Migrating from Old Applications Is the New Challenge

E-discovery is now cutting across all the legal demographics of firm size, case values and attorneys but a significant number of lawyers are still unfamiliar with the requirements and characteristics of electronic discovery. No single vendor is dominating the market and national vendors are clearly splitting the business with local shops.

More important, although well known products such as Summation and Concordance have a high market presence, they are now being pushed by the rise of Web based applications. For years, the annual AmLaw Tech Survey has shown that large firms use both Summation and Concordance but are slowly moving to web based application. My surveys of small firms over the past two years have shown a similar trend.

Why is this? Although attorneys are always cost conscious, they are now rating both vendors and products on a number of other factors besides price. In the Chicago survey I ran earlier this year for the Law Bulletin Publishing Company, twice as many respondents found the effectiveness of their software more critical than the price.

What this means is that firms big and small are likely to have at least two and as many as a dozen lit support tools. Indeed, a survey last year by American Lawyer magazine queried firms IT Directors and litigation support managers about what litigation support applications they used.  The report showed a multitude of packages in use but revealed that the Lit Support Managers use the most popular packages far less than what the IT directors report. This discrepancy was most obvious with a few products: Summation (55 percent of litigation chiefs chose it, versus 82 percent of the IT directors), Sanction (20 percent versus 32 percent), Access (19 percent versus 63 percent), and Trial Director (18 percent versus 40 percent).

 

On the other hand, the litigation chiefs report that their staffs are using more products than the IT directors give them credit for deploying. Some products mentioned by LSM’s didn’t even make an appearance on the IT chiefs list. Likewise in small firms, the LBPC survey found 11% of the respondents saying they DIDN’T KNOW what Web application they were using.

It seems clear then that communication, not only between lawyers and tech staff but even internally among tech staff, is not good. “The truth is, nothing rules the day,” says George Socha, as quoted in an ALM Research article called Litigation Dogfight  .  Old programs compete with each other as well as new applications and often do not compare favorably. The same ALM Research article quotes Thomas Barnett, special counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell and head of the firm’s electronic discovery and compliance department, as saying “In technology terms, [the search tools used by older products like Concordance and Summation] are dinosaurs,”.

What is clear however is that the challenge facing firms today is incorporating both old and new products in their strategic arsenal. With the advent of electronic documents in a variety of document types such as multi-page TIFFs, PDFs, emails, excel spreadsheets and audio files, old approach of Bates numbered single page TIFFs in flat file databases on a PC has faltered.  The paradigm that worked for 10 or 20 boxes of documents is simply too cumbersome and prohibitively expensive for cases that routinely handle hundreds of gigabytes of electronic information. 

The task for the immediate future is working with and upgrading to newer programs while keeping active cases which use the older programs running smoothly. John Turner, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Anacomp, owner of CaseLogistix, says that “A modern platform must be able to review native documents that are not just paper equivalents, but must directly enable review of any file that is in common use in business today.’  A strategy for balancing multiple applications until those applications emerge is the real challenge facing firms and lit support departments today.

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