece was by a Betsy McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor and the founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. In it, she details how poor hygiene is causing “[i]nfections that have been nearly eradicated in some other countries [to be] raging through hospitals in the United States.” She notes that the problem is magnified because many of the infections are immune to being cured by common antibiotics.

Her solutions include enforcement of better hand washing techniques and the use of disposable gowns and aprons. She adds that when the veterans hospital in Pittsburgh used better procedures, it reduced by 85 percent staph bacteria that was resistant to methicillin, and the University of Virginia Medical Center eradicated the problem.

Partial links:

Source from The New York Times, June 5, 2005, p. A23.

Institute for Healthcare Improvement:

Institute for Healthcare Improvement Frequently Asked Questions:

Institute for Healthcare Improvement goal of saving 100,000 lives annually:

Washington Post article:

Here’s an instantaneous way for lawyers (and others) to find someone’s age – - and it’s free. You can also immediately find their telephone number and address

Zabasearch is a new people-finding and age-finding search engine. You can enter someone’s name – - and their state if you know it – - and you will probably (I surmise by my tests) get the year and maybe the month of their birth. You can probably also get both their current and some former addresses and telephone numbers.

I recently discovered Zabasearch in a posting in Genie Tybursky’s Virtual Chase TVC Alert email newsletter (highly, highly recommended). (“The Virtual Chase informs about Web sites and research strategies for finding the law.”) You can find her site at and even sign up in her site for her free new issues.

Genie has additional details about Zabasearch in her article entitled “Scary People Search Engine.” She writes:

“[Zabasearch] goes beyond the typical free people search engine, which provides the names, addresses and telephone numbers of those with public telephone listings. It also reveals private phone numbers and birth dates (mostly the year or month and year).”


She cites to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle which gives even more details. The title of the Chronicle article tells a lot: “It’s impressive, scary to see what a Zaba search can do.” (a site about urban legends) has comments on the results of paying the optional $20 for Zabasearch’s “background check.”


San Francisco Chronicle article: article:

Virtual Chase article:
Virtual Chase sign-up: