|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JUNE 2011|
Does it sometimes seem like the work of lawyers is getting bigger? By that I mean that, for the cases we handle and the deals we work on, the scope keeps expanding. They involve more players, more issues and more documents, and are more likely to cross borders — not just state, but also international.
We can blame technology for this. Even a small business can be global in reach and even a small case can involve gigabytes of digital evidence. Fortunately, technology can also provide lawyers with the tools to manage the ever-bigger matters we face. In this month’s column, I look at two recently launched tools that can help simplify otherwise daunting tasks.
Choosing an E-Discovery Vendor
Perhaps no aspect of law practice is potentially more daunting these days than e-discovery. Virtually every case involves electronically stored information. And, because the quantity and complexity of the data can overwhelm a case, litigators and litigation-support professionals often need the help of an e-discovery product or service.
But as the number of vendors offering e-discovery products and services seems to grow by the day, selecting among them can be a confusing task. With so many vendors offering so many seemingly similar or overlapping services, how do you choose the one that is the right fit for your case?
A new website, still in its beta version, aims to become the premier system for helping litigation professionals choose e-discovery providers and products. Called Apersee, www.apersee.com, it is the creation of George Socha and Tom Gelbmann, two names well known in the e-discovery field for their annual Socha-Gelbmann Electronic Discovery Survey and for their roles in developing the Electronic Discovery Reference Model. With the launch of this site, Socha-Gelbmann will discontinue their survey.
The core feature of Apersee is a search tool it calls its Selection Engine. Using this tool, you select the criteria that are important to you in an e-discovery vendor and then rank each selection on a scale of 1-to-5, from “appreciated but unimportant” to “critical and required.” Once you set your priorities and weights, the Selection Engine searches every product in the Apersee database and assigns it a score. A product that meets all of your requirements would receive a score of 100.
The criteria used in Apersee are derived from those used in the Socha-Gelbmann survey and from the EDRM framework. Thus, if you are looking for a product to handle review, analysis and processing, you would select those three criteria and then rank each of them for importance. Some criteria allow you to drill down deeper into subcategories. If you select “review” as a criterion, for example, you can then select within subcategories for “review services” and “review software.”
Other categories of criteria let you search by such factors as:
Geographic coverage anywhere in the world.
Language capabilities, including character sets, multi-language functionality, translation capabilities and more.
Numbers and types of matters handled.
With the site in beta, categories are still being refined and new categories will be added, George Socha told me in an interview. Currently, the site incorporates roughly 2,000 criteria and it will eventually have as many as 4,000.
That is nowhere near as overwhelming as it might sound, because the site is set up so that a user need only select from top-level criteria. If the user wishes to be more specific, then he or she can drill down into more specific criteria.
Other features remain in the planning stages and are targeted for launch later this year. One would be a form of provider accreditation, which would vet information supplied by providers in order to provide consumers with a higher level of confidence in their claims. Another planned feature is to allow consumers to post comments and ratings about vendors.
Apersee is Free to Search
Use of Apersee is free to consumers searching for a provider. The site plans to draw revenue by offering providers something similar to the Google advertising model.
Every provider will have a company page and pages for each of its products and services. Providers will be able to enhance these pages by adding elements such as PDF brochures, white papers, videos and photographs.
To maintain these enhanced listings, providers will purchase blocks of “views” — anywhere from 100 in a block to several thousand. Each time a consumer views one of the provider’s pages, the provider is charged one view. When the block runs out, the provider will have to purchase an additional block of views.
Notably, providers will be included in search results regardless of whether they purchase views. Even those who opt not to pay a penny will be listed. The difference is that those who do not pay will have only a basic listing, not an enhanced page.
For anyone involved in e-discovery, Apersee should prove useful. As I said above, legal professionals are confused by the sheer volume of e-discovery companies out there. Even worse, it is sometimes difficult to tell from their websites exactly what products or services they directly provide. A tool that lets consumers hone in on key criteria will no doubt be valuable.
Help Managing Legal Projects
I’ve written previously in this column about Onit, www.onit.com, a free, Web-based project-management tool. Recently, Onit launched a paid, premium version, Onit Premium, designed specifically for corporate counsel and corporate legal departments.
The free version is designed for legal and business professionals to manage multiple projects. It includes features for project planning, document management, collaboration and communication. In a recent interview, Onit co-founder and CEO Eric M. Elfman confirmed that Onit’s free version will remain free.
In targeting corporate legal departments, Onit Premium adds project management features designed to help corporate counsel better manage matters and budgets and automate standard processes. Some of what it allows corporate counsel to do includes:
Automate legal processes that are currently handled manually.
Electronically review and approve electronic invoices from law firms and legal vendors.
Monitor alternative fee arrangements and compare monthly retainers with shadow bills.
Create custom templates to manage processes specific to a company and its legal department, such as to terminate an employee or report potential IP infringement.
Build custom legal forms for company employees to use for such purposes as to request review of a contract or to create a nondisclosure agreement.
Create project budgets and monitor actual vs. projected expenses.
Build project templates with relevant notes, documents and project plan items.
Onit Premium is designed to be used to coordinate between in-house counsel and their outside firms. It can be used to monitor not only the status of outside legal work, but also invoicing and budgeting. It builds in processes designed to heighten accountability by outside firms, such as by requiring firms to route invoices through the senior attorney on a matter and having that attorney write a one- or two-sentence summary of significant accomplishments during the billing period.
Onit Premium is cloud-based, which means there is no software to install or start-up costs. Pricing is based on a monthly subscription.
The practice of law keeps getting “bigger.” Fortunately, technology can help bring it down to scale.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.
© 2011 Robert Ambrogi