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Achieving Overriding Litigation Goals with Web-Based Knowledge Environments and Knowledge Management Practices

Overriding Litigation Goals

In every complex case, the attorneys who are directing and coordinating the legal team (which may include not only attorneys and their staff but also inside counsel and retained experts, consultants, and vendors) have four overriding goals in addition to the ultimate goal of favorable outcome for the case:

  • First, to build an effective team for the duration -- one that can handle the litigation according to the best principles of litigation project management -- one that can produce a high level of work output when circumstances demand -- a team capable of sustained high quality performance -- a team capable of institutionalizing and efficiently sharing the knowledge needed for the pursuit of the case.

  • Second, to know the case better than the other side.

  • Third, to present the case more effectively than the other side.

  • Fourth, to conduct the litigation cost-effectively -- by focusing efforts and investments where they are most needed andbeneficial while minimizing efforts in low-impact work.

Of course, the opposing litigation team has similar goals. The distinguishing factor, then, in the way the two teams proceed, is not in their general goals but in the specific ways the respective teams plan and execute their strategies for achieving these goals.

Technology's Role in Achieving Overriding Litigation Goals

In complex litigation, knowledge management techniques and knowledge management technologies now comprise a critical element of case strategy. Yet these are subjects that are not taught in law school or easily absorbed in "on the job" legal training. But these are subjects with which every litigator must be concerned.

If you are starting a new case -- or expecting that you will be involved in a series of cases with a common theme --, the thing you can change most is how you work.

Nonetheless, litigation technology has traditionally addressed the four goals listed above only tangentially. Necessary back room clerical functions have benefited more from technological advancements than attorneys' work has.

Unfortunately, attorneys often find it difficult to make effective use of technology themselves or even proficiently supervise its use by others. The result sometimes is a "disconnect" that makes litigation harder and more expensive than is ideal.

The truth is that effective knowledge management and effective litigation services delivery are inextricably intertwined. Poor knowledge management practices can have a cost higher than that reflected through increased billing for inefficient practices. The combination of a good knowledge management environment and good knowledge management practices can make a litigation team smarter and sharper than ever. To compete for twenty-first century legal businesses, law firms critically need twenty-first century knowledge management techniques and integrated knowledge environments. They go together. "Technology" alone is only half the equation. And advanced knowledge management techniques cannot be optimally delivered through traditional legacy programs, often too hard for lawyers to use and too simplistic in their concepts.

That's why we believe that knowledge systems must tear down the artificial boundaries between litigation teams and the knowledge they need to master in order to achieve their goals.

It is no secret that in complex litigation, it can seem as though there is too much of some things and not enough of others.

Some examples:

  • too much paper (there's an understatement!)

  • too many witnesses

  • too many factual issues

  • too many legal issues

  • too much effort required just to coordinate and monitor

  • too much risk that good evidence will be obscured by a mountain of marginal evidence or irrelevant detail

  • too much time spent on basic organizing

  • too little time left for higher level litigation knowledge management and analytical activities

  • too much knowledge "walking out the door" when team members leave or rotate

  • too much time required for new team members to come up to speed

  • too many competing priorities to juggle at the same time

  • too much delay, frustration, and inefficiency from not having the knowledge that attorneys and staff need literally at their fingertips -- where it belongs

  • too much difficulty shifting direction when the case takes an unexpected turn

  • too little ability to perform "what if" scenarios on the critical issues of the case by viewing the case from all the angles

  • too much time required to respond to the adversary's agenda

  • too much difficulty achieving that critical combination of a succinct but accurately nuanced high level overview of the case for top business and legal decision makers.

We know these problems are real. To solve them, we first acknowledge them. Some are inherent in the nature of complex projects; some are inherent in litigation processes; and some are inherent in knowledge work. Just because these problems are real does not mean they are insurmountable.

A litigation intranet or extranet must be designed with due regard to principles of complexity management, litigation realities, and litigation knowledge management in order to work as it should.

Vendors who focus on automating the clerical portions of a case typically have never designed knowledge environments in which litigation teams can actually work and think.

To design such systems one must think like a litigation team thinks and create an environment in which the litigation team can work. The real work begins when a litigation team receives the mountain of information it typically requests its litigation support vendor to supply.

Pritchard Law Webs' solutions are borne out of experience as counsel in complex litigation and out of experience applying web technologies and pre-Web hypertext technologies to the problems and knowledge needs of lawyers and clients. They are borne out of independent applied research and development and our commitment to continuous improvement.

Our services uniquely focus on the very interesting intersection of law, technology, knowledge management, and law practice re-engineering.

If you work for a law firm, we can help you meet the expectations of your clients for technologically-sophisticated litigation services.

If you work for an institutional client, we can help you build your own internal litigation management environments, work to bring your outside counsel closer together, or help you create enduring networks of expertise and collaboration that are all in the news today.

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Pritchard Law Webs, 2100 Foshay Tower, 821 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402. Tel: (612) 332-0102, Fax: (612) 332-3225.

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