Internet Sites To Help Trial Lawyers Litigate
Secure Extranets can help counsel and clients develop case strategy and rapport.
by Robert Ambrogi
WHAT TRIAL lawyer would not benefit from tapping in to a fount of other lawyers' work and wisdom -- briefs they have written, depositions they have taken, strategies they have used?
The Internet provides litigators with precisely this power, to connect and share information with each other without regard to location or type of computer.
Not surprisingly, it was trial lawyers, themselves, who first saw the Web's potential for litigation management and who began to make it happen.
Take, for example, Michael P. Curreri, founder of the defense network TrialNet (www.trialnet.com). Curreri was a partner in the Richmond, Va., defense firm Wright, Robinson, Osthimer & Tatum, when a client -- the largest nursing home chain in the world - came to him four years ago and asked him to develop a litigation management network.
"As I began to put together a plan," he later recounted, "it became obvious that the power of the Internet to permit collaboration of ideas and effort and disseminate information that was a product of that collaboration in an organized way was incredible. It became clear to me that whatever system we had should use this technology."
The result was TrialNet, a litigation management tool that uses Internet technology to create a secure, international network of defense attorneys and their clients, enabling them to organize and share resources and information in order to both improve the quality of legal services and reduce defense costs.
Then there is Lee H. Glickenhaus, a litigator with more than 13 years experience managing complex commercial and environmental cases at one of Boston's largest firms.
Glickenhaus saw lawyers constantly reinventing the wheel -- performing work that had almost certainly been done before within the same firm or on behalf of a common client.
"One of the great challenges of managing litigation and other legal work is making sure that information and resources are available to the people who need them when they need them," Glickenhaus explains.
Glickenhaus left law practice to found T Lex (www.tlex.com), a service that, as he puts it, "allows companies and law firms to get the maximum value from their legal efforts by permitting the sharing of legal work-product and other resources."
T Lex creates and maintains "Extranets" -- private, highly secure Web sites for each client. Access to each Extranet site is restricted to the client and the law firms it designates. Each site is customized to meet the particular needs of each client.
"We allow a greater level of coordination, collaboration and communication among clients and firms than would otherwise be possible," Glickenhaus believes.
How They Work
Litigation Extranets are simple in concept -- essentially just password-protected Web sites devoted to a particular client or litigation topic. An insurer, for example, may set up an Extranet to coordinate information among all its outside counsel. Or different firms may join together in an Extranet to share information about a matter in which they are engaged in a common defense.
TrialNet, T Lex and other developers offer various enhancements and customization, but what makes all these Extranets so appealing is their accessibility and ease of use. All one needs to tap into such a system is a simple Internet connection and common Web browser.
Within these systems, lawyers are likely to find many standard features, such as searchable libraries of briefs and memoranda, full-text storehouses of depositions, and copies of pleadings and motions. There is also likely to be threaded discussion areas, where lawyers can exchange tips and post questions, as well as a directory of e-mail addresses of network members. Many Extranets include calendars of litigation events related to the client or the topic.
TrialNet, for example, is organized along tracks -- each track is for a particular corporation, product or subject matter. Members of TrialNet, including inside and outside counsel, are given passwords that allow them access only to the information stored on the appropriate track. However, a track may be designed to incorporate not just documents from a particular litigation, but also resources from other tracks of common interest, such as information about expert witnesses.
This system, Curreri believes, is a benefit to consumers and lawyers alike. For consumers, it reduces waste and redundancy among numerous outside counsels, thereby reducing cost and enhancing efficiency. For lawyers, it cuts the learning curve and reduces frustration and delay.
Glickenhaus sounds a similar note. "T Lex eliminates the problem of needless duplication of effort. With T Lex, all of the legal work product a client has paid for is easily and immediately available to its in-house staff and its outside counsel. The T Lex database becomes the first step in a new legal project. The wheel does not need to be invented over and over."
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport Mass., is co-editor of the Internet Newsletter, published by American Lawyer Media, in which an expanded version of this article appeared.