GPSolo Magazine - December 2003
Maybe this is still you, arriving at court, ready for your trial. You have banker’s boxes full of materials: multiple legal pads covered in your “best” handwriting with lines and arrows going everywhere; reporters with stickys at the relevant pages of your key cases; piles of deposition transcripts, again with the stickys and notes throughout and the handwritten deposition summaries; piles of exhibits; and finally, your witness notes for direct and cross-examination.
Then your opponent, C.C. Club from Stocking, Silk and Fussbudget, comes in similarly equipped, except she comes with four associates to assist her.
How can you possibly compete?
Get a laptop and some great software—you can level the playing field and your opponents. I know, I know; that stuff all costs scads of money and you don’t have time to learn all the complicated lingo. Wrong on all counts when you consider the alternative: getting your head handed to you on a platter.
I am constantly amazed by the number of lawyers, even young ones, who have this attitude. I am a solo with one associate, and I’m pushing 60. If I can do it, so can you.
The first new software product I recommend is a little $99 wonder called NoteMap (www.casesoft.com/notemap), an outline program that’s about as complicated to use as a pencil. If you can use word-processing software and can read, you should be up and running in about 30 minutes, tops.
I used NoteMap to outline this article. I use it to outline all witness testimony for direct, to plan my cross, and to outline openings and closings. It’s also the best way I know to outline briefs and motions. It’s so easy to move things around to reorder facts and issues, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.
One of its really neat features is a single button that will put your entire outline into PowerPoint. Whether you’d want to is a discussion beyond this article, but it is a great way to start using PowerPoint.
Another great product from the same people, CaseSoft, is TimeMap 2 (www.casesoft.com/timemap). This program makes constructing timelines painless. The only other similar products I know of are Microsoft Project 2000 at $499 and Visio from $219 to $559 (www.microsoft.com), and Corel Draw 11 at $329 (www.corel.com), all three substantially more than the $199 price of admission for TimeMap. Here’s how it helps: Sometimes the only way I can understand a case is to construct a timeline of events to see it all at once. I now routinely include a timeline in the appendix of my appellate briefs and provide it to the trial court in motion hearings. You will not believe how much judges appreciated this. (Your opponent will be impressed as well, though not the same way.) You can save the timeline as a Word document, rich text, text, or copy it into PowerPoint. You also can transfer it to a disk and have a copy service make a blowup on presentation board.
In my last trial, I was able to graphically display the overadministration of a medication with a timeline on a two-foot by nine-foot board showing 115 administrations during a nine-month period—and to insert dates when various signs and symptoms of the problems that developed were first observed along the way. There is no way to present that much information more clearly and efficiently and, I must add, more easily. It took me only about an hour to input all of the information and move it about for best results, changing type size, style, and colors as needed.
Best of all, TimeMap integrates with CaseMap 4 (see below). Integration is something you will want to check before you begin buying information management software. Can you share information among the various bits and pieces of software that you purchase, or must you rekey the same information into each program? You want integration for ease and versatility: a choir, not a group of soloists.
Next you want to look at transcript management software and the tool packages that allow the information to fit together for coordination and retrieval. Because there are several good products in this area, you’ll want to try them out to see which one you like best. Your decisions may be based on economics, the learning curve required to use the software, or simply the match with how you think and work. The good news is that all of these products (as well as the ones I’ve already talked about) come with limited-time demonstration downloads, so you can take them out, kick the tires, and see what makes you happy.
The software that has made the most difference in my practice has been deposition/transcript management software. I no longer carry around piles of transcripts or dig through multiple transcripts to compare testimony or find testimony on particular issues.
Several companies make excellent products (just be sure the software integrates). Summation Legal Technologies, Inc., has developed the Rolls Royce product, Summation, with single-user licenses starting at $995 to $2,495 for iBlaze (www.summation.com). Of course, this is a complete litigation support system, and the transcript management is not available separately to my knowledge. LiveNote Technologies produces LiveNote 8.2 for $695 per license (www.livenote.com). The folks at CaseSoft are again at the forefront of affordability with TextMap (www.casesoft.com/textmap) at $99, but this is a bare-bones model.
I use RealLegal’s Binder (www.reallegal.com/binder.asp), which isn’t cheap at $695 but is extremely functional. Now, I get all of my deposition and trial transcripts on floppies or, more often than not, by e-mail, and the court reporter also can attach electronic copies of all exhibits. No more lost deposition exhibits. I use paper copies only when necessary for witnesses or to attach to pleadings as an exhibit. This alone saves file space and weight—but still is only the beginning.
All depositions in a file now appear in a single “binder,” in which I can color-code specific issues and highlight text supporting each issue (the same text can be highlighted for multiple issues). The program creates a word index that lists where the word appears in each transcript, and going directly to that place in the actual transcript is just a few clicks away. No more fumbling with transcripts to cross the witness currently testifying. The program also can automatically prepare reports of extracts from all depositions in a file on a particular issue. This is very handy in responding to motions for summary judgment or even to objections at trial.
The program also allows real-time viewing of the transcript while the witness is testifying, and you can e-mail the transcript to co-counsel or your expert directly from the program. I really can’t imagine practicing without it now. Best of all, the program is a snap to learn and use.
The final piece to complete your arsenal is the program that integrates all of the information needed to win your case. I use CaseMap from CaseSoft (www.casesoft.com/casemap.shtml), $495 per user, compared with between $995 and $2,495 for Summation’s Blaze (www.summation.com/products/PF_lg.htm) and $995 for Concordance from Dataflight Software, Inc. (www.dataflight.com). Discounts are available from most producers for quantity purchases, and CaseSoft specifically discounts prices for members of the GP Section.
What does case analysis software do? It’s a trial in a box. It allows you to integrate information about the issues in your case with witnesses, deposition extracts, and documents. For any specific topic, a click of the mouse will pull up all testimony, pleading, and documentary evidence to prove that issue. When you walk into the courtroom, you’re prepared, with everything you will need at your fingertips.
CaseMap and other similar case analysis programs integrate with Adobe Acrobat, TextMap, TimeMap, Summation Blaze, Concordance, LiveNote, and Sanction.
There are a lot of products out there, and one of them will work best for you. But you won’t find that out just reading about them—download a few demos and try them out. You won’t believe how easy they are to use, and how much easier your life and your practice will be.
George Ripplinger practices law in Belleville, Illinois. He is a former chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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