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Chapter 7 - Managing Litigation Information Using Technology

Setting up a Digital Trial Notebook

Just think about it. Your case is set for trial tomorrow and your electronic trial notebook is ready.

  • The jury selection process will be enhanced with jury evaluation software that has the local area profiles and other relevant data of a cross section of individuals. This will assist in comparing the voting propensities of your potential jurors.
  • Your exhibits, graphics, video, and other material for your opening statement are on a CD-ROM for easy access and presentation.
  • Your direct and cross examination outlines are linked directly to the underlying supporting data, such as text and videotaped depositions, expert reports, documents, and case material. Access to these materials is at the touch of a key or barcode. You use a light pen to draw on the exhibits to point out the major points you want to make to the jury.
  • Legal authorities are on your CD-ROM disk with an open telephone line or wireless to one of the legal publishers or the Internet for location of other legal and factual material as needed.
  • The court reporter is providing a real-time text and video feed back to your computer and over the telephone line to your expert in his office located 500 miles away, since he will not be testifying for another week, and to your other office.
  • Legal motions are substantially prepared, needing only testimony for the motion for directed verdict or other motions, which will be taken from the court reporter’s live testimony feed into your computer.
  • Bullet charts supplement your closing argument and other materials prepared during trial and easily integrated into your prepared arguments.
  • The jury instructions are modified in your computer and “published” to the jurors by use of the monitors in the courtroom.

Farfetched? No, these technologies are available today and used to varying degrees during trials. But what is still eluding the legal profession is the ultimate “integrator” of these hardware and software technologies so that the litigator has one simple but powerful entry and linking of his legal and factual materials in his trial notebook.

A digital trial notebook should duplicate electronically the primary function of the written, manual case notebook. It should be your electronic paralegal designed to provide direct access to the correspondence, pleadings, documents, facts, and law of your cases. It should be a customizable system that lawyers immediately recognize and can identify as the approach they use when preparing a case. It should provide you the command post to access your case’s facts, documents, and law instantaneously using your favorite software programs.

The digital trial notebook should enable you to custom organize your case in a simple, yet flexible manner. It should provide direct access to specific case information in any Windows or DOS software application. So at the click of your mouse, you should launch from the theory of your case into your favorite software programs to the essential information about your case.

Organizing litigation information involves all computer application programs: word processing, spreadsheets, databases (legal and factual), images, full text, video, presentation tools, and other programs, such as PIMs. Not only does one use all these programs, but it is then necessary to thread and chain together the legal and factual issues with the witnesses testimony to enable the user to prepare for direct, and cross examination, as well as other aspects of the litigation process.

Many a software company has tried and many have failed in trying to provide the “ultimate” litigation trial notebook, attempting to be everything to everyone. Usually, they provide one or more of the different computer applications, such as full text and imaging, but neglect the critical connecting links with other 3rd party programs, such as a database or outliner. So, what is the answer? What should a digital trial notebook be?

Text Box:  A digital trial notebook should give one the capability to automatically access the specific case information in all other software applications. It should record your keystrokes or pathnames of the other programs so that you can automatically launch into other Windows programs, saving valuable time. Whether it is a form document, deposition, or access to trial exhibits, one mouse click should provide you direct access to this valuable information. Such software should be able to be used in ANY area of law that you practice to replicate the “lawyering process”, whether it is tort, corporate, business transactions, domestic relations, criminal, and so on.

Outliners & Integrators. One possible interface solution is to use an outliner or integrator as the front end to the electronic trial notebook. This should provide the necessary links and interface to the computer applications that you will use to automate the legal processes of your case.

In outlining software programs, this is accomplished by “collapsing” and “expanding” subsections of your outline. If you need to rearrange the order of your witnesses because of travel problems or the changing nature of the case, then the sub?outlines of your case can be moved by the touch of a key. It is not necessary to cut and paste, but merely move the witness notes, which can include direct and cross-examination, to the new location. Many attorneys rave about the benefits of outlining programs because they work like a lawyer “thinks”. It enables you to “outline” your case in the same fashion as a trial notebook.

Also see Chapter 6, Desktop Interfaces, Outliners, Integrators and Menuing Systems.

Integrators perform similar functions as an outliner, but integrate the different application programs primarily using icons to represent different programs or functions. For example, an integration program may have an ICON for Witness A’s testimony. After pressing the ICON, a full text program containing the wittiness’s testimony would open. Another ICON may launch Microsoft Excel to determine damages in your case.

However, one major pitfall of many front-end integration programs is mandating to the attorney how to set up his trial notebook. They “tell” the attorney how to set up his notebook by designing the software interface to reflect the designer’s belief on how the notebook should look. The fallacy in their approach is that all attorneys approach and organize their notebooks differently. The front end user interface for the attorney must enable him to easily design the interface himself. Some outlining programs and integrators are starting to permit this capability, but we are a significant way from achieving this goal.

Using HTML to create a Digital Trial Notebook.

One recent major development that holds substantial promise for the front-end integration protocol is the use of HTML programming language. HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is used extensively in the World Wide Web pages of the Internet. It basically enables the user to create a text document and link a word, letter, image or video to another document, application, video, etc. As your HTML trial notebook is developed, one can link a phrase such as “Deposition of Jane Smith” to her actual deposition, or a description such as “Photos of plaintiff in the hospital” to actual scanned in photos of the plaintiff.

HTML is one of the most programmed languages in the world today. The standard is relatively open, and major corporations such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are rushing to upgrade the programming language to be able to link and show video, sound, graphics and other multimedia information. This bolds extremely well for the legal profession since our legal and factual information is in all forms - video, text, graphics, and so on. It is not difficult to conceive that a browser, such an Internet Explorer™ would be the front-end “outliner” tool with links to both your “Intranet” and “Internet” and trial notebook.









Such a tool would enable one to link and access all the case information on your network, but also would have links to information anywhere in the world on the Internet. Above is an example of an HTML trial notebook with a hypertext link to the deposition of Ann Green. One could “construct” a HTML trial notebook with appropriate links to other case information.


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Digital Practice of Law Book

Digital Practice - TOC
Ch.1 - Automating the Practice
Ch: 2 - Computers
Ch: 3 - Networking and Group Computing
Ch: 4 - Internet & Telecommunications
Ch: 5 - Management and Personnel Considerations
Ch: 6 - Computer Concepts and Legal Applications
Ch: 7 - Managing Office and Litigation Information Using Technology
Implementing Litigation IT
Ch: 8 - Using Multimedia in Legal Proceedings

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