Dennis Kennedy is a well-known legal technology expert and computer lawyer based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author and a frequent speaker, he was named the 2001 TechnoLawyer of the Year by TechnoLawyer.com for his role in promoting the use of technology in the practice of law. His blog and web page are highly regarded resources on technology law and legal technology topics. Dennis is a member of the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section's Council, TECHSHOW Board and Webzine Board.
Let me say this as clearly as I can – CaseMap 5's ReportBooks feature will revolutionize the way clients expect to receive status and other reports about their cases from their lawyers. Used effectively, ReportBooks will help enhance existing client relationships, win new clients and create new business and revenue streams. ReportBooks will also allow you to bring new members of the team up to speed quickly, minimize the losses of team member leaving your firm and ensure that all team members are on the same page.
Since CaseMap 1.0 debuted in 1998, there has been a general consensus that CaseMap has been a step ahead of other litigation software tools. With a steady stream of improvements, CaseMap has continued to hold its place as the leader in innovation among litigation software programs. Now, the newest version, CaseMap 5, moves CaseMap 5 at least a hop, skip and a jump ahead of the rest of the litigation software vendors.
One of the under-recognized reasons for CaseMap’s success in winning a place at the table with some of the premier litigators in the United States is the long experience CaseSoft’s co-founders’ Bob Wiss and Greg Krehel had as jury and litigation consultants with some of this country’s leading trial practice firms. CaseMap grew out of a need to solve real world problems that hampered the effective preparation and presentation of cases. CaseMap reflects an understanding of what lawyers do, how they work and what will help them work better.
CaseMap is a litigation fact management, evaluation and strategy software tool that has become popular among some of the best litigators in the country and in large firms, small firms, government and corporations. It is both simple and powerful. CaseMap has always provided ways to present important and useful information about cases in ways that help both lawyers and their clients. Unfortunately, not all lawyers made the best use of CaseMap for these purposes, especially when it came to presenting information to clients.
CaseMap 5 has now made it ridiculously easy to create reports that give clients the information they have always wanted in a way that is most useful to them. The method is through a new feature called ReportBooks.
Let’s take a closer look at ReportBooks to see why I think that they may become so important. The concept is quite simple, but the potential power is immense.
A ReportBook is simply a compilation of your CaseMap reports that is automatically assembled and generated on the fly. CaseMap has created a number of templates for ReportBooks. You can customize ReportBooks or create your own version from scratch, but I expect that most of you will find that the standard templates will work well for you.
Here is an example of how ReportBooks work. You receive a call from a client who wants to know what is happening on a certain case. If you are like many lawyers, you will likely stammer, delay and buy some time to try to remember the case and what might be happening in it. You will likely offer your client something like, “We’re on top of it,” or “We have a status meeting scheduled next week and I’ll give you a call after that.” Essentially, you buy time, make vague comments and bland reassurances, or you change the subject as quickly as you can. Your client will be left with a vague uneasiness and irritation that may grow into anger when he or she sees your bill for that telephone conversation.
Here is what you can do in the same scenario with ReportBooks. You can say, “Give me about twenty seconds and I’ll email you a full report that we can talk about while we look at it together. Let me do that while you are on the line.” You are already opening CaseMap, and finding and opening the CaseMap file for the case. You choose to create a ReportBook with a default template. A ReportBook is generated and you send it to an email attachment in PDF. A new email message appears with the ReportBook attached. You type in the email address and write a short note. You send the email. In a second or two, your client has the message and opens the attachment. Now, you both have the ReportBook to serve as a basis for discussion.
The ReportBook will give your client, in a summary fashion, the key information your client needs to understand and discuss the case. In fact, it will probably give many clients the basic information about cases to which they feel they are entitled and that they have long felt their lawyers should provide them.
Here are just a few of the ideas I have had for using ReportBooks: creating ReportBooks for the trial (maybe with a nice binding) for everyone on your team; sending your clients weekly or monthly ReportBooks on their cases; getting new associates up to speed on the case; giving a tax or corporate partner from whom you want advice about a specific issue a quick way to become familiar with the case; creating useful overviews for expert witnesses; and much more.
However, there is no need to rely on my hypotheticals. Let's see what David Wolowitz, of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has actually done with ReportBooks:
"I have found the new ReportBook feature to be of great benefit in unexpected ways. In one matter, I had a mediation to prepare. I was dealing with my clients, two highly educated professionals, a member of their board who is a very astute attorney in NYC and a savvy insurance adjuster, also an attorney. I needed to educate all of them on the facts and the issues and to determine what information was missing. So, I sent them a CaseMap ReportBook of the key facts and also three reports by key issues.
I created a very impressive cover sheet in about two minutes. I then revised the confidentiality statement to meet my needs and created an intro page explaining how to utilize the reports and the status of the case. From that point on, everyone responded with ideas and missing information. On a weekly basis, I sent them updated ReportBooks, including a report on what was new (a standard CaseMap saved report.) The mediation went well. I gave the mediator a TimeMap report of key dates. I noticed he kept referring to it throughout the mediation. Throughout the process, everyone involved commented on my thoroughness and the usefulness of the reports."
What’s in the ReportBook? The standard “Case Summary” ReportBook contains a customized cover sheet, a confidentiality statement, a table of contents, introduction, issue outline, cast of characters (persons), cast of characters (organizations), fact chronology, document index, list of open questions, research authorities and research authority extracts, all generated automatically in seconds from your existing CaseMap file. Other templates include (1) a summary of issues, cast of characters, facts and key documents, (2) key issues fact chronologies, (3) key players fact chronologies, (4) summary list of key players, facts and documents, and (5) what’s new in the last 14 days.
The utility of these reports, both externally and internally, should be clear to you. Compare the impact of sending any of these ReportBooks to a client to the traditional methods. As Wolowitz concludes, "I prepared these ReportBooks with very little effort but received far more attention than if I had not used this feature."
The beauty of ReportBooks is that they can be created in seconds from existing data (and you can even refresh an old ReportBook with new data). You can provide them at no cost to your clients just as part of your standard service. When your client, who probably uses other law firms for other cases, starts to ask its other firms for similar reports. They will probably get some pushback from other firms and, more than likely, will see time charges for the creation of reports. Take a look at a sample ReportBook and try to estimate the cost of producing something similar by hand. I suggest that most firms would run up thousands of dollars in costs to produce the same kinds of reports.
In the CaseMap tradition, ReportBooks allow the experienced lead lawyer to move away from spending too much time on the drudgery parts of cases and move toward spending time do what he or she does best and probably enjoys most – analyzing and evaluating cases, planning strategies and tactics, dissecting the strengths and weaknesses of cases, and preparing to be devastatingly effective.
Clients prefer to pay lawyers for their expertise and ability to analyze cases and make good recommendations about how best to handle those cases. Too many lawyers get caught in the trap of thinking that clients are paying them to produce memos, briefs and other documents. With ReportBooks, your clients will easily see the value that you bring to their matters. More importantly, your clients will understand your unique value to them as compared to law firms that do not use ReportBooks.
Here is just one idea to consider. Assume a major client can receive ReportBooks for all of its cases from all of its law firms. Might they want to use your services and pay you very well for your evaluation of those cases rather than have you spending your time supervising associates handling routine discovery and writing memos and briefs? Are there other opportunities for litigators to create new services, packages of services, products or other income streams as a result of ReportBooks? I believe there are. How about you?
What value do you put on these kinds of results? I suggest that the value is significantly higher than the $495 cost of a single-user license for CaseMap 5 (volume discounts are available), or the $199 upgrade price for current users of earlier versions of CaseMap. However, I'll let you do your own math.
Conclusion – Is Now Too Soon?
With CaseMap 5, the best litigation software just keeps getting better. If you use ReportBooks, you might start hearing your clients introduce you to others as “my favorite lawyer.” When lawyers start hearing those words, you will know that a revolution is here. Client service and client satisfaction are the wheels on which today's law practice turns.
The benefits of CaseMap's ReportBooks are limited only by your own imagination. However, I suggest that you get to ReportBooks before either your clients tell you to start using them or your clients stop calling you and move their work to competitors who do use them. As always, the choice is up to you, but this choice is much clearer than most of the technology choices you have these days.
If you are a client of a law firm, or a client of many law firms, as many corporate general counsel are today, then pick up the phone and find out why your firms haven't told you about ReportBooks yet. In today's world, the bill for that call from your lawyer might be more than the upgrade price for CaseMap, but it will pay for itself many times over if you improve the quality of information about your matters as much as ReportBooks can do for you.