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National Consumer Law Center

Foremost U.S. consumer law organization uses Adobe Acrobat to help advocates fight for economic justice


National Consumer Law Center · The nation's leading consumer law think tank and publisher · A non-profit organization · Employees: 20 · Location: Boston, Massachusetts · Law Disks · Developer of legal software · Location: Garden City, New York ·

The practice of U.S. consumer law can be one of the most daunting for attorneys. To do their jobs, consumer advocates must mine thousands of state and federal laws, court proceedings, and government forms covering diverse issues such as debtor's rights, personal bankruptcy, sales fraud, credit discrimination, predatory lending, energy assistance, warranty enforcement, property repossessions, and foreclosures. Because of the high volume and dynamic nature of the information, many of the legal remedies available for helping low-income Americans avoid financial crises would be inaccessible to all but the most specialized practitioners. The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)--with assistance from Adobe Acrobat products and Law Disks, a New York­based developer of legal software--makes it easier for consumer advocates to pursue economic justice. The NCLC is the nation's consumer law expert. Founded in 1969 at the Boston College School of Law, the non-profit organization provides research, policy analysis, training, expert testimony, and case assistance to legal services, private attorneys, state and federal consumerprotection officials, public policy makers, reporters, and community groups across the country. One area of NCLC expertise is compiling and publishing reference manuals on all the major areas of consumer and energy law. Its 16-volume Consumer Credit and Sales Legal Practice series is the bible of the profession.

Same success, new medium

In the late 1990s, the NCLC asked Law Disks to help deliver material from NCLC manuals in easy-to-use electronic form. Today most of the consumer law books come with a companion CD-ROM that contains many megabytes of replicated and bonus content, almost entirely in hyperlinked, searchable Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The Consumer Law in a Box CD-ROM comprises reference materials, laws, pleadings, and a cross-book index from all 16 manuals. "We chose Adobe PDF as our electronic delivery format because it preserves the high-quality look and feel of the printed books," says Jonathan Sheldon, NCLC staff attorney, "plus it enables us to offer familiar, Internet-style navigational tools such as links, buttons, and bookmarks." Because new consumer laws and court decisions emerge continuously, the NCLC upgrades Consumer Law in a Box every six months. Sheldon appreciates how easy it is to add and update Adobe PDF documents. "We can convert files from word processing and typesetting applications, and even scan in printed pages with an integrity that gives us credibility with lawyers," he says. For example, the Federal Trade Commission itself didn't keep all of its 1,000 interpretations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but the NCLC had filed the paper letters for decades and


· Using Adobe Acrobat software, the NCLC delivers its flagship series of legal manuals plus bonus content on compact, portable CD-ROM disks. · The NCLC maintains the look and feel of its printed books and official documents while providing easy navigation, linking, and search capabilities. · With Acrobat and Acrobat Capture, the NCLC converts all kinds of electronic and printed documents and even Web pages to Adobe PDF files and readily updates the CD-ROM disks. · Law Disks, the CD-ROM producer, uses Acrobat indexing and batch processing tools to improve efficiency. · Attorneys access needed information quickly and cost-effectively and locate previously unavailable or hard-to-find material that builds stronger cases.


Batch processing is another area where Fogarty works efficiently. "With Acrobat 5.0," he says, "I can create a standard set of bookmark commands and copy it into a folder of 45 or 50 files in less than a minute. That saves hours of time over applying the commands file by file."

Convenience that wins cases

Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, and Adobe PDF enable electronic delivery of the NCLC's flagship series of legal manuals. The Consumer Law in a Box CD-ROM comprises an Adobe PDF library of reference materials, laws, pleadings, and a cross-book index from all 16 volumes of its Consumer Credit and Sales Legal Practice series. Acrobat indexing and batch processing capabilities provide attorneys with efficient tools for accessing information quickly and cost-effectively.

For attorneys and other users, Consumer Law in a Box comes with Adobe Acrobat Reader® software for viewing and printing files, and a friendly, Web-style interface that makes it easy to navigate and search the CD-ROM's contents. Article threads aid the reading of multicolumn and multipage layouts. "Adobe Acrobat software and Adobe PDF files enable us to put thousands of documents at lawyers' fingertips," says Sheldon. "Our customers can conduct key word and Internet-style searches across all of our manuals at once, quickly find what they need, and then print it out, export text into briefs in a word processing file, or whatever they want. Plus the CDs go anywhere, so attorneys can access information from their laptops, even while waiting outside the courtroom." In the world of consumer law, that efficiency is critical. Cases are complex, and the parties involved are often society's most vulnerable citizens. Consumer Law in a Box helps attorneys reduce costs while building stronger cases and arguments that influence court decisions about laws that protect every American.


Adobe Acrobat Adobe Acrobat Capture Adobe Acrobat Reader Infodata Systems' Compose® bookmark plug-in PCs running Microsoft® Windows® with 128MB of RAM, 650MHz, a 40MB hard drive, and a CD writer

used Adobe Acrobat Capture software to generate Adobe PDF files from the scanned pages. "Our collection is complete and one-of-a-kind," says Sheldon, "and now we have it forever in fully accessible, easily searchable form on our CDs."

Tools for richer content, faster production

"Adobe Acrobat soft-ware and Adobe PDF files enable us to put thousands of documents at lawyers' fingertips."

Jonathan Sheldon Staff attorney National Consumer Law Center

Neil Fogarty, president of Law Disks, has organized most of the NCLC's CD-ROM content. Much of it comes directly from the printed manuals, but Acrobat tools enable him to enhance it by using bookmarks, active links to supporting materials and Web sites, and buttons to turn previously paper-based information into an electronic encyclopedia. "The interactive pages in Adobe PDF help attorneys to find background material they might not otherwise know existed," he says. From a production standpoint, Fogarty appreciates Acrobat software's indexing capabilities, which he uses to index the extensive Consumer Law in a Box materials. "The catalog tool within Acrobat software is really easy to use," he says. "You don't need any programming experience to build your index database."

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Adobe, the Adobe logo, Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, Acrobat Reader, the Adobe PDF logo, and Reader are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. Microsoft and Windows ar either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © 2001 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. BC3738 10/01



National Consumer Law Center

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