Law Technology News, November 1999

Tech Tools at Work:
How Lawyers Are Using a Few of Their Favorite Things

Lawyers tell us how they are working smarter, faster, better - giving themselves and their clients the best edge in a changing world.

Today's lawyers are using tech tools to synthesize their practices in new ways.  From e-mail, the Internet and customized matter management to multimedia presentations and litigation Web sites, lawyers are putting to use an exciting array of legal technology options every day.  Here's a look at some favorite tools a few practitioners are using innovatively.  While some of the tools, or their uses, may be new, their end use is a time - honored goal:  to practice well and meet clients' needs.  These practitioners' stories may just inspire you in your own practice.

The Power of "Virtual Teams"

Where else are tech tools taking lawyers in their practices? Samuel A. Guiberson is a Houston-based attorney whose national criminal defense practice focuses on complex cases involving immense volumes of documents, electronic surveillance and undercover operations. His practice has become so widely known for its innovative technology uses that his firm now consults with other lawyers on developing turnkey litigation computing operations. (He designed and managed all litigation computing resources used by the defense during the Oklahoma City Bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh).  Today he's working with a new type of tool: Web sites that synthesize "virtual teams. '

Guiberson consults on cases of such scale or complexity that handling the information mandates the design and management of litigation support and courtroom presentation technology. "We're looking at multidimensional information sources in scales that boggle the mind. We need to use systems to let lawyers be lawyers and deal with the dynamics of the case. That means systems that help the mind master the multitude of facts, especially in cases that involve language."

 As Guiberson explains, "The Web metaphor is about the free association of ideas through linking, as well as the multimedia of images and sounds. It provides deeper insight into information no matter how great the quantity."

 His own trial practice and the consulting cases usually involve a group who are scattered geographically.  "The Web allows us to pull together, to truly implement the team concept even across several states." The focus is on collecting and distributing information. Each case site holds the collective product of everyone on the team.

 What goes in to the Web site is all case information, all litigation support, information logistics on all aspects of the case. What comes out of the site is all briefs, pretrial documents, in‑court presentations‑any output needed for resolution.

 How did he come to developing Web sites? In essence, "I've simply translated through several generations of litigation applications to come to this point with Web tools."

 "In a way, it's equivalent to combining the case management system with the litigation support database on a law firm's LAN, Guiberson explains,  But because it incorporates everything from everyone, from the first note about the case in your PaImPilot to the last word spoken in court‑it's a total continuum. " And because it's on a Web site, it's accessible from anywhere there's a computer, including the courtroom.

Guiberson and his team look at information tactics not as technologists, per se, but as litigators.  The purpose is to use technology, Guiberson says, "as a means to organize people to a common task, to bring to it all the minds of the people involved, regardless of where they are physically at any time.

 "We're using the media of the technology to teach ourselves the multiplicity of all aspects of the case.  So the site becomes 1) the trail of bread crumbs, 2) the card file and 3) the crystal ball."

 Technology allows him and others on the case team to see the pattern of the case that develops from the information. An outgrowth is that "as we teach ourselves, so we teach the jury. They really see our perspective of the facts in the same way that we first saw them.