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As cognitive scientists (and savvy litigators) know, visual processing is easier and more effective than language processing. As the old adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Trial lawyers are increasingly turning to litigation support tools that capitalize on visual skills, as well as words, to win their cases, from discovery to final arguments. With the exponential increase of e-mail and electronic documents, attorneys reviewing electronic documents during discovery are finding that search engines and technology tools are critical to the success of document review. Fortunately, during the last decade, there have been dramatic advances in computing power — and continued research with powerful mathematics and “information visualization” programs — that help lawyers cope with the sheer volume of information in a case. Loosely defined, “visual information” is the ability to literally “map” information in order to identify critical content. Today, software tools help users employ both search and visualization techniques to analyze high volumes of documents by “clustering” related documents in a map on the computer screen — for example, providing the ability to track mentions of a potential witness in a corporation’s e-mail archives. Another example: users can conduct a search for a key concept related to the dispute, and all documents containing text related to that concept would “cluster” together on the screen in a visual manner that has been described as a “snowflake” or DNA. This visualization process helps reviewers quickly identify files that should be examined to determine if they are responsive, non-responsive and/or privileged. Adding visualization tools to the document review process can have a direct value for clients — it’s usually much less expensive than a traditional paper computer document review. Recently, KPMG announced that when using a discovery tool that incorporates visualization, on one matter alone it saved $1.25 million and reduced review time by 78 percent, in a project that required review of 6 million pages of electronic documents. Once documents are reviewed and depositions are taken, then facts must be extracted by the legal team and represented so that a story can be created. Excellent advances by tools such as Bowne/DecisionQuest’s CaseMap series (Casemap, Timemap, Textmap) help litigators analyze (and later explain to a jury or adjudicator) facts in a case. These tools make it easy to bring to life the facts, the stories, the cast of characters and the issues in a case. Finally, trial presentation systems and services are another way to illustrate, present and persuade. Many companies offer presentation and animation services and products that help lawyers win cases. Now that litigation cases routinely have millions of e-mail messages, case law is expanding and the complexity of cases is increasing, it becomes increasingly critical for an attorney to be familiar with document analysis tools and their visualization capabilities. As computing power continues to increase and visualization software becomes more prevalent in litigation processes, information visualization software will become as common on the lawyer’s desktop as Microsoft Office tools are today. Skip Walter is chief executive officer at Attenex Corp., based in Seattle.

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