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A recent American Bar Association survey reported the startling news that only 15 percent of polled lawyers use any kind of litigation support. The great bulk of the respondents were, not surprisingly, small firm attorneys. If you haven’t tried litigation support technology, because you find it just too intimidating, take heart. Specialized tools — such as Summation, Concordance, Sanction, or Trial Director — offer lots of bells and whistles and many practitioners swear by them. But to get your feet wet, all you need is something you no doubt already own: a version of the Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system and its ubiquitous Office suite. Specialized litigation support software generally fulfills one or more of the following three functions: 1. Search transcripts: The benefits of easily finding keywords in your deposition transcripts requires no explanation. 2. Database management: Users can categorize documents (images or electronic documents such as e-mails) by date, author, etc. to facilitate searching. 3. Enhance presentations: Legal professionals can present evidence (charts, diagrams, document images and video) to juries, judges, arbitrators, et al. Here’s how beginners can accomplish the same tasks with Windows and Office: Windows comes with a perfectly adequate search engine that can pinpoint transcripts containing your key words. It should be your standard practice to obtain ASCII disks from court reporters in addition to a hard copy of your transcript. Copy the text files to a folder on your hard disk for searching. Now, you can simply browse to the folder (using the “My Computer” icon) and click on the “Search” button. Enter your search text in the “Containing Text” box and you’ll quickly find the relevant files. You can then open the transcript into a text editor (Wordpad and Notepad are the two that come with the Windows OS) by double-clicking on it. Once you have opened the file, Notepad and Wordpad both have search functions (in both cases, intuitively and conveniently activated by pressing “Ctrl-F”), so you can pinpoint the exact location of your search term. SEARCH AND REPORT For more adventurous souls, several inexpensive products will search text files and generate reports, such as the DTSearch Corp.’s namesake product, or ISYS, by Odyssey Development. Many offer a free, fully functioning demo, so you can check them out in detail before you purchase. Try searching the Web for “text,” “search engine,” and “download,” and see if you like any of what you find. DOCUMENTS AND DATABASES Microsoft Office includes Excel, a fine spreadsheet application that can be used to perform rudimentary database functions. If, for example, you prepare a list of documents, it is elementary to sort your spreadsheet by any column using the “Data” menu’s “Sort” command. Assuming you place each discrete field of information into its own column, Excel is no less powerful than a narrowly designed “litigation support” application for sorting and searching. If you have purchased Microsoft Office Professional, you already own a copy of Microsoft Access, a complex and powerful database tool. Without an enormous undertaking, Access can be used to create a hefty, user-friendly database of document information. If you are particularly ambitious, you can even link the database records to document images. You may also own a copy of a case management software package such as Amicus Attorney or Time Matters. Most case management software includes a feature for linking documents to your case record. There is no reason you can’t populate that area of the program with links to all the relevant litigation documents on your case, including both those you have created yourself and those provided by your adversary. ELECTRONIC DISCOVERY Finally, the undeniable trend toward the use of electronic documents has created a corresponding growth in electronic discovery — meaning the exchange of documents in their electronic form, rather than by exchanging hard copies. It’s probably only a matter of time before, in the course of your practice, you are presented with a CD containing an adverse party’s e-mails. Complex or large electronic evidence projects should not be undertaken without the requisite expertise. However, if you are presented with a production of e-mails in the form of an Outlook pst file, be aware that you can easily open the file and examine, search and print the e-mails it contains by using the “Import and Export” function in Microsoft Outlook. PRESENTATIONS PowerPoint may be the best piece of software in the Microsoft Office suite. It is powerful and easy to use, an example of software that tackles one problem and solves it elegantly. A closing or opening argument, an oral argument, or a presentation to a client or adversary might all benefit from the added power of a visual display to accompany your words. PowerPoint can help you deliver a fine presentation without wasting enormous amounts of your valuable time climbing the learning curve. Complex corporate relationships, financial charts, and even simple lists of issues can be made more exciting by creating a diagram in PowerPoint. Bold colors can be used, and shapes such as arrows and circles can be drawn with accuracy. PowerPoint does a fine job of “talking to” other products. If, for example, you have created an Excel spreadsheet of financial information, Excel’s “Chart” function can convert your data into an eye-catching pie chart or bar graph — that can be copied and pasted right into a PowerPoint slide. Photographs, document images, and video can be added using “Insert.” Portions of documents can be highlighted by inserting a text box on top of your document image, changing the “Fill” color, and changing the transparency to something like 50 or 60 percent so that the document image can be viewed through the text box. With PowerPoint, you can move from, say, a chart showing an adverse party’s corporate structure, to a bar graph showing how their fraud against your client enriched them, to an image of the contract, to an excerpt from a deposition video where they admit everything. Litigation support does not have to be the daunting realm of the 300-plus attorney firm. All you really need is your PC, basic software, a little ingenuity, and the patience to try something new. MORE HELP! Your local (or online) bookstore has lots of slim and inexpensive volumes that explain the basics of the Microsoft Office suite. And the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section and other legal publishers have legal-specific guides, including: • Lawyers’ Guide to Spreadsheets, by John Tredennick, published by Glasser Legal Works. • Office XP for Law Firms, by Ed Jones and Romena Benjamin, Hungry Minds. • Microsoft Word 2002 for Law Firms, by Payne Consulting Group, Prima Tech. • Extending the Power of Word 2002, by Perfect Access Speer staff. Chris Janak is practice support manager at Kelley Drye & Warren in New York. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]. This article originally appeared on the American Lawyer Media Web site Law.com.

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