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Wolfman Jack was right. Oldies can still be goodies. While new legal technology software comes and goes, Summation, a litigation support product, remains a favorite among trial lawyers. Just ask George Bellas, of counsel at Chicago’s 20-lawyer Clifford Law Offices. In August, he won a $22 million settlement in a Ford Explorer rollover suit. Bellas, 53, used Summation to organize, index and categorize the documents that were key to his case against the four defendants, which included the Ford Motor Co., which shelled out $8 million, and Chicago’s Cassidy Tire & Service, which paid $3 million. Summation is one of the older litigation support products on the market. It may not have the venture capital backing or snazzy look of some of its newer competitors in the legal market. But it’s still a workhorse. Bellas’ case dates to June 1992, when a Ford Explorer involved in a minor accident on a Chicago expressway rolled over, killing two women and leaving another severely injured. Plaintiffs’ attorneys set out to prove that the Explorer had design defects. The lawyers had to wade through more than 100,000 pages of documents, according to Richard Burke Jr., a partner at Clifford Law Offices. The task of organizing and analyzing the mountain of information was left up to Bellas. Ford gave Bellas six compact disks containing documents, including internal memos, during discovery. Bellas also collected documents from other Explorer and Bronco II cases from around the country. Through an e-mail circuit of plaintiffs’ lawyers, Bellas was able to swap depositions used in other Ford litigations. Bellas also sent a paralegal to comb the Detroit public library for old advertisements for the Explorer. All of this paper material was scanned and turned into electronic images. “Basically, we took everything we could get our hands on and reduced it to an e-format,” Bellas says. Enter Summation. Bellas put these documents on a Summation database, where he could search them according to a range of categories, such as name or court case. This huge database included about 7,000 document summaries. Bellas was able to create reports and chronologies that helped him develop the tactical arguments in his case. One key chronology, for example, contained a few hundred documents, dating from 1988 to 1995, that led him to map out his claim that Ford introduced the Explorer to the market too early. “The chronology I had showed a confluence of events that indicated there was a real crisis at Ford in terms of the design and stability of the Explorer,” Bellas says. Because the case never went to trial, Summation’s role was sort of like that of the Wizard of Oz. The defense team never saw the chronologies, memos and other preparatory material that Bellas generated with Summation. “Whatever chronologies he is talking about, I am not familiar with them. They were not part of the settlement,” says John Krivicich, a partner at Chicago’s Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth, Ford’s trial counsel. Summation did give Bellas the ability to call up the documents on the fly at depositions. This function is often used during trials, as well. While taking the deposition of a Ford engineer, says Bellas, the defense questioned whether a document Bellas cited was classified as a business document. In other similar cases, Ford lawyers had agreed it was a business document. Without Summation, Bellas may not have known this. “I said, ‘Wasn’t that interesting? In such-and-such a case, he said it was an authentic business document,’” he says. Bellas is far from the only fan of Summation. More than 65 percent of the American Lawyer100 firms use Summation, according to a survey in AmLaw Tech, a sister publication. Summation Legal Technologies Inc. was formed in 1988 by a solo practitioner, a big-firm litigator and a systems engineer to help trial lawyers manage the vast sea of trial documents, as well as to view trial and deposition transcripts. Summation may be best known for its ability to help lawyers comb through lengthy transcripts. It has a handy search and retrieve function, so attorneys can scan transcripts swiftly according to key words or phrases. This can be a helpful feature in finding discrepancies in a witness’s testimony. Users are more likely to use Summation to conduct a search of transcripts than they are to rummage through discovery material, says Jon Siegerman, Summation’s founder and president. “Of all of the litigation computer tools I use, Summation is the one I have been using longest,” says Craig O’Dear, a partner in the Kansas City, Mo., office of Bryan Cave. O’Dear has used Summation for 10 years. He says that he has won more than $25 million in settlements and verdicts in those cases. Carlyn Kolker is a technology reporter at American Lawyer Media. She can be reached at [email protected].

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