Using technology to drive the cost of litigation down and increase your prospects

In this article we explain how the way your lawyers use technology can make drastic differences in the cost of the proceedings. This applies not just to your legal costs but also to the other sides, this is important if you lose. It is not simply a matter of lower bills for set work but also of how long the proceedings drag on for and how transparent the issues and evidence are – which is vital if the matter is to settle early.

Federal court Practice Note CM6 provides:
a) Electronic documents, including email, form an increasing proportion of Documents in proceedings before the Court.
b) Electronic documents must be managed efficiently to minimise the cost of discovery and the cost of the trial.
c) Printing electronic documents for the purpose of discovery will generally be a waste of time and money.
d) Photocopying paper documents multiple times for the purpose of discovery will generally be a waste of time and money.
e) Wherever possible, parties should exchange documents in a usable, searchable format or in the format in which the documents are ordinarily maintained. The exchange format should allow the party receiving the documents the same ability to access, search, review and display the documents as the party producing the documents.
f) Lawyers should endeavour to use technology to ensure that document management is undertaken efficiently and effectively.

By storing, working with and exchanging documents electronically, lawyers can manipulate vast amounts of data without having to read, print or carry it about. The best analogy to consider is Google. Every day you yourself manipulate a infinitely greater volume of data than the most complex litigation case. You do this using Google’s text string search algorithms. They key to this ability is:

  1. That all documents are text, in the case of emails, word documents and excel spreadsheets this is always the case. Where a documents has been scanned as a PDF it becomes an image which cannot be electronically read (indexed) by the computer. This is solved by using software to read the document and store the transcript in the PDF.
  2. Using an appropriate searching tool to manipulate the data. In most cases the best tool is Google. Google sells tiny hardware devices which mimic their web based search tool and index files on a private computer.

It is no exaggeration to say that your chances of winning litigation are directly proportionate to how well your lawyers manipulate data. If your lawyers are old school (and lawyers do not need to be old to be old school) they will prefer working with paper. They will wave their hand dismissively and claim they are “up-to-date with all that electronic discovery stuff” but in truth they farm it out either to other staff members or a litigation support company. Using such lawyers is like employing a surgeon who does not use the latest technology. The simple fact is that an intimate knowledge and expertise in the use of technology is now mandatory for superior performance in every field of human endeavor. Do you want to be cut open and have your sternum sawed in half, stay in hospital for 4 weeks (with all the danger of a fatal MRSA infection that entails) – or do you want to have keyhole surgery and be back at work the next day? So it is with lawyers.

At Bransgroves we are dedicated to technology, we are one of the every few genuinely paperless offices in Australia. Everything we do is electronic. We have used technology to enable us to give better, faster and more cost effective litigation services. For example:

  1. Our solicitors do not have secretaries, instead they type at blindingly fast speeds and so get everything done quickly and correctly the first time;
  2. We have embraced email, all our correspondence is sent via email. We refuse to take on clients who are not prepared to receive all communication by email;
  3. We have thrown away the traditional lawyer’s paranoia and embraced radical transparency in our relations with our clients. At no charge we cc our client on all incoming, outgoing and often internal correspondence. This keeps our clients in the loop and often more up-to-date and cognizant of what is happening in their matter than we are. We make no apologies for our clients being better informed than we (they may only have 5 cases to manage whereas we have 20-30 per solicitor). This enables us to truly collaborate with our clients and leverage off their knowledge and concern for their own welfare to choose the right tactics and strategy all the way along;
  4. We use remote desktop technology to draft affidavits remotely. Our clients do not come into the office, they sit at their desk and watch their own monitors as our solicitors type. This enables large arduous affidavits to be broken into small bite sized chunks – of an hour or even 30 minutes. By staying fresh and alert our clients are much more focused and so do not overlook issues or facts which would otherwise come back to haunt them in the witness box. It also means the litigation does not intrude into their lives and disturb their routines. This is vital to ensure the dread factor is avoided so that the best result is obtained either in negotiations, or in court itself.
  5. We use internal Google search technology to quickly find files and email on our system so when composing pleadings or correspondence we can have all the facts and possible ramifications at our fingertips.
  6. Our solicitors do not use timesheets, instead the filing conventions we use allow our billing clerk to prepare bills using our search technology based on all the emails, letters, and other files created each day. We call this “Evidence based costing” of our files. Its advantages include:
    a) It allows instantaneous bills to be produced, perfect for settlements and negotiations;
    b) It allows interim bills to be issued, some of our clients have requested bills every time the total reaches <$2k rather than at particular intervals. This ensures no surprises and allows the client to intervene and tailor the legal work to fit their cash flow.
    c) It prevents our solicitors being judges in their own causes. Instead of your bills being based on the need for a solicitor to reach their budget they are based on the evidence on the file as disclosed by the actual work done. Consequently you will never see an item for “Research” or “Reviewing the file” on a Bransgroves invoice.
    d) It allows the client to query any item directly with the billing clerk, and receive a copy of any document that is referred to without interrupting the flow of litigation related communication with the solicitor.
    e) It allows our clients to be confident they will recover the maximum percentage possible when they win costs orders, secure in the knowledge that our bills will stand up to third party and court appointed cost assessor scrutiny.
  7. We use a sophisticated matter tracking database that ensures every active file is case managed with all critical dates recorded and actioned. Through it work loads can be precisely monitored and resources shuffled to ensure every file gets the attention it deserves. The To Do feature allows us to priorities and escalate tasks ensuring that all correspondence gets answered within 1 business day of receipt and most correspondence gets actioned within an hour or two (court commitments permitting).
Scroll to Top