If you’re a litigation attorney, you know how complicated and fact-laden your cases can be. Because there are often multiple attorneys and firms, large lists of parties, witnesses, experts and hundreds upon thousands of pages of relevant documents, managing a case file on your own can be difficult. Add a legal team to the mix—whether it consists of other attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants or others—and it can be increasingly challenging to manage a case from start to finish.
Document management and collaboration obstacles are significant contributing factors that increase complexity when managing a litigation file. This is because the litigation process typically results in lengthy depositions that lead to stacks of transcripts, which need to be reviewed, annotated and analyzed by members of a litigation team. Similarly, documents and evidence produced in response to discovery requests also require extensive review, and findings then need to be shared across an entire litigation team so each team member can do his or her part in moving the case forward toward a successful conclusion.
Certainly e-filing and digital documents have reduced the paper trail somewhat, but digital evidence, just like physical evidence, necessitates review, categorization and analysis. When paper documents dominated litigation, Word- or Excel-based document summaries, printed document binders and witness preparation folders, and strategically placed sticky notes were sufficient to manage the litigation-related information. These days, however, much of the evidence and case-related documents are increasingly provided and shared in digital format, and thus legal software is needed that allows litigation attorneys to manage and collaborate on the influx of digital data.
That’s where litigation fact management software comes in. This is a relatively newer category of software, and while there are a few premise-based solutions available, the majority of software programs of this type are now cloud-based. With this software, litigation teams are able to streamline the litigation process by coordinating the work being done on complex litigation matters so that they are able to easily collaborate and share notes about case-related evidence and documents.
A few years ago, there were only a few companies offering this type of software, but in recent years, more platforms have been released. What follows are some of the cloud-based products available to lawyers that are devoted primarily to litigation fact management. Note that this list is not all-inclusive, but a selection of the more well-known software programs available.
But before we dive into tools available, it’s important to note that the litigation management software programs discussed below are cloud-based, and thus all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. And whenever you entrust your law firm’s data to a third party you have an ethical obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your data. This includes ensuring you understand how the data will be handled by that company; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Some available litigation fact management software tools
First, there’s Everchron. This software program facilitates collaboration amongst team members on litigation matters. With Everchron, your team can create and work from a single master file that includes all case documents. Transcripts, including video recordings of proceedings, can be uploaded in into the master file and reviewed and collaborated on within Everchron. Exhibits can be hyperlinked and cross-referenced with documents in the master file, and witness files are automatically generated from the documents and transcripts that have been uploaded into Everchron. A chronology of the case can also be created using the data available in the master file. Pricing is not available on their website.
Casefleet is another option to consider. With Casefleet you can store case-related documents in the software and build chronologies from those documents. Facts within the chronologies can be linked to evidence and issues. Witnesses and contacts can also be stored and organized within the software. Reporting and analytics tools are also available. Pricing starts at $30/user/month for the Starter level if billed annually, and $40/user/month if billed monthly. But if your firm needs unlimited document storage and full text search, you’ll need to upgrade to the Standard level, which costs $75/user/month if billed annually and $100/user/month if billed monthly. There is a free trial available.
Another tool worth checking out is FactBox. Using this software, legal teams can collaborate on case documents and generate work product—including memos, chronologies and more—using the source materials from which the cited facts originated. Users can run searches for keywords or issues, and can generate reports based on the search results. Of note is that the company changed ownership in June 2020. The cost is $74 per user per month if you opt for the yearly plan, or $89 per user per month if you pay month-to-month. A free trial is available.
MasterFile is one of the newer entrants in this space. It’s marketed toward smaller law firms and includes the ability to track, categorize and collaborate on documents and evidence. Using this data, you can create comprehensive chronologies and witness profiles. Pricing starts at $97/user/month billed annually, and decreases as you add users. A free trial is offered.
Last, but not least, there’s Litera Litigate, which is the result of Litera’s acquisition of Allegory Law from Integreon in August 2020. With Litera Litigate teams can quickly sift through documents and hone in on important facts by searching the database of evidence. The software also creates connections between relevant information, making it easy for team members to collaborate on and share thoughts and analysis as they review the data and prepare for litigation. Pricing is not available on the website
So those are some great options if you’re in the market for this type of software. If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you know I always advise my readers to take a test drive of a few different software programs, if that option is available, since functionality and user interfaces vary widely.
At the end of the day, it’s a matter of balancing your firm’s needs and getting input from other team members who will be using it. Because if the majority of your team isn’t comfortable with the software, then they won’t use it. Once you ensure that everyone is on board with the concept and is willing to use the software, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of streamlined case preparation and collaboration in the cloud.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].