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Chapter 6 - Computer Concepts and Legal Applications


Today’s relational database programs offer management capabilities unheard of just a few years ago. There are many case and office database applications in the practice of law. To name a few, databases can be created for case document information, witness lists, employee lists, marketing information, brief banks, exhibit lists, work product information, and conflict information. In databases, you can keep all your data in one place where it is easy to find when you need it. Updating information is easy, and when you need to summarize information you can create professional looking reports, such as an exhibit or witness list.

Database can be confusing when vendors and others talk about a “full text’ database or an “image” database, as compared to a “document” database. Technically, a full text document can be considered as part of a database. However, this book will refer to these three concepts separately, and a database will be referred to as a document database or any structured database that captures discrete fields of information.

A database is similar to a common address book. You place last names in your address book. Then, when you need to locate a person by their last name, you go to the section that begins with the first letter of their last name. However, what do you do if you remember the first name of the person but not the last name? In a manual system you literally would have to look at each name to see if the name “David” is part of the name. A computerized database would solve this problem since you would merely search the first name of the database for the name “David” and retrieve all records of persons with this first name. You could get your answer in seconds.

The primary components of a database are the table where the information is kept, the form where information is entered, and the most importantly, the report that summarizes the data entered into the records.


A seminal study conducted by Price Waterhouse demonstrated the immense value of a properly constructed database. In this study, a team of paralegals was instructed to locate, in a document population of 10,000 documents, a certain author who wrote on a particular subject. It took 67 hours for the paralegals manually to search through the documents to find 15 of the actual 20 documents that pertained to the author and subject. Using a database, it took 4 seconds to find all 20 documents that pertained to this author and subject matter. The 10,000 documents had to be coded first, but the same coding has to be done if you are manually managing the documents. Once coded, you can continue to do searches that take seconds instead of hours.

Database - Definition

In computer terminology, a database is simply a collection of mutually related data or information stored in computer record fields.

They are organized collections of information similar to index cards, phone books, and manual trial notebooks, or file cabinets of documents. Under either an electronic or manual system, one has to input document or other information on paper or into a computer to later access, retrieve, and analyze the information. The immense advantage of a database is that the retrieval time of databases is generally measured in seconds and not minutes, hours, or sometimes days. Also, once you enter information into these fields, you can use the SAME data in these fields repeatedly for other software applications and different reports.

A database management system (DBMS) is a set of features of the software that lets you manage the data in the database. This generally includes the ability to select records, delete, add, sort, and so forth. The great benefit of databases is that they allow you to produce reports that let you easily track and locate the data you are interested in.


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