Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No ... no ... wait Will there's a better way make all the little buggers virtual!

"The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers!" .....  Dick the Butcher in Henry VI, Part II Act IV Scene II Line 73
Toward virtual lawyering: LawStudio

By Sean Doherty
Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Virtual lawyers will one day become the norm not the exception. Today lawyers can meet clients online, retain them with digitally signed agreements, complete the client’s scope of work on a computer, deliver the results through an agreed-upon digital medium, invoice clients, and get paid—all in electronic format.

Lawyers must make court appearances, but the tools to prepare for them are found online too—in software as a service. Veritext, a court reporting and litigation support provider, recently released LawStudio, a Web-based trial support software used to build a case with integrated access to Veritext services, such as deposition transcripts and video.

LawStudio supports tools to organize, annotate, redact, search and report trial data, stream deposition video, and collaborate with trial team members using shared files, notes and annotations. The service runs in Amazon Web Services and uses an online repository in Amazon S3 to store deposition transcripts and video, documents and exhibits that can be accessed by all members of a trial team.

Files and folders can be securely added to LawStudio via HTML5 using the website’s drag-and-drop functionality. Drag and drop individual files, groups of files, or entire folders with subfolders from a local drive onto the website; copied folders retain hierarchical information down to subfolders and files. Apply custom tags to files to classify and group-related information. Tags are filters in the website search form, which is a faceted search builder. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. LawStudio’s faceted search form can focus on discreet folders or all folders. It supports wildcards (e.g., litigat* for litigation or litigate but not litigious) and the insertion of automatic Boolean connectors when searching for any listed words (OR) and all listed words (AND). Targeted searches can apply to cases, witnesses, plaintiffs, defendants or exhibit numbers. Click image to enlarge.
Uploaded documents are assigned to cases, which are typically associated with discrete folders. Documents can be annotated with private notes or, when the file is dragged to a shared work space, shared notes. Files and entire folders can be dragged to shared work spaces to collaborate on the content with trial team members. Team members are notified via email when new content is dragged to shared work spaces and available to share. System log files document who did what and when to website content.

Besides internal file sharing, LawStudio’s secure filing sharing feature allows team members to send documents to external colleagues and counsel for review. Create tiny URLs to website documents, assign a password, schedule an expiration date, and send the URLs to colleagues direct from the LawStudio interface. File recipients securely view the documents via a Web secure socket layer (HTTPS).

Figure 2. Secure file sharing form available from LawStudio’s file menu function. Click image to enlarge.
The file-sharing function can also be accomplished in Microsoft Outlook using a LawStudio add-in. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint also sport LawStudio add-ins, allowing subscribers to open, edit and save LawStudio content directly from the website without first downloading the files and opening.

Website files can be redacted to create deposition exhibits and documents that can be filed with motions, briefs or other memoranda. Documents with redactions are republished in PDF format to make the underlying data unavailable. Annotations and redactions work on a layer above the original document, which can be viewed in its original state. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. Two methods create annotations. 1. Annotate a region of text or an image using the Annotate Region tool to capture an area and create the corresponding annotation (above); 2. Click Text and drag the cursor over the text to annotate; select highlight from the drop-down menu and insert a note. Click to enlarge image, from “Rising Personal Liability — Perception and Reality,” by Stacey English and Susannah Hammond (Thomson Reuters, 2015).

Veritext’s court reporting services are integrated with LawStudio. Transcripts and video deposition content from Veritext can be delivered into LawStudio accounts to review, annotate and share with team members. If you use another service, you can upload captured audio from a deposition or court proceeding. Veritext will generate a transcript from it and produce the results for review in LawStudio.

LawStudio’s reporting feature compiles notes and annotations to attend depositions and courtroom proceedings. The reports contain excerpts from documents, transcripts and images with notes and annotations. The excerpts are reported in PDF files with HTML links to the original content in LawStudio.

LawStudio partners with inData Corp. to use TrialDirector software to edit video content and present vignettes in LawStudio to use in trial or other proceeding. The company plans to export video content directly to TrialDirector.

The new SaaS has a way to go to compete with more mature trial support software, such as LexisNexis CaseMap, Opus 2 International, and Thomson Reuters Case Notebook. LawStudio’s integration with Veritext services is a plus but it needs support uploading and viewing email message formats, such as .msg, and it should offer an internal chat function to provide secure communications between online users without resorting to an external email server.

LawStudio starts at $299 per month per user and includes unlimited file storage. The price drops as low as $208 per user per month for firms with more than 21 users on an annual subscription.

Disclosure: This review was conducted using LawStudio’s 45-day free trial from www.lawstudio.com.

Attorney Sean Doherty has been following enterprise and legal technology for more than 15 years as a former senior technology editor for UBM Tech (formerly CMP Media) and former technology editor for Law.com and ALM Media. Sean analyzes and reviews technology products and services for lawyers, law firms, and corporate legal departments. Contact him via email at sean@laroque-doherty.net and follow him on Twitter: @SeanDoherty


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