GPSOLO December 2010
West Case Notebook
Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen
West has created a solid performer in its new Case Notebook software. West Case Notebook gives you a system to collect, organize, store, and use all of the factual information related to your case as well as your legal research. It allows you to organize your information for discovery and trial and can function as an electronic trial book, replacing the traditional three-ring binder with a much more effective tool.
Case Notebook allows you to build an interconnected map addressing all the elements of your case. Information from your client, experts, discovery, and even your research all fits neatly into place into a fully searchable database that will allow you to pull together all the information you have collected as it relates to a particular issue or fact.
Case Notebook incorporates LiveNote technology to allow you to go to a deposition and obtain a live feed of the “dirty” (unreviewed) transcript. You can mark key portions of the transcript and start processing it as you receive it. Your notes and markings will transfer to the “clean” (final) transcript once you receive it from the court reporter and import it into your notebook.
Reviewing the product, I found that the interface works well and seems fairly intuitive, but I strongly recommend you go through a demonstration and training to learn how to use the program most effectively.
West touts Case Notebook’s ability to share information among the various members of your trial team. While I do not doubt the utility of such features, they presume a larger firm than I have. My firm is small enough that sharing information and resources among myself and my support personnel is not generally an issue. From my perspective, the strength of this software lies in its ability to help a trial attorney (with or without a large support staff) to organize and analyze the information and research that goes into the building of the case, the preparation of the case for trial, and the presentation of the case at trial. It has utility for solos and small firms as well as medium- and larger-sized firms, although the larger firms will likely make more and better use of the information-sharing technology.
A related product, West Case Timeline, allows you to build a time line for use in your own analytic process or for use as a tool to help you explain your case to the judge or jury. Case Timeline lets you transfer information from Case Notebook to create the time line or manually enter information to create the time line. Case Timeline has considerable flexibility respecting the appearance of the time line, and you can easily alter the appearance to suit your needs. The interface worked well, and I found it largely intuitive. You can create a time line with a little bit of trial and error—or with even less time if you go through a demonstration and training. West generally provides good training for its programs, and I thought the demonstration/training I received for Case Notebook and Case Timeline was quite good and very helpful.
As pricing will likely vary depending on the size of your firm and the package you negotiate with your West representative, you will have to find out what this software will cost you to determine whether you think it justifies the expense for your firm. Under any circumstances, I recommend you take it for a test drive before making any decision.
Note: West, a Thomson Reuters business, is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Division’s sponsorship agreement with West. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services.
Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the small law firm of Graves & Allen in Oakland, California, with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans, and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. He also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSolo magazine. He is also a member of the ABA Journal Board of Editors. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for attorneys and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeffrey Allen blogs on technology and the practice of law at www.jallenlawtekblog.com.Copyright 2010