In litigation (and life), being organized often leads to better outcomes.
The path to becoming organized, specifically in litigation, can present significant challenges. As a litigation attorney who manages a docket of mass tort cases, I have come to know and appreciate certain cutting-edge legal technology tools essential for organization, allowing me to not only “keep up” but to get ahead, using tools which support critical thinking, complex problem-solving and overall optimal performance in the management of complex litigation.
In collaboration with a technology subsidiary of my law firm, I had the opportunity to help design a matter management system in recent years, and I heavily rely on this system for the efficient management of a large group of cases in my current practice. The end result of this design process was a customizable, searchable, cloud-based, report-generating database which could handle a virtually limitless amount of data — no matter if my case docket contains 20 cases or 20,000.
The system allows me to manage all of my cases with relative ease, and any litigator still resisting the implementation and use of emerging technology can no longer dispute the advantages.
Capturing the Data
At the outset of designing any litigation management system or database, a law firm or legal department must give thought to the type and scope of information to be collected, especially as it likely will provide the basis to perform analytical review on trends in the litigation.
For the cases I managed, a variety of data was relevant to my clients, starting with basic biographical data concerning the plaintiffs in my matters. Equally important was the need to identify the various entities and stakeholders involved in any given case, and to keep track their changing status throughout the litigation. Other data to be tracked included: the identity of counsel, case jurisdiction, expert witnesses, settlement status and terms.
Besides being able to enter data into specific database fields, I also had the capability to upload and link key documents.
The individual needs of a firm or law department inevitably vary, so when designing a system in-house, a full audit of relevant information and input from leadership and practitioners alike will be beneficial.
Analysis and Reporting
Once relevant data is recorded in a database, a case management system begins to pay dividends as an organizational tool.
In my experience, not only could I review and assess any single matter, but also, and perhaps more importantly, I could search and analyze groups of cases, and generate reports to support my analysis. This enabled me to be proactive in the management of my matters. In a matter of seconds, I could search for all cases currently scheduled for trial and create a report listing exactly when and where they were proceeding, along with any additional relevant detail.
Such reporting allowed me to prioritize matters requiring immediate attention and to plan accordingly.
Of course, a trial calendar feature is but one benefit of a case management system. Depending on overall objectives, data can be searched and analyzed in many ways. For example, matters can be analyzed according to jurisdiction, adversary, nature of claim, all of the above or any limitless combination depending on the amount of data collected.
Indeed, the beauty of such a case management system is the capability and freedom to analyze data and run reports based on criteria deemed most relevant to my clients and me.
Business clients are concerned with budgets and costs, and arguably increasingly so, thanks to an ongoing pandemic.
If businesses are to remain competitive and keep costs under control, then the innovation of organizational tools through technology is more important now than ever before. When it comes to litigation needs, a case management system will enhance client service when properly used.
Indeed, these systems can assist a user to identify emerging trends: whether in overall case filings, in a certain jurisdiction or with a particular adversary. Such capabilities also take the guesswork out of settlement value assessment by enabling one to search the history of case settlements in similar matters. Technology used in this way promotes better decision making which is a foundation for solid client service.
Technology-driven case management systems promote efficiency.
In the business of litigation, the sheer volume of data and information that must be collected, stored and analyzed continues to exponentially grow. Traditional document charts and spreadsheets might be useful, but such tools are limited in their capability to handle data increasing in both volume and complexity.
Powerful technological tools, on the other hand, are the ultimate in reliability and efficiency. Whether litigation is local or nationwide, we use these systems to track trial dates, discovery deadlines, depositions and court appearances and to present them in calendars or reports — thus ensuring no date or deadline “slips through the cracks.”
Another reason to consider the “efficient” benefits of technology is simply the ability to save time — what was once considered added value is today viewed as a necessity and requirement. .
Recently, a client requested figures concerning matter dismissals occurring over a certain period. Having already tracked the relevant data, the task was as simple as running the appropriate search in order to address the client’s inquiry. What might have been a laborious and time-consuming exercise instead proved to be quick and simple, all due to the proactive consideration for how to utilize technology. .
Finally, inasmuch as case management systems securely occupy “the Cloud,” there are ample opportunities for lawyer-client collaboration and client cost savings. When both client and attorney have real-time access to a cloud-based case management system, the client has the flexibility in determining and allocating resources and perhaps using the case management system independently of its counsel. Indeed, a client’s preference in some instances to directly rely on a case management system, in lieu of calling up its attorney to request information, will reduce costs and thus positively impact the client’s litigation budget.
Furthermore, a client’s ability to view and operate a case management system supports collaboration, trust, and clear communication between client and attorney.
Even with currently available cutting-edge technology, we can expect innovation will continue to bring further advancement to litigation management — in the form of data analytics and executive dashboards. The concept of data analytics is to employ technology for the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data, particularly useful in areas abundant with recorded information, and to rely on the visualization of that data in order to convey insight.
Law firms likely will use legal data analytics to win cases and obtain positive results for their clients with an increased ability to reveal patterns in how courts previously have ruled on similar issues.
Data analytics also may provide greater insight into how long a case might last or how much experience one’s adversary has handling similar cases. Accordingly, firms will be able to better advise their clients and make predictions on a range of subjects from duration of litigation to anticipated judgments and settlement values.
The executive dashboard will be the vehicle by which data analytics get reported to a client.
Dashboards will visually track, analyze and show various metrics and key data points, enabling any key stakeholder to monitor the overall state of a litigation, a business or other process. These dashboards are fully customizable to meet a client’s needs and can allow for monitoring in “real time,” while minimizing time necessary for analysis and communication.
The difference, however, is that executive dashboards, will be more visual (e.g., charts, graphs, tables) and will allow for trends and developments to be more rapidly understood. Dashboards also can automatically create reports with its data whenever and wherever, which will reduce or eliminate the time spent analyzing and formatting data.
As attorneys and their clients increasingly will rely upon technology, and as technological advancements continue, the management of litigation is bound to become even more efficient and predictive in nature. Likewise, attorney-client communication and collaboration will trend upward, as litigation costs are pushed down.
Without a doubt, technology is the key to an organized approach to the management of complex litigation. The tools available allow me to offer solutions and carry out strategies using customized case management systems in order to serve the needs of current and future clients.