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In simpler times, the discovery process in litigation typically involved collecting, reviewing and producing some manageable number of pieces of paper. Today, discovery can involve hundreds of thousands of pages (and more) — and probably includes e-mail, voice mail and scanned documents. It is not only impractical for this tidal volume of evidence to be reviewed manually, but also a modern-day legal nightmare to manage so many documents, particularly when multiple attorneys from multiple law firms are involved. The real shock, however, is how quickly this new litigation reality has come to pass. Those simpler times were just a few years ago. E-discovery — the collection, review, and production of information from e-mails and other electronic document stores — is continually changing the nature of litigation. In particular, e-discovery is driving firms to better manage larger volumes of documents, to collaborate more effectively with co-counsel, and to improve project management. Law firms can more efficiently prepare for litigation by turning to some of the feature-rich and scalable litigation support technologies. MANAGING DOCUMENT VOLUME Over the past few years, electronic documents have virtually replaced paper in the business world. And now, as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, many companies are treating e-mail as business records and keeping e-mail archives for up to seven years. This means that the volume of documents in e-discovery will continue to grow. Law firms should plan for how they will cope with cases involving a million documents or more. Firms that invest in litigation support software should look for applications that are able to scale to handle growing numbers of documents and productions and that can provide extensive searching and query capabilities. Also, they should choose a vendor with a solid track record of supporting large cases. COLLABORATING WITH CO-COUNSEL As more and more cases involve multiple law firms and joint defense groups, collaboration becomes critical. High-profile cases in industries such as tobacco, automobiles and financial services have accelerated this trend. By pooling resources and sharing a single set of documents, a joint defense group can save corporations considerable expense. To capitalize on this trend, firms should look for a litigation support system that can handle multiple legal teams and their associated security and access privileges — down to individual documents and annotations. A hosted litigation service, for example, can provide a neutral but secure repository that all participants can access, as well as the technical and administrative support required to link in all participants and other services. TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT It is more critical now than ever before to manage the coordination of all the vendors and services involved in litigation support to ensure that nothing is overlooked and that everything is connected. As the volume of electronic and paper documents increases, there is a greater need to bring on case administrators who understand IT and can focus on the technology, as well as the legal work flow. Some litigation support software vendors can provide implementation consultants and case administrators. MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE With the right litigation support software and services, litigation teams can streamline the e-discovery process and make searching, cataloging, annotating, distributing, and printing critical documents less cumbersome and more efficient. Collaboration and project management will also improve. Here are some basic criteria to consider: � Ease of use. Look for tech tools that provide a logically oriented, browser-based interface that make it easy to search and review documents, enter annotations and review document status. If a tool is too difficult to use or understand, attorneys just won’t use it. � Flexible access. With defense teams all over the country, litigation support services need to provide flexible access for all users. If some users are accessing documents or litigation materials via the Internet or remote connections, the litigation support software should support local caching of documents and images. That way, attorneys or case administrators do not have to wait minutes for their selected documents to download. � Native format. It is also important to be able to review documents in their native format instead of putting them into a TIFF image format. This enables case administrators or attorneys to narrow down a set of documents that is most appropriate for inclusion in the litigation database. In fact, many firms find that a quick review and a first-level culling of documents can reduce volume by 30 percent to 50 percent. This saves significant time and money converting unnecessary documents to a TIFF format, which can cost between 8 cents and 12 cents per page. � Collaboration. Litigation support systems should enable collaboration among a wide variety of internal and external experts or participants without requiring extensive configuration or time-consuming setups. For example, one simple but powerful approach to this is investing in litigation support services that allow users to e-mail a Web link to a third party, who can then click on the link and review the document or annotation in question. � Security. Collaboration requires a system that provides the appropriate level of security for documents and annotations, while supporting the ability to define multiple levels of security for each case. Administrators should be able to restrict access to annotations, documents, and fields by user name or project roles. Users should see only what they are supposed to see — no more, no less. � Scalability. The benchmark for large cases these days is one involving three or more law firms, a million or more documents, and 20 or more primary users, administrators and attorneys. Litigation support applications should be able to handle cases of any size or complexity. � Professional services. A qualified, experienced professional services group can ensure that litigation support systems are properly designed to minimize performance bottlenecks and improve overall response time. With no end in sight to the growth of e-discovery or the trend toward multifirm engagements, it is more important than ever to consider the different options for litigation support technologies and services. With the right litigation support system, litigators can simplify the discovery process through more sophisticated search capabilities. Speeding up the identification of important documents means that more time can be spent on preparing the legal case. In addition, by choosing a scalable system, firms can lay a foundation for future litigation, no matter how large or complex it might be. Not having to move to a different system when volume goes up eliminates the costs of retraining. Though the simpler times of document productions have passed for firms with corporate clients, comprehensive litigation support products and services can significantly simplify today’s challenges. Mark Jesser is vice president of Steelpoint Technologies, a provider of litigation support and risk management solutions (www.steelpoint.com). He may be reached at 617-948-2720.

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