Keeping Your Team Informed: Complex Litigation Tools and Tips

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07Nov1998

Keeping Your Team Informed: Complex Litigation Tools and Tips

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teamworkTo effectively manage a case, or group of cases, you will need to provide for rapid, reliable exchange of information with members of your litigation team, with opposing counsel and with the courts.

Electronic Filing Sites

A number of courts have set up sites, either for a specific set of cases or for general use, on which the attorneys and the court electronically file their documents. This site contains other articles covering sites which are internet based and which allow broad public access to the documents.

In addition to these sites, there are several others which are fee-based and designed primarily for use by the attorneys on the cases.

Complex Litigation Automated Docket (CLAD)

CLAD is a system developed and run by Lexis/Nexis specifically for use in complex litigation. The system is modem rather than internet based.

Although non-parties can get the software to access the system, the access fees ($1 per minute of access plus search, filing and download fees) make it less likely that members of the general public would use the system. For attorneys, however, it can be more cost-effective than having to file a paper copy with the court and serve it on all the other parties.

Unlike the ECF system in the federal courts, CLAD does allow the user to file confidential documents and restrict their access to the counsel on the case or to the judge only. It also includes automatic docketing of events and fax notification of new filings. CLAD is in use in the N. District. of Ohio, N. District. of Indiana, Cook County (Illinois), Fulton County (Georgia) and others.

Other Commercial Systems

As electronic data exchange becomes more accepted and more prevalent, more commercial systems are becoming available for the courts to pick from. Two of the new systems are based upon existing case management systems in use in courts. Both are pc and internet-based systems.

Last year, CHOICE Information Systems, the developer of the SustainTM case management system which is used by courts throughout the country, released a new product, E-courtTM, which integrates electronic filing of documents with the court’s Sustain system. (Click here for a report on a pilot of the system in Toronto.) Recently it has announced, in partnership with Microsoft, installations in Los Angeles and Napa Counties in California.

Another vendor on the market, LawPlus, was the vendor chosen for the Alabama Breast Implant Cases. The presiding judge of MDL 926, Sam Pointer, assigned 485 of the suits which were filed with state or federal courts in the state of Alabama, to the electronic filing system. LawPlus can be reached at 972-830-7780. (Note:  LawPlus is now known as JusticeLink.)

Private or Restricted Sites

What options does an attorney have for viewing or sharing information related to a particular case, information he doesn’t necessarily want to share with the public or the opposition?

The solution may lie in the area of setting up a private extranet or cooperative website. In this way, you can set up a secure area in which only authorized personnel may access the information. You can restrict the access to your own law firm, other members of your litigation team, or all parties in a case. This can be set up by your own MIS department or you can contact a company which sets up these types of sites for law firms.

Another type of system is that provided by TrialNet, Inc. Designed specifically for use by insurance companies, corporations and their outside counsel, TrialNet sets up discreet extranets on its system for each client for a $10,000 fee. Outside counsel then pay a monthly fee to access the system. TrialNet contains shared areas that any members can access, such as expert witness depositions, information on judges and opposing counsel. Firms representing a specific client then have private areas of the site where they can post and view data related to their specific practice area and client, and send encrypted e-mail to other outside counsel firms. TrialNet can be reached at 888-512-1763.

The ATLA (www.atlanet.org), as do some other professional organizations, maintains litigation specialty groups which share information and strategies. While not as private as having your own extranet, these groups are at least restricted to members with common interests.

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