When it comes to practicing law, time is always of the essence and legal professionals are constantly perfecting the art of time management. Especially as many operations have transitioned to virtual formats, attorneys are facing novel challenges as they juggle several cases, meet with multiple clients, and maintain court deadlines. Expert witnesses are also subject to many of these same pressures, especially when preparing expert reports or consulting on case matters. Fortunately, the digital era has ushered in a wave of extremely helpful, user-friendly tools and applications to assist those in the legal field to keep track of ever-growing to-do lists. These tools may be high tech, but they’re low maintenance methods to ensure working relationships with experts stay on track and organized through remote casework.
A case is only as strong as the research it’s based on. Modern technology has encouraged the development of major legal research databases, namely LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. These databases have come to be the bread and butter of any attorney’s legal research for case law and official court documents to law review articles and legal treatises. Legal news is also an integral part of the research process. Popular headlines in different practice areas keep both attorneys and expert witnesses apprised of any and all changes in the legal industry. The following applications bring the information gathering process into streamlined, organized formats available with just the touch of a finger.
An essential part of the research process is keeping up with current events—especially in dynamic areas of the law like intellectual property. Having a steady, reliable stream of headlines is key to having the most current knowledge of what’s happening in the law. Feedly is an app that integrates all of your preferred online news sources, blog pages, and video streaming channels into one easy to navigate platform.
With Feedly, you can organize all of these feeds into “collections” that are accessible from one screen. You can learn about the most recent controversial ruling in a hotly litigated IP case and watch YouTube interviews of witnesses or jurors in the case without having to navigate through multiple screens. For expert witnesses, this tool is especially helpful to keep up nuances and trends in practice areas where their expertise is most relevant.
Similarly structured to Feedly, NewsBlur offers a real-time feed of published stories on the news that matters to you. You can also customize story tags for the content you want to see more of—or what you’d like to skip. NewsBlur also offers full-text search so you can always locate relevant articles for whatever topic is on your desk.
Fastcase is a legal research platform offering essentially a streamlined version of the major legal databases. What makes this app useful is the search function. It caters directly to attorneys’ needs for relevant, narrow points of law on any specific subject. Fastcase allows a user to sift through tons of data and filter out specific case law or statutes. What’s more, Fastcase shows not only how many times an authority has been cited in general, but also how often an authority has been cited within a specific area of law. This allows the user to understand how relevant the authority is to a particular claim or case.
In thoughtful case preparation, organizational efforts are crucial to building a sound, well-researched argument. Especially when working remotely, these platforms will help aid organized casework and collaboration with experts.
Being well-organized is always important, but failing to properly organize pieces of evidence could spell disaster for a case. What makes proper organization difficult is that evidentiary documents often have long and unwieldy titles, with multiple letters, numbers, and even symbols. TrialDirector 360 is a virtual presentation platform that allows you to organize all pieces of evidence for a case into neat, clear “folders”. It also makes it easy to import documents from file-sharing applications like Microsoft OneDrive and DropBox. This tool also has a freehand writing feature and other annotation tools to mark up exhibits as desired, facilitate note-taking, and highlight important points. Expert witnesses can also use this app to organize any documents relevant to their testimonies or depositions, including expert reports and relevant notes.
Attorneys will often practice articulating a great argument on the fly – allowing ideas to flow but also making it is easy to forget. Dragon Legal can come to the rescue in these situations. This dictation software transcribes spoken language directly into case files, contracts, briefs, or if you’re just “thinking out loud”. It’s also a great way to read back practice versions of opening arguments or summations. You can also use this tool as you’re communicating with experts and sharing complex or custom materials.
The simplest solutions are often the best course of action. This is certainly the case for DropBox—one of the oldest but also most reliable file-sharing applications. It is available on both desktop and mobile as a neutral online space where you can upload all kinds of documents and files. DropBox also has settings to enable any other user to access documents you would like to share. A large number of the applications discussed in this article are integrated with DropBox. This is great to use when trying to share numerous files with an expert witness. This is especially convenient when you cannot meet in-person. With DropBox, you can send large files with collaborators—who don’t even need to have a DropBox account to access them.
Hightail allows users to securely share large files with team members or experts. You can also track delivery and downloads of any documents sent. For even tighter security, Hightail offers password protection and expiration dates on its file-sharing tools—giving you control on any content shared inside or outside of your organization.
As your team prepares for trial, there will undoubtedly be many moving parts. This is intensified when your team and expert witnesses are working remotely. But below are a selection of the top apps for making remote preparations a breeze.
One of the biggest hassles in litigation is the sheer volume of paper documents. This is only exacerbated when it comes to depositions. Attorneys—and especially expert witnesses—haul papers back and forth up until the deposition itself. Then there are even more paper exhibits to be marked and handled. eDepoze, available for mobile and desktop, makes it far easier to deal with volumes of paper documents surrounding a deposition.
eDepoze uses a secure, cloud-based software system that enables users to share, view, and mark-up exhibits in real time. Even better, eDepoze works the same way locally as it does remotely, facilitating remote depositions. It is especially useful for expert witnesses and they’re able to easily contribute their own case documents. This app is perfect for sparing paper and printing costs, time, shipping expenses, and all other inconveniences surrounding a deposition.
LiveLitigation is a web-based solution developed specifically for litigators. It includes tools for video conferencing, exhibit display, secure non-discoverable chat, and built-in scheduling. This allows you to easily include experts where needed as you work through dispute resolution virtually.
TrialPad is a comprehensive trial presentation tool specifically for iPad. This platform, by Lit Software, is great for mapping out evidence and outlining prep for expert witnesses. From this app, you can access documents, highlight important text, mark-up exhibits, edit and present video, search through document text, and much more. One of the best features of this app is its ability to provide side-by-side document comparison. You can juxtapose your expert witness’s report with a draft of his testimony or answers to anticipated cross-examination questions. It’s a neat way to get a bird’s eye view of trial preparation.
Mavenlink is a full-service project management software specifically geared towards professional services. This platform offers document management, project management tools, and centralized communication for each case on your desk. This is especially helpful if your firm is juggling multiple experts per case and an abundance of records or files.
Hours & Billing
Tracking billable hours doesn’t have to be an administrative headache. Luckily, there are plenty of technology tools to make bookkeeping simple and streamlined.
For iOS and Android, this app has been ranked the #1 Mobile Time Entry Solution for attorneys two years in a row. Developed by Bellefield, iTimeKeep connects directly with the billing system on your desktop. You can adjust or track hours and progress—even from smartwatch devices while you’re on the go. Since the app integrates directly with your billing system, it’s a great way to keep track of expenses surrounding an expert witness’s testimony.
Keeping track of all billable hours is easy with TimeMaster. The updated version of this app now features an optional billing module and DropBox integration. Its standard features include tracking billable hours, clocking in/out time entries, customizable categories for billing rates, and a host of other expense keeping tools.
Toggl offers realtime tracking for billable hours with rounding and custom rate tools. The platform also offers guidance into firm productivity— see where the most hours are being spent. Toggl integrates with popular team platforms such as Trello or Google Calendar.
Calls & Meetings
An upside of remote work is the money and time spent on travel. Eliminating the burden of travel also opens up the expert witness pool—geography is no longer an issue. For the most productive and reliable meetings within team members and with experts, these are a few of the best platforms.
Microsoft Teams is the video conferencing product within Office 365. The platform offers collaboration tools, meeting recording with automatic transcription, and an audio conferencing option with a global dial-in number. It’s also fully integrated with the Office 365 suite, meaning simple scheduling through the Teams app or Outlook.
Google Hangouts Meet is the video conferencing service offered within Google’s suite of products. If your firm is already using Gmail, Hangouts Meet is integrated into Google Calendar. With one click, you can add video conferencing to any calendar event, making scheduling video meetings a breeze.
Zoom offers a user-friendly video conference interface, which is especially useful for an attorney or expert not familiar with video calls. Before joining their first video call, users are prompted to download the Zoom app. Zoom also integrates with other software your firm may be using, such as Outlook, Chrome, or Office 365. Zoom includes chat tools, virtual hand raising, and screen sharing capabilities.
GoToMeeting is a video conferencing service by software company, LogMeIn. It is a paid service with a few pricing tiers, depending on the number of employees at your firm. It is a feature-filled video experience. The service supports information sharing and documentation of every expert meeting. GoToMeeting includes screen sharing, cloud recording, drawing tools, and a Smart Meeting Assistant to automatically share transcripts of your meetings. GoToMeeting also offers integrations with software such as Outlooks, Office 365, and Google Calendar.
The “digital era” has had a tremendous impact on the nature of litigation, especially with respect to the discovery phase. The term “e-Discovery” simply connotes the exchange of information during the discovery process. Information that is stored in an electronic format, otherwise known as electronically stored information or ESI. This covers the entirety of our cyber-communications world, including emails, texts, social media messages, blog posts, and the like. Since e-Discovery has become an overwhelmingly relevant theme in the discovery process, there has been a proliferation of e-Discovery services. Something like a personal assistant system for organizing any electronically stored information that will be the subject of discovery. The e-Discovery services also follow trends in “e-Discovery Law”. Denoting the body of judicial decisions actively shaping the rules governing this brand new aspect of litigation.
For the crucial process of discovery, eDiscovery from Logikcull offers a simple and powerful tool for document review, redacting records, or diving into case materials. Logikcull also integrates with any cloud storage technology your firm may be using, such as Google Vault, Box, or Slack. The platform also has detailed filtering and tagging capabilities to make it simple to find the relevant information for your case.
eDiscovery Assistant is a curated database of case law for legal professionals. This platform offers advanced search tools to filter for the cases, issues, or jurisdictions that are most relevant. eDiscovery Assistant also offers additional content resources, eBooks, and eDiscovery expert advice.
This free app for iPhone and iPad concerns more technical issues and helps calculate the overall cost of a discovery project based on factors like gigabytes of storage and the kind of processing (Native or TIFF) needed. This is key in cases where the evidence will include large amounts of electronically stored information.
Exterro is one of the leading groups specializing in e-Discovery and information governance. Its services are designed to help attorneys organize and prepare electronic documents for discovery. The service has motivation in a simple premise, “applying the concepts of process optimization and data science to the way companies respond to litigation would drive more successful outcomes at a lower cost.”
The innovative spirit behind all of these apps comes from a desire to make the litigation process simpler. In cases with expert witnesses, there are huge volumes of papers, documents, hearings, meetings, and more in any given case. Especially given the tech-reliant climate we’re living in, it’s becoming increasingly critical to be familiar with apps that can help firms operate in or out of office.