Categories: Legal Technology

The Paperless Law Firm: How Paralegals Can Take Advantage of New Organizational Tools


Written by a Paralegal

Reprinted with permission from the December 15, 2008 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. © 2008 Incisive Media US Properties, LLC.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

By including this article in TASA's Knowledge Center, TASA is not endorsing the products mentioned below.  The article's content is provided in an educational context and appears as part of a forum for legal professionals.  

Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge of law firms going paperless. The idea of a "paperless law firm" describes an electronically organized law office. Presently, clients are looking for law offices to abandon paper files and embrace electronically stored information. Electronically stored information is easier to find, and also easier to exchange and duplicate. Not only have the law firms caught on, but so have the court systems. Recently most state courts have turned electronic. With the use of a pacer login, you have the ability to manage your case and file documents with the court in a matter of moments. When a firm decides to go digital, where does that leave the paralegal? The law office may be changing, but the paralegal role has not. In the age of e-mail, BlackBerry® smartphones, and electronic filing, your attorneys will depend on you even more. With programs like Concordance, Summation and Westlaw Court gaining in popularity, the paralegal will be stepping away from the file and pulling up to the computer.

Thousands of law offices over the United States have jumped from a physical file to LexisNexis Concordance, which is an effective way to manage thousands of litigation documents. Concordance has features like real-time sharing, which allows you to access your file anytime and anyplace via the Internet. It also has electronic document wizard for uploading documents. With its magnified search engine, you can search hundreds of documents in a matter of moments. Tearing apart a file for just one document can be eliminated by using this program. Case deposition transcripts, e-mails and spreadsheets can be searched quickly and easily in Concordance.

Concordance also allows you to customize your case by choosing which fields to show and hide on your computer screen. Thanks to Concordance, the days of redaction tape and black markers are a thing of the past. The program gives you the option to redact your documents before producing them to opposing counsel in discovery. You can also bring to your attorney's attention key facts by using the comment insert. Organization is the key for locating your documents. With the introduction of Concordance, LexisNexis has developed a fast and reliable tool for paralegals and attorneys to manage files.  

CT Summation
If you are looking for a standout in litigation support, look no further than CT Summation. CT Summation first launched its program in 1988 with the mindset that attorneys needed a way to organize and analyze a file in a powerful and efficient manner. The program provides your firm with the tools to download and organize millions of documents. Many think that CT Summation is only a good idea for voluminous cases. However, it is used on small, medium and large document cases with great success. Imagine a remote access system that allows your entire legal team to review a database dedicated to documents from your file.

CT Summation is very popular with paralegals for many reasons. My reason would be that it allows me to leave the office on time. Sometimes a file can be scattered in the file room, attorney's office, file clerk's desk, secretary's cubicle and your floor. With such a disorganized system, how do you expect to find pertinent documents in a matter of moments? The answer is simple: you cannot find pertinent documents in a matter of moments. When your file is not organized, preparing for depositions and court appearances now becomes a headache for you and your team. CT Summation allows you to download all of your documents and take back control. With features like the OCR button, you can type in a word and retrieve all the documents that mention your key phrase. Searching hundreds of thousands of documents only takes a few seconds. CT Summation is a powerful tool that any law office, big or small, would benefit from using.

Westlaw Court 
This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals Education Conference in Philadelphia. During the conference, Westlaw representatives gave demonstrations concerning Westlaw Court Express, West LiveNote and West Case Notebook.  Along with other major companies, Westlaw has included a new and exciting way to electronically keep track of court documents for your legal case. Westlaw Court Express was designed to help your law office research dockets and retrieve court documents. This program allows you to have the features of Westlaw and your local/ federal court system all in one.

With Westlaw Court Express, you will have no problem obtaining dockets by name, case type, term and filing date. You will also have links to filings and other court documentation.  Not only does Westlaw Court Express cover thirty four states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware, but it also covers the federal courts. Your firm can access the U.S. Supreme Court, all U.S. courts of appeals, bankruptcy courts and most U.S. district courts. If you need help with an international case, Westlaw Court Express can also obtain documents from courts in Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries.   

West Case Notebook and LiveNote create a system where all of your important case documents can be stored in one centralized location. Your entire team can share discovery, pleadings, research and evidence all in one spot. During your depositions, West Case Book allows you to connect to the court reporter's laptop and receive a real-time feed of the transcript. West Case Notebook even has software that allows you to search across your case information to find what you need immediately. This system gives you the ability to go to mediations, arbitrations and trials with your master file at your fingertips. The introduction of these new programs by Westlaw gives the paralegal a flexible and innovative way to manage a case. 

With the new technology and programs coming out every year and clients looking to stay budget- conscious, paralegals will be expected to learn how to digitally file, scan, and store important case documents. With programs like CT Summation, Concordance and Westlaw Court, a voluminous file of 60,000 documents and more can be managed with the click of a button. Not only do programs like these save the paralegal time when looking for documents, but they save the client money. When your file is electronically organized, it gives you time to focus on the crucial litigation issues.  Years ago, it was hard to keep up with a voluminous file. There were plenty of days and nights when the thought of how to control file documents would loom over my head. With the above programs, though, paralegals have the opportunity to show their attorneys innovative electronic tools that can be used in the office and the courtroom.

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal, medical, or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional. 

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of Incisive Media US Properties, LLC.

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