How to separate or combine PDF documents before filing

Learn how to merge and split existing PDF documents within the most common software platforms (Adobe Acrobat and Nuance) for a successful court filing.

Once upon a time, desktop computers ran on MS-DOS, and creating a document was all about blue screens, blinking cursors, and a series of formatting codes. Back in those days, most attorneys wrote their legal briefs by hand in a notebook that was then turned over to the firm’s “word processing magicians.” 

Today, with a few clicks of the mouse, even the most technologically-challenged individuals can create highly polished documents. One of the greatest modern conveniences is the ability to manipulate multiple documents into one cohesive masterpiece.  For example, we can clip small portions of documentary evidence out of a larger piece and then drop them into a separate document that we’re composing. This practice is especially handy when we need to do things like highlight one clause from a contract within a brief arguing the validity of that contract. 

This article explores the process of merging and splitting up existing PDF documents within two of the most common software platforms (Adobe Acrobat and Nuance). 

Splitting up documents 

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we combine multiple documents into one PDF file. A good example would be a legal brief that is combined with supporting declarations and the Proof of Service page. While these combined documents can be convenient for internal purposes, they are often rejected by courts. Courts typically want each document filed separately so they can create an appropriate index of each case document online. 

In the event you ever need to split up one of these “run on” documents, here’s what you do: 

In Adobe Acrobat: 

1. Open the PDF file that you need to split up using Adobe Reader.  

2. Click on the Tools tab. 

3. Select the Pages option and then choose Split Document. 

4. The Split Document feature allows you to break up a document by selecting a certain number of pages, altering the size of the document, or choosing certain defined bookmarks. 

5. For more details on this process, watch this tutorial video.  

In Nuance: 

In recent years, a program called Nuance has started to give industry-leader Adobe Acrobat a run for its money. Since so many firms are now using Nuance for PDF processing, we thought we should provide instructions for that format as well. 

1. Open the PDF file that you need to split up using Nuance. 

2. Choose the “Split Document” option from the PDF Home menu (it appears under the “Tools” group). 

3. An option will pop up that reads “Split by Pages: ____ Pages as a document.” Enter a number indicating how many groups of pages you want to create. 

4. Save the newly split files as individual files. 

Merging documents 

It is just as important to be able to merge multiple documents as it is to split them up. Returning to the above example, you might want to combine a legal brief with all the sworn declarations supporting that brief, and then send one combined file to your client or others. Here’s how you make that happen. 

In Adobe Acrobat: 

1. Open Adobe Reader and select the Tools menu. 

2. Click on Combine Files and then select Add Files. 

3. Choose the files that you want to combine into one PDF. 

4. You can rearrange the files into the appropriate order by selecting a file, then dragging and dropping it into place. 

5. Once you have all files in the correct order, select Combine Files. 

6. Don’t forget to save your new file under a new name. 

If you are more of a visual learner, you can watch a video tutorial on the process here. 

In Nuance: 

Nuance uses a feature called “Document Assembly” for merging multiple. PDF documents into one piece. Here’s how the process works: 

1. Choose the Document Assembly option from the PDF Home menu (it appears under the “Pages” group). 

2. Select one or more pages of an existing PDF. 

3. Drag and drop those pages where you want them in the new document. 

4. You can right-click on any place within the new document to insert, replace, or remove pages as you see fit. 

5. Once again, don’t forget to save the new document! 

Keep in mind 

One thing to remember is that anytime you manipulate a PDF document in the ways discussed in this article, you’re likely to lose any text-search capabilities that existed within the original. Therefore, it is critical that you re-OCR your new documents to return those capabilities. For more information on that process, check out One Legal’s prior article on the topic. 

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