Features – CaseMap at 4: The Best Litigation Software Gets Even Better

Dennis Kennedy practices law in the Intellectual Property and Information Technology Department at Thompson Coburn LLP, where his practice emphasizes transactional matters and focuses on information technology and e-commerce law. Dennis was named the 2001 “TechnoLawyer of the Year” by TechnoLawyer.com for his efforts in promoting the use of technology in the practice of law and is a frequent author and speaker on legal, technology and Internet topics. Many of his articles on legal technology are collected in the form of an “online book” at www.denniskennedy.com/ltprimer.htm.

There’s been a quiet revolution going on in litigation. It’s about to get much louder with the release of CaseMap 4.0.

Many of the best trial lawyers have been using CaseMap for a few years now to give themselves an edge in their biggest cases. John Sandberg, a senior partner who handles complex business and personal injury litigation at Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard P.C. in St. Louis, Missouri says, “CaseMap is an integral part of my practice. I don’t know how I’d practice without it.”

Replacing the Trial Lawyer’s Legal Pad?

CaseMap created a new software niche. Call it “litigation knowledge management.” CaseMap can help you create chronologies and timelines, organize and analyze your case and develop strategies. It is a “thinking tool” that is revolutionizing the way that litigators analyze, organize, manage and present their cases by letting them see the forest rather than just the trees.

As we know, judges and juries appreciate well-prepared, well-organized and well-presented cases. Quaint and endearing as it may be, no one really enjoys seeing a lawyer flip through legal pads and dig through boxes while presenting a case in a haphazard fashion.

In addition, the sheer volume of information in complex cases often makes it difficult for a lawyer to prepare a coherent strategy or to organize arguments and present them in an effective manner. Too often the information you want or wish you had in your case is buried in banker’s boxes, a mountain of file folders or on a multitude of legal pads where you’ve made questions or notes. Or, worse, sometimes it lies in the head of a lawyer who is out of town or has left your firm.

The real value that a lawyer or legal teams bring to a case is the knowledge they have about all the facts they collect when preparing a case. What do we know about the case and the underlying facts? What are our ideas, questions, conclusions, and assessments? Is there a way to manage, organize, share and use the knowledge that we have about a case?

Bob Wiss and Greg Krehel, the creators of CaseMap, worked as litigation consultants for more than 10 years, assisting on over 2,000 cases. They noticed that when they asked for timelines, chronologies and a list of what facts were good and bad for their party’s side, they generally found that attorneys usually only had anecdotal information, if they had any information at all.

“If you had ten people in a room ready to work on the epidemiology issues in a case,” Wiss says, “it always seemed that the epidemiology lawyer was out of town and that all the information on the epidemiology issues was either in that lawyer’s head or legal pad and nothing could get done until that lawyer returned.”

Wiss and Krehel decided that there must be a way to make an attorney’s legal pad and thoughts accessible to everybody working on the case. The result, CaseMap 1.0, was released in 1998.

From the beginning, Wiss has had an ambitious goal. He’s told me many times that “our goal is to replace the legal pad.”

Organizing Your Case.

Wiss and Krehel believe that most cases are best organized by focusing on four categories: Facts, Cast of Characters, Issues, and Questions. CaseMap is a user-friendly database system that gives you powerful ways to organize, analyze and assess facts, witnesses, issues and questions, and, more importantly, link all of the related information. As an additional enhancement, CaseMap 4.0 will add the ability to link relevant case law to your issues.

Cases turn on facts and the cast of characters who present those facts. CaseMap is first and foremost a tool for working with your key facts and key characters.

David Clark, a member of Lathrop & Gage L.C. in Kansas City, Missouri who practices in the areas of intellectual property litigation and technology law, sums up his use of CaseMap: “I like to create a Key Fact column and check the most important facts in the case so that I can see at a glance which facts are likely to make or break my case. I also like the Issue List, which lets me see what facts/evidence I have on each of the issues in the case, and what facts/evidence my opponent has. This lets me see where I need to fill in the gaps in my evidence and where I can attack my opponent on various issues. The questions list is another feature I use to capture all those items that I need to follow up on.”

The key to the usefulness of CaseMap is its ability to link information among these categories. Sandberg, for example, used to make lists and chronologies in WordPerfect, but was hindered by the inability to link his lists and chronologies. As a result, he worried about overlooking something in his chronology.

With CaseMap, in contrast, you can link facts to witnesses, facts to issues, witnesses to issues and easily see all the related material together. Not surprisingly, Sandberg is a big fan of this capability. “I love the linking feature that even lets me connect documents, answers, interrogatories and pleadings.”

For example, in the case of a specific witness, you can enter information in such categories as role in case, credentials or demographic information and link that information to specific facts, issues or questions. You can then produce a table showing every item of information involved in the case that applies to that witness. You might also identify every issue raised in the case to which that witness had relevance. As a result, you can simply and easily pull together in one place all the facts you need to establish with a particular witness in a deposition or at trial.

Sandberg says, “Sometimes I refer to CaseMap as my memory. CaseMap doesn’t forget, even if I do.” Better yet, with the ability to share information among the entire team, CaseMap won’t forget what the entire team knows.

Powerful Analysis Tools

If all CaseMap did was organize your case, it would still be a highly useful program. But it does more. It allows you (and members of your team) to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and gives you a simple and powerful set of tools to analyze your case.

With the click of a mouse, you can designate whether each of your facts is disputed or undisputed, and whether a fact is strongly favorable, somewhat favorable, neutral, somewhat unfavorable or strongly unfavorable.

Because CaseMap lets you link your facts to individual issues, you can easily generate a list of all disputed evidence on the issue of causation or all undisputed evidence on likelihood of confusion.

Consider the preparation of a motion for summary judgement. A large firm might have one or more associates sift through mountains of evidence putting together a motion for summary judgement trying to decide which facts are not disputed. If you enter your facts in CaseMap and mark them as “undisputed,” you can, in a matter of seconds, print out a list of all undisputed facts, categorized by legal issue, and hand that list to your associate, along with a chronology of these facts.

David Schlee, a member of the Kansas City, Missouri firm of Schlee, Huber, McMullen and Krause, uses the lists generated by CaseMap to assist his clients in assessing cases. He says, “We are able to easily share witness lists and issue-focused chronologies with our clients.”

For example, you might take the deposition of a key witness for the opposing party. Once you enter the facts and information into CaseMap from that deposition, you might provide your client quickly with lists of the evidence from that deposition that you consider favorable and unfavorable. A client who better understands the facts and issues of a case will better appreciate your efforts in handling its case. Many clients who receive these types of CaseMap reports begin to expect them.

Some lawyers use CaseMap to organize evidence by the actua
l elements of a cause of action in order to be sure that they prove each element. Others print out a list of all evidence that is undisputed and either favorable or unfavorable to help their client or the opposing party weigh the benefits of settling the case.

CaseMap will also generate a table comparing your rating of the evidence with the ratings of your partners or your client. You might then discuss with your partner, associate, client or paralegal why you think three facts are “highly unfavorable” while he or she thinks the same facts are “somewhat unfavorable.” That discussion might be the key to determining your case strategy.

The ability to look at your information in many different ways, including by chronology or timeline, can reveal strengths and weaknesses of your case and help you develop the strategy of your case and see any underlying themes. Clark is involved in a patent infringement case with a myriad of unique facts and legal issues. He notes, “Using CaseMap, we were able to make sense out of what otherwise would be an almost overwhelming amount of information, determine which of these claims appeared to be the strongest and why, and begin working up our cases against the target defendants.”

What’s New in CaseMap 4.0?

CaseMap 4.0 is a significant upgrade of CaseMap. While a good deal of the changes are “under the hood” to improve performance and create a better platform for new development, there are important new features that have been requested by users and better usability through some interface changes.

CaseMap 4.0 moves from a tabbed interface to the familiar Microsoft Outlook style of interface, which reduces the number of buttons on the screen and gives Outlook users the chance to build from their existing Outlook skills. There are also more mouseover pop-up hints, powerful right-click options and customizable toolbars, all familiar Windows features. You can also customize your screen fonts. Krehel says, “the main idea was to simplify the interface for the new user.”

Experienced users will find that they have not been neglected. CaseMap 4.0 adds a live (i.e., it checks as you type) spelling checker, autocompletion and a number of other features to give you greater word processor functionality. The text space for facts expands as you type, eliminating the need for you to scroll to see all of your text. Cursor placement at the end of fact text, expansion of text boxes and greater flexibility and control in outlines will be appreciated by longtime users, as will a permanent onscreen display of total number of facts.

The familiar “data refinery” has been revamped and moved under a sub-menu where it can be accessed primarily by power users for sophisticated searches. The “data refinery” was previously the tool used to sift your information and filter results to come up with the list of “strongly favorable, undisputed” facts. Krehel noticed that most users only analyzed facts on one or two criteria. As a result, most filtering can now be initiated with a right click of your mouse. As opposed to the one criterion limit in version 3.0, you can now perform multiple criteria searches on the fly through the right click menu.

As mentioned, a very important new feature for version 4.0 is a legal precedent tool that links relevant case law to specific issues. This legal research tool will be one of the few buttons showing in the left-hand menu, showing its importance as a new feature. Also new is an “issue linker” tool that allows you to use an outline tool to link facts to issues for those who like to work in an outline environment.

CaseMap 4.0 is backwards compatible with version 3, but CaseMap 4.0 requires that version 3 files be converted by a simple conversion utility. CaseMap 4.0 works with CaseSoft’s other excellent tools – TimeMap (a simple and powerful tool to create timelines), NoteMap (a stand-alone outline tool), and TextMap (a low-cost transcript tool for lawyers who don’t have full-featured programs such as LiveNote) – and other tools are available to import information from other litigation programs, such as Summation.

Clark, who plans to move to version 4.0, says, “I’m looking forward to the new spreadsheets that allow you to better organize and manage legal research in a case. I also think the live spell checking capabilities will be a nice improvement (particularly since they will include legal-term and medical-term dictionaries). Finally, I really am looking forward to the ability to insert new issues in a CaseMap outline directly where I want them in the outline hierarchy.”

You can find more detailed information about the upgrade at www.casesoft.com.

Easy to Learn and Easy on the Pocketbook

CaseMap is easy to learn. Krehel walked me through a demo of the new features over the telephone. CaseMap support can set up a demo and let you try out your own facts in your own case by a telephone demo that usually takes about an hour. Schlee said that CaseMap’s ease of use was a key factor in his firm’s decision to use the software, especially since it was easy enough to use that “the entire staff can be involved.”

CaseMap’s technical support department has become nearly legendary in the legal technology community for its excellent and friendly support and service.

The product is moderately priced at $495, with multi-user discounts available, ($199 for the upgrade, unless you are in the maintenance program), making it attractive even for small firms and solos who cannot simply throw large numbers of associates at cases. Wiss notes that the program has “a lot of utility for solo practitioners.”

What CaseMap Does Not Do

It is important to know that CaseMap does not automatically pull information from your underlying raw data. Rather, you enter what you decide is the important information and work with it.

Like any database program, your results are only as good as the information you put into the program. Clark says, “Unless you take the time to put in the relevant information, you won’t reap the rewards at the end of the process.” Almost all lawyers suggest that you get your best results by using CaseMap from the beginning of a case.

CaseMap also differs from case management and document management programs. Wiss says that the difference from those types of programs is that they deal with data management while CaseMap focuses on higher level of information management. The focus is on what the attorney decides is important, not just managing the sheer volume of data.

Clark has an excellent tip: “View CaseMap as a case analysis tool, not a comprehensive database to capture information from all the documents produced, depositions taken, etc. Use a litigation support database program like Summation or Concordance to store detailed information on the documents, depositions and other potential evidence in the case.”

Remember that there are now plug-ins to link Summation and CaseMap and to pull material from deposition transcripts using TextMap or other transcript management tools. These plug-ins may assist you with data entry.

Your Best Technology Investment?

I find CaseMap to be a perfect example of a great software tool for lawyers. It is affordable. It is easy to use. It addresses a lawyer’s needs in the way a lawyer thinks, in no small part because of Wiss and Krehel’s real world litigation consulting experience and expertise. It continues to improve based on the input of lawyers. And, most important, it provides a great platform on which to expand based on how you want to use it.

For example, Sandberg uses CaseMap for project management purposes, assigning issues or witnesses to associates through CaseMap. He uses CaseMap to take notes on phone
calls, to prepare chronologies for deposition questions and to take all his notes when defending a deposition. As he says, “I use it for almost everything.”

CaseMap might well have the same kind of impact on trial lawyers that PowerPoint has had on presenters.

The recent purchase of 15,000 licenses for the program by the Department of Justice for U.S. Attorneys shows the continuing acceptance of this product by experienced trial lawyers.

Sandberg puts it simply: “CaseMap is the best technology investment I’ve ever made. Easily.”

For trial lawyers looking for a greater edge, CaseMap (www.casesoft.com), especially version 4.0, is where you want to be. Or you risk finding yourself facing an opponent armed with CaseMap, and that’s not a place you will want to be.

Posted in: Features, Information Management, Legal Technology, Litigation Support, Product Reviews