Legal Technology Tools to Modernize Your Office

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There's a not-so-secret stereotype of lawyers that says they're averse to technology, an old school bunch happier in dusty law libraries than surfing LexisNexis. "We've worked with very large, billion-dollar companies with contracts stored in filing cabinets," says David Munn, general counsel of Pramata, a contracts management company. That image has moved further and further from reality in recent years, as top law departments turn to cutting edge technology and even the smallest departments experiment to build efficiency and save time and money.

Duplicate consolidation. If a VP e-mails five employees, at least six copies of that e-mail then exist for discovery purposes--and thus, for billing purposes. "Deduping" software identifies that they are the
same and consolidates them into one set. Although it's clear how much all these fewer review documents could shrink an hourly bill, a study by the E-Discovery Institute found only about 50 percent of law firms use such software--but when they do, savings can reach 70 to 80 percent. One method is to consolidate within a single custodian's records, but the more effective route is to do so across custodians. If you only dedupe the VP's records, the e-mail will still exist within the five employees' records.

E-mail threading. Let's say that after the VP sends the e-mail, a few of the employees reply, starting a conversation. Threading technology looks at the e-mails' content and metadata to group all those messages into one e-mail chain for review. Joe Howie, a director at the E-Discovery Institute, founder of Howie Consulting and former in-house counsel, says the average savings is 36 percent, "and in some cases, considerably more."

Services like Pramata's use technology as much as possible to cull information from the contracts before turning to an offshore team of financial and legal professionals to read through the contracts for all the information stated in nonstandardized ways. Then Pramata works with clients to build a map of contracts in family tree form, giving a clear view of how different documents are related. The information is easily and instantly searchable--a huge timesaver.

"That's the kind of thing you can turn an army of lawyers and paralegals loose on, and it might take a week to find that information if you don't have a way of searching your contracts for it," Munn says.

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Melissa Maleske

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