Attorneys who switch to using electronic exhibits during those events not only save themselves the hassle and back strain that come with paper, but they find that the whole process is streamlined as they are able to move from prep sessions to depos to hearings to trial with all their exhibits organized in a single database. They also find that clients love the cost savings when they don’t have to print and make six copies of each exhibit, then ship all those boxes to the site.
Attorney Cheryl Johnson-Hartwell, a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP in Los Angeles, has used the eDepoze system to mark and introduce exhibits electronically during a number of depositions in her busy employment practice. “I LOVE not having a stack of paper to take with me for depos on the road or even in my office,” she said. “I just show up with my little iPad.”
Still, many attorneys stay shackled to paper out of fear of the unknown. Let’s see if we can loose some of those chains by considering a few relevant questions about making the switch from paper to electronic exhibits.
Will It Work For You?
It’s one thing to talk about the benefits of going electronic in the abstract. But if the software doesn’t meet your needs, those benefits could prove illusory.
Outsiders and even legal vendors often fail to understand how important process is to attorneys at this stage of the case. Having spent a great deal of time and money in collecting, processing and reviewing the case documents, you need to put those documents to work in winning your case using the familiar processes you and your colleagues have developed over years of practice.
With that in mind, eDepoze was designed with custom workflows that follow how attorneys use exhibits during each type of litigation event. During a deposition, for example, the system allows an attorney to walk in with a private “virtual box” of documents, pull up an individual document and give it an electronic exhibit stamp just as they do with paper, then digitally pass individual copies around the room to others in attendance. During an arbitration hearing, an attorney can electronically distribute copies of exhibits to the panel and others (taking the place of paper exhibit binders), then display certain pages and select text for all to see when desired.
How Do You Prepare Documents Beforehand?
Getting your documents ready to use should be even simpler than paper. Either way, you and your team will go through your e-discovery or other database to select the documents you want to use. Instead of having a vendor or your paralegal print those out and make multiple copies, you only need to upload them to the system you’re using. With eDepoze, you can import documents directly from a Relativity database.
Organizing your documents should be easy as well. In place of gathering paper copies into binders or groups of folders, a case team member simply organizes documents electronically in the desired order. When organizing electronically, think through things like (1) whether you want documents separated into multiple folders (by document number, topic, date, etc.); (2) how you want document file names to appear (e.g., by control number, exhibit name, or maybe something more descriptive); and (3) how inclusive you want to be (unlike with paper, there’s no extra cost to loading extra electronic documents that you may or may not use).
Johnson-Hartwell said she has found it most helpful to organize documents to correspond with her deposition outline and to choose file names that allow her to locate documents quickly. She recommends reviewing the documents beforehand on the system as part of the prep process to make sure everything is there and that you know where all the documents are located.
How Do You Prepare For the Event Itself?
Preparing is all well and good, but performance during the event is what really matters. If you’re using a cloud-based system like eDepoze, that means making sure you have a decent connection to the internet, and everyone taking part in the event knows to bring a laptop or other device they can use to participate. In arbitrations, trials and hearings, you may want to arrange a separate display so observers can see the witness’s device.
Johnson-Hartwell recommends talking to opposing counsel beforehand about using the software. “Many opposing counsel immediately see the benefit of using electronic exhibits,” she said, “and most are intrigued enough by the technology to be willing to try it.” She also recommends taking a few minutes at the outset and going over things like how to view exhibits with both the witness and opposing counsel, assuming they have not seen the software before.
Finally, if your client or another team member plans on taking part in an event from a remote location, you should make sure they are squared away with login information and anything else they need.
Bottom Line: Give It A Try
Don’t let the fear of the unknown scare you away from reaping the benefits of using electronic documents during your case events. With just a little planning, you can get comfortable with the process and make sure things go off without a hitch.
Shawn Kennedy is CEO of eDepoze, the legal technology company behind the eDepoze litigation software system, and a former litigator with two AmLaw 100 firms. Email: email@example.com. This post first appeared in Above the Law Blog here.