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No. 12, December 1999  

Scanning and Litigation Support

The hoopla about the "paperless office" of several years ago has been buried under ever-increasing mounds of paper. The need for managing that paper has also grown and, with the advent of more powerful PCs and scanners, the question of scanning and turning the scanned version of a document into an electronically-editable WordPerfect or Word document has been the subject of much confusion. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of litigation support, where speciality software offers massive productivity gains. How does this technology work and what can it do for you?

A scanner is basically a photocopy machine, except that instead of printing its image to a piece of paper, it makes an electronic copy of it, most commonly in "tif" or "jpeg" format. You can then view that image on the computer screen or have Optical Character Recognition software turn it into an editable word processing document.

Once you have scanned your documents, you then have to manage them. The programs that come with most scanners are suitable for managing images of your children or pets, but not for large numbers of documents. You are best off with some kind of document management system, such as Worldox. In terms of litigation support, most litigation support programs include a database function that will manage your scanned images.

What Does Lit Support Software DO?

Ideally, litigation support software should manage three types of information: transcripts; physical documents received during discovery; and electronic documents produced in-house or received during discovery.

Transcripts. Replace manual digests with electronic equivalents. This includes the ability to create a digest, to search a full-text index of your combined transcripts to find any word in them, to issue-code specific passages and otherwise attach notes concerning, e.g., rebuttal arguments, objections, etc. In addition, if you are scanning documents you want the ability to link the scanned image to the transcript so that when it mentions "employment agreement" you click on your note and see a copy of the actual employment agreement.

Physical documents. Those boxes and boxes of documents in your war room should be immediately accessible on your PC. No need to go back and hunt through the yellow stickies protruding from the edges of photocopies. There are two parts to doing this. First, you need a database that contains information about the documents, such as the Bates Number, people mentioned, importance ranking, issue coding, type of document, summary, whether the document is a duplicate, etc. Second, you will want to link scanned documents to the record in the database. This serves two important functions: 1) it makes it easier to enter information into the database because you can see the document on the screen while you are entering information; and 2) you can always consult the document without leaving your PC. In most cases, you can in effect take your entire war room with you to court, depositions, etc., all completely searchable on your PC.

Electronic documents. Word processing documents concerning the case have been created in-house: motions, briefs, correspondence, etc. Increasingly, documents produced during discovery may be electronic rather than paper. You want to be able to integrate these into the rest of your system. The goal here is to be able to call up and consult all relevant material concerning the case from your PC: a kind of "one stop shopping."

"My Cases Aren't Big Enough"

Many people feel that litigation support programs are only for "big cases." While it is true that the bigger the case, the more cost effective are litigation support packages, there are two considerations that make them effective even in relatively small cases (say, 500 documents or even less).

First, the ability to search every transcript and every document concerning the case electronically can produce enormous time savings. If you have ever spent more than 10 minutes or so hunting for a particular reference, fact, passage in a transcript (or, more likely, had your paralegal spend hours reviewing thousands of pages of transcripts), litigation support can be a life-saver. The difference between finishing a brief at 10 pm or 2 am is more than just 4 hours.

A second, less easily quantifiable but ultimately even more valuable benefit is that being able to locate every instance of a particular term, passage, any note that anyone in the firm has made concerning a case, etc. within seconds means that the chance of a key item "slipping through the cracks" is sharply reduced. The ability to react instantly to unexpected information by searching the entire case electronically during a trial or deposition can be critical in a case.

Depending on whether you include imaging, you will probably wind up spending $1,000-2,000 per concurrent user for a litigation system, not including installation, hardware, training, consulting time, etc. However, licenses are generally concurrent, i.e., if you have 5 licenses, any number of people can use the program as long as not more than 5 are using it simultaneously. A small number of licenses will support a much larger number of litigators.

Computer Requirements

Litigation support programs are very computer-intensive and require fast machines with lots of memory. In addition, for anyone who spends substantial amounts of time in front of a screen (more than 2 hours a day), a large monitor (19" or better 21") is strongly recommended. The larger monitor allows you to actually read the image of a document while reviewing the database information on the same screen at the same time. The reduced eyestrain will reduce the number of errors due to fatigue. If you have a large number of documents, it will generally be cheaper and more efficient to have them scanned by a service bureau, which will be able to do it much faster than you can in-house. A service bureau will scan your documents and give you back a database in the format you request that includes basic "objective" information such as Bates Number, date, people mentioned, type of document, number of pages, etc. This frees you up to analyze the documents. For small batches of incoming materials (up to several hundred pages), you will want to invest in a mid-range scanner with an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF).

Summation Blaze

Many litigation support programs have their roots in one particular function: a database to manage production documents (Concordance); transcript software (Discovery); or a merger of different companies with different strengths (Discovery with InMagic to produce Discovery Magic). Then there are hybrid products such as JFS Litigator's Notebook, which is based on Lotus Notes. For transcripts alone, people often use Livenote or Pubnetics' e-transcript. Each product has its strengths and adherents, and more and more products are coming on the market all the time. You need to determine your needs and match them with specific programs that are available.

However, as a consultant with experience in a number of these programs (including Concordance, Discovery, InMagic, Infogrator, e-transcript, LiveNote and Summation), for over-all usability and functionality I most often recommend Summation Blaze. One client characterized it as the "startup support package you never outgrow." Until very recently, Summation's ability to handle electronic (non-transcript) documents was poor and involved a series of awkward workarounds, but the most recent version allows you to link electronic documents on your hard drive directly to a database record, and this functionality is likely to be improved in upcoming versions. Summation recently got a lot of publicity because the Department of Justice's head litigator, David Boies, used it to track documents in the DOJ v. Microsoft litigation.

Litigation support software is an excellent example of a technology that, by reducing the amount of time it takes you to gather information and produce documents, can expand the amount of time available to do what the client is really paying for: applying your legal expertise to the relevant information in the case. In many ways the question is not "can I afford to buy litigation support software," but "can I afford not to buy it?"

WP Law Office 2000

WordPerfect Law Office 2000 is now shipping and can be ordered from Heckman Consulting. In addition to the WordPerfect Professional Suite programs, it contains the following legal-specific programs:

  •     Amicus Attorney IV Organizer Edition
  •     HotDocs 5.1
  •     Black's Law Dictionary integrated into the speller
  •     West's CiteLink 2.2
  •     Dragon Dictate 4.0
  •     DealProof SE 1.3 (a "proofreader" for inconsistencies in your contracts)
  •     NexLaw 9 legal extensions
  •     Tools for publishing documents to the Web (Trellix and NetPerfect)

Call (860) 395-0881 for discounted pricing. We also sell licenses, which are not generally available through retail stores. Unless you are upgrading from a typewriter, you probably qualify for upgrade pricing.

Tips & Tricks

Print a document without opening it. In the WordPerfect File Open dialog box, select one or more documents. Right click and select "Print" from the menu. The selected documents will print. You may have to wait a minute or two to regain control of your screen while the documents are printing.

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No.21 April 2002
Future of Case Management Programs
No.20 October 2001
Disaster Recovery Small and Medium Firms
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