GPSolo Magazine - December 2004
What comes to mind when you hear the term “trial preparation”? To me, it conjures up complicated images of the multitude of things my office needs to do, keep track of, and remember about the case and how to organize those things so they can be easily identified, located, and presented to a jury in a way that favors my client.
A minimum list of those necessary items would include the facts of the case, names of all parties and individuals related to those facts (think “players” or “cast members”), all of the issues and allegations—favorable and unfavorable to each side—in addition to all potential defenses.
Don’t forget to include each specific element of the complaint, answer, and any counterclaims; facts, law, issues, and circumstances referenced in motions; depositions and other discovery; evidence (whether paper or other tangibles); trial strategy; voir dire preparation; as well as research that supports or contradicts our theories and positions. Also essential are the names and expected testimony of case witnesses, expert witnesses, and perhaps plaintiffs’ and defendants’ spouses and children, as well as employers and employees and organizations involved in the dispute. Sometimes, investigators, our own staff members, and even the identity of specific judges, clerks, bailiffs, sheriffs, etc., are also significant.
Compiling all this “stuff” usually results in mountains of documents that need to be sifted through and organized in some logical fashion. The very thought of reviewing, arranging, and categorizing all that paper may give you the sweats. Is there any alternative to the traditional process—spending endless hours creating countless paper files and folders that must be Bates stamped, duplicated, cross-referenced, and labeled? Is there a simpler, more efficient way to keep all this information collected, connected, and accessible for use and review while working toward trial?
Take heart—the folks at CaseSoft ( www.casesoft.com) began to address these very questions when they created CaseMap several years ago. They’ve continually refined the product over time, often from suggestions made by their users. The most recent version is CaseMap 5.1 ($495 per user license; members of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division can purchase the entire CaseSoft Suite Bundle—which includes CaseMap, TimeMap, NoteMap, TextMap, and DepPrep—for $655). Although I have not had occasion to test earlier versions, I wish I had. CaseMap can save you innumerable hours organizing essential data when preparing for trial—even when you strongly believe the case would settle in your client’s favor long before you select a jury.
The heart of CaseMap is composed of databases dedicated to Objects, Issues, and Facts. Objects refer to people, organizations, or documents. Facts are dates and events that form a chronology of the case. The Issue spreadsheet organizes and explores a hierarchy of claims and arguments. If you key information into the appropriate database at or shortly after your initial interview of the client, and if you continue to do so as facts become available or ideas or questions arise, CaseMap builds a large and potent warehouse of specific records that can be easily retrieved, organized, and sorted.
The most powerful feature of CaseMap is its ability to link data. For example, you can generate a report indicating each and every reference to the name of a plaintiff (a cast member Object), a date (a Fact), a document (a paper Object), or a claim asserted (an Issue).
At any point in time, you can generate a case analysis report from the items entered in the databases by merely performing a few keystrokes or mouse clicks. Case analysis reports are instantly updated as information is added or otherwise modified. These reports can be created with a cover page, table of contents, and title page. CaseSoft calls this compilation a Report Book. It can be shared in PDF format with staff and the client for their review and comment to further refine and strengthen your position.
Properly presented, the information you glean from your CaseMap analysis may be the deciding factor that convinces your opponent that you have a solid grasp of all the facts and issues involved—as well as all of the weaknesses of their case. Can you spell “settlement”?
Data entry in many software programs can be tedious, especially if it is not performed on a regular basis. However, CaseMap diminishes that monotony by automatically creating consistent abbreviations for commonly used entries—called “Short Names”—and reducing the number of keystrokes necessary for recording information. Nonetheless, one of my few suggestions is for CaseSoft to have the data entry process evaluated by professional touch-typists, who could recommend shortcuts to further reduce keystrokes and minimize the necessity of removing the hands from the keyboard to use the mouse.From the time of our first contact with the client, we are constantly gathering a wealth of information about each and every matter we handle. Until CaseMap was introduced, however, there was little if any legal-specific, non-custom software available to systematically store and organize this data. As a solo practitioner, I expect CaseMap to become one of my most powerful and important tools to help me best serve my clients.
Patricia M. Joyce practices law in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.