I've been meaning to write for a number of months about how I have been getting on with life without paper bundles. But I've had a minor setback in that pretty much ever since investing in a super shiny device on which to display all singing all dancing electronic bundles I have been delivered of nothing but pages and pages of documents in broken lever arch files which are fifth generation copies (and as such all the text is slightly fuzzy and sliding off the page into oblivion). I am beginning to wonder if the wheeled suitcase industry mafia are not putting the thumb screws on all the solicitors instructing me, to ensure that I continue to prop up their revenues as I have done for the last fifteen years. Maybe they have got wind of my attempt to remove suitcases and large handbags from my life by transferring to a backpack (thanks to a niggling suitcase/bundle induced shoulder complaint), and are wreaking their revenge.
It's ironic really - I've spent years grumbling about bundles delivered only electronically (usually because they arrive, russian doll like, in a million separate pdfs nested in several tiers of several threaded emails), which then have to be printed off in no particular order at the eleventh hour. But now I want one, I can't get an electronic bundle for love nor money.
Before the e-drought, I did a few hearings / trials using pdf Expert on my laptop before taking the plunge and investing in an ipad pro - it worked reasonably well. On the first attempt I had my bundle in hard copy in a suitcase at the back of court as a comfort blanket, but I didn't need to open it once. Somewhat ridiculously, with only one device, I had to resort to keeping my notes in a blue book, whereas I would ordinarily have typed them - you really do need two screens to really go paperless : one for the bundle and one for your xx notes / running log of the hearing. I was somewhat deflated to find that, having ditched paper, I kept being handed more and more late documents in hard copy as the hearing progressed, so that by the end of the week I had a whole file full of assorted badly photocopied and unpaginated documents that I had to keep switching to and from. But in the grand scheme of things, a ring binder's worth of irritation is nothing compared to a mighty suitcase full of back ache.
I've conducted a few trials / hearings where I've brought the core papers in hard copy but have been able to leave behind the stuff I'm 99% certain I won't need to refer to on my laptop, thus enabling me to travel with my cabin sized wheelie rather than my corpse sized one. This in itself is a super bonus.
So yes, I'm a bit frustrated that, after a promising start, I have had a limited opportunity to get to grips with e-bundles. I had hoped by now to have mastered the techniques for navigating large bundles so that I would feel confident enough to go paperless in a larger trial. Hey ho. I'll get there eventually. And in the meantime other colleagues not so jinxed as I are popping up all the time to rave about how a bit of practice with an ipad pro has revolutionised how they work. So I think the momentum is picking up, and we are beginning to reach the tipping point where all of a sudden one day ebundles will be the norm, and we will all be expected to be competent with them. I'm certainly not going to be the one left on the shore when that happens.
For what it's worth, I reckon that this is actually not as daunting a self-education project as I thought at first it might be. Granted, the cost of an ipad pro is pretty eye watering, but the software costs are minimal (pdf Expert seems to be used by most) and the navigation is a lot easier than I had thought it might be - as long as you have a properly indexed bundle where the majority of documents are in native pdf format (jargon alert - this means that the computer reads the file as a text document rather than an image, so it can find words in a text search and you can highlight particular lines of text). Bookmarking and highlighting features are reasonably easy once you've got to grips. The most irritating part of this new tech is the hardware itself. As someone who has avoided an ipad for years, I find its way of storing documents and really hard to get my head around. And of course, now I have a touch screen I keep pawing my laptop and wondering why it won't work. Or staring at the screen trying to remember how to make it scroll without touching it... But this too shall pass...
Ebundles really are becoming a thing in public law proceedings, and although some local authorities produce more user friendly bundles than others, this is the area in which ebundles are gaining most traction (no doubt because of the applicant is always a corporate party which is represented rather than a privately paying individual or litigant in person). My recent run of paper bundles has coincided with a run of private law cases, where ebundles seem to be somewhat more of a rarity. See recent HMCTS blog here for news on the public law front.
Apologies for the not very exciting reading. Whilst I acknowledge that an absence of me spitting feathers about idiotic, awful, impossible technology makes for rubbish blog posts, the truth is that nobody wants to see me when I'm in full Technology Rage mode. Even virtually. So far I have not had one single tantrum. Hurrah!
Feature Pic : courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr (creative commons licence - thanks)