Ways in which Using an Electronic Research Tool could Increase Productivity
Computer-assisted legal research (CALR) tools such as the Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw enable counsel to find relevant information from online databases (Curtis, Susan & Collins, 2014). For the breach of contract case, searching Bloomberg Law or Lexis would increase efficiency and productivity over searching the Internet in two ways. First, higher efficiency may be achieved through CALR due to better research output and processing of electronic information. As a result, the supervising attorney would deliver quality work efficiently and bill the client low legal fees for the billable-hour work. Modern CARL tools support efficiency, value-based billing, and cost-control, which translate into quality service and improved profitability. Thus, in-house counsel would be able to address high-value issues pertinent to the case in a more efficient and productive manner.
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Second, using a legal research tool facilitates sharing and collaboration within the organization. Folder sharing application in CARL tools is a key component of the research process that supports knowledge management (Curtis et al., 2014). Therefore, the attorney, supervising attorney, and the senior partner could collaborate and exchange information through notes added to documents. In this view, the tools will be useful in tapping into the collective knowledge of the firm. Additionally, leveraging on secondary materials to develop the case will result in significant cost savings for the project.
Using Electronic Spreadsheets to Organize the Case Load
Electronic spreadsheets are useful for data organization and analysis. In a law office, spreadsheets may be useful in organizing data relevant to a case. One way the program could help the attorney organize the case is by calendaring or scheduling court dates (Shiffrin, 2007). Using spreadsheets, an attorney can compute the days remaining to the hearing date. Therefore, the spreadsheets could be useful in determining the due date for interrogatories to meet strict deadlines and in constructing billable time databases (Curtis et al., 2014). They provide a diary of schedules that enables an attorney to utilize his/her time efficiently and avoid delays in processing vital documents for presentation during a court hearing.
Spreadsheets could also be used to analyze large privilege logs. Voluminous files received from the defense counsel could be converted to PDF format, which can then be analyzed through Excel. Curtis et al. (2014) explain that one can highlight the data in Adobe Acrobat and select the “Format as Table” option to convert privilege logs into an Excel table (p. 56). Subsequently, the user can filter and sort the data based on the chosen criteria. Any vital information in the logs can be highlighted in different colors for further review.
Using Microsoft Office to Establish a Document Review for the Case
Document review entails a judicious process of analyzing “each page of data” in voluminous logs either technologically or manually by attorneys to identify “documents to withhold” from the defense counsel (Smith, 2004, p. 67). The reviewers (attorneys) may withhold a material based on its relevance, responsiveness, attorney-client privilege, and confidentiality. Through document review, the legal team can distinguish the key facts in a case, develop theoretical concepts about the case, and determine the witnesses to cross-examine (Smith, 2004). The reviewers conduct keyword searches to extract specific information or data from a large collection. The final document contains extracts from various files submitted as evidence.
For the breach of contract case, Microsoft Office tools that automate the review process could help in the analysis of the files. A legal backline option in Office 365 could be used in this case to compare two documents to identify changes between them at a word or character level (Curtis et al., 2014). Therefore, alterations made by the supervising attorney or senior partner could be tracked and integrated into a single document. Office 365 documents could be stored in OneDrive, which allows for easy access to archived files, including videos. Microsoft acquired a predictive analytics tool from Revolution analytics recently. This tool supports large-scale data handling and analysis. Thus, the attorney could use this tool to review multiple documents to narrow down the issues pertinent to the case.
Curtis, W., Susan, S. & Collins, L. (2014). Legal Research Using New Technological Tools. New York: UC Hastings Research.
Shiffrin, S. (2007). The Divergence of Contract and Promise. Harvard Law Review, 7(8), 398–409.
Smith, S. (2004). Contract Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.