Litigation-Tech Article Archives 3

Beginning with my time in-house at Brobeck (1998-2002), I have enjoyed writing about Legal Technology for many publications. This archive is intended to preserve many of these older articles, which were written prior to the Court Technology and Trial Presentation blog, which started in 2009.

Thank you, Ted Brooks


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"Lit-Support - In-House or Outsource?", by Ted Brooks
From Yahoo Groups
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The in-house litigation support department in our firm has steadily collapsed throughout 2002. We have recently decided to replace the department with an outside contractor, as several other firms in town have that setup and as best as we gather, it has worked well for them.What we have now is not working out at all.

Does anyone have experience with companies that do this type of contracting, and could anyone recommend some reputable and experienced outfits? Ideally they would set up shop, adapt to our system, and take over the duties from the existing department.

I have been honored by my partners to do the groundwork on this transition, as well as seeing that the transition goes well. I will be speaking with others in town who have similar setups, but I thought I would ask you pros also.

We are a large sized firm in a major market, with growing lit support needs. Any observations? What about logistics? This is early in the process but we want to move quickly.

Your scenario is precisely what launched our company (Litigation-Tech), right down to the large firm/major market part. Of course the need for litigation support never goes away, it just gets tough sometimes to manage (and finance) it all in-house. I can tell you that our firm went from a large, full-time litigation support department down to only a few (myself being one of the few), and that is when I took the initiative. And, it has worked very well - both for the firm and for my company.

The main focus of my company (initially) was to offer trial support and graphics services. This is fine - however, like your firm, my old firm's "standard" litigation support needs did not simply go away when the overhead was eliminated. This has encouraged us to evolve into more of a "full service" litigation support firm, offering services such as training, database development and maintenance, e-discovery, and so on. Basically, we have developed a team of professionals (including several former employees of the firm), which is available as needed. Having the "in-house" experience has certainly enabled us to understand and respond to the needs as they arise. We are essentially doing much the same job we did in the past, only now we just bill differently.

This issue of billing is seen by many as an advantage to a firm - that of being able to simply pass the invoice along to the client, as opposed to trying to justify expenses. I recall many instances in which the in-house litigation support services were written off as a result of a displeased client. When a third-party company is involved, the onus is on that company to collect payment.

We have also done non client-related work for the firm, where we bill the firm as any other vendor would. Again, since this tends to be project-specific work, when the project is completed, the billing ceases.

It is my observation that there is only a small handful of actual "full-service" litigation support firms (functioning in the same fashion as a typical in-house department). Although we are a standalone company, we tend to see ourselves more as a supplemental service to the firms we work with. In fact, in response to your "set up shop" scenario, we often find ourselves (and actually prefer) working inside the firms we are serving - be it a large database project, or in the remote warroom preparing for trial.

My response here is not-at-all intended to discredit any in-house litigation support department - just to offer that there are always alternative methods of addressing issues. Of course, we have now branched out to include many other firms in our client list, and are always actively searching for more. I would be happy to entertain further questions offline.

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Courtroom Presentations On The Record, by Ted Brooks
As appeared on The TechnoLawyer™ Community Newsletter
"Answers to Questions™ - Community members answer questions submitted by their peers"
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TechnoLawyer member Jeffrey Lisson asks: "While I love technology, I'm scared of it in the courtroom. I'm scared of computers crashing -- whether it's Microsoft's "blue screen of death" or the laptop falling to the floor. I'm scared of jurors who think electronic presentation of documents are (1) too easily manipulated; or (2) too slick. And I'm scared of the price. Leave aside the cost of the laptop, scanner, color printer, software, etc., needed to make a good presentation. I'm scared of the cost of the projector and, to do it right, the "smartboard" for presentations. I'm scared of lumens v. price, of inches of display space v. digits to the left of the decimal point in my bank balance. What have my peers found to be the best bang for the buck in courtroom presentation devices? Though I recognize this will vary, what do jurors accept? How "slick" is "too slick?" And what have others found to be the costs of buying v. renting this equipment?" I began my career advising lawyers of all shapes & sizes on the benefits that automation could have in their firm. Whether it is Time & Expense Billing, Document Management or Workflow Processes, the need to streamline is in the now, not the tomorrow. While some of my prospective clients passionately bought into this "electronic" school of thought, others simply limped on down the road of "Big Chief Tablets" and "Scrap Paper Work flows." To say the least, it was and has continued to be, a most bittersweet pursuit to convince such intelligent and forceful leaders to buy into the simple premise of faster is better! It really is based on sound human logic. Would you rather walk to school both ways in the snow with no shoes on or being a person of sound body and mind, prefer a quick ride over on a school bus? The reality of the legal industry is, that while most attorneys, large and small, are more than willing to bill out at ever inflating service rates, these same attorneys balk at the idea of spending money to improve their own internal processes.

Answer: Allow me to respond by letting the testimony speak for itself. I was recently involved in a major jury trial, in which judge and jury alike were very much in tune with the technology. Rather than attempting to defend the cause, I will simply insert an excerpt from the judge's closing comments to the jury:

Western MacArthur Co. v. USF&G Final comments (emphasis added) from Hon. Bonnie Sabraw to the jury, 6/03/02:

page 6026
16 But I want you to know that you have had an
15 opportunity by being jurors on this case to participate in one
16 of the most well-prepared, if not the most well-prepared,
17 cases that I have seen, that you have been on the cutting edge
18 as far as technology in the courtroom, that you have had an
19 opportunity to see a case presented by people who clearly know
20 what they're doing and how to do it. And if you sat through
21 several jury trials, you would discover that oftentimes people
22 are very well prepared, sometimes they are not very well
23 prepared. But not -- you're not going to find another case,
24 if you do go sit on a jury somewhere else, I would imagine,
25 that would be as well prepared and tried as this one has been.
26 And so for those of you who have never had this
27 experience before, if you do find yourself back on a jury at
28 some time in the future, you might find that it's not tried in
page 6027
1 quite the same fashion. So you should, quite frankly, feel
2 fortunate that you were able to participate in this particular
3 jury trial.
4 We, as I said, have here some technology that even
5 this court -- that I have not used in my courtroom before.
6 And we all had some concern about how is that going to work,
7 and it worked very, very well. And we have some people here
8 who have been behind the scenes. I don't know if they're all
9 here at this point. But you didn't, other than having
10 "Mr. Brooks, would you do this" or "Roumiana, would you pull
11 up that," you didn't have an opportunity to hear from them or
12 meet them, but they truly participated in putting on this
13 trial. And I do want to introduce to you Mr. Ted Brooks who
14 is not here, probably went on to the next case.
28 THE COURT: All of these people made it happen as
page 6028
1 far as the technology is concerned, and we certainly don't
2 want to leave them out in terms of our appreciation.
3 I'm sure that when you came into this courtroom and
4 next door, when it first started, you had some idea that this
5 case might be a little different. Most cases don't go on for
6 several weeks. Most cases don't have this technology. Most
7 cases don't have as many attorneys sitting at the counsel
8 table and attorneys involved in the courtroom.
9 And, again, you have been fortunate to participate
10 in a case that is complex and required your full attention.
11 And that's something else I wanted to mention, because the
12 fact is we have observed, all of us, how attentive you've
13 been; how, when something comes up on the screen, you're all
14 tuned into it. You were truly participating in the case, not
15 just letting it sort of flow over you. And -- and that's a
16 very, very important part of -- of being jurors, and we all
17 really appreciate that.

Are you curious how the court views technology? How the jury views it? Take a look at an excerpt from the transcript of the Western MacArthur v. USF&G case.
See the Western MacArthur case technical stats.

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