Corporations increasingly are confronted with nationwide litigation involving hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs represented by a small number of aggressive, well organized and often well-funded law firms. These plaintiffs’ firms have succeeded in large part because they communicate and share resources with other plaintiffs’ firms around the country, and because they effectively exploit any inconsistencies or apparent contradictions in a defendant’s pleadings, motions and responses to discovery. We believe that, in order to achieve a successful and cost-effective defense, corporate defendants must have the ability to present the same consistent and well-organized case in every jurisdiction in which they face these types of cases. Litigation Management OnlineSM (LMOSM), the digital case management system established by Eckert Seamans in 1998, is the electronic support system for a national network of lawyers and other professionals led by Eckert Seamans in its defense of mass tort, product liability and other large-scale litigation.
Litigation Management OnlineSM is built on the most current computer technology. LMOSM is managed by partners in our litigation division and is maintained by experienced legal assistants and information systems personnel to effectively process, manage and store the large volume of pleadings, discovery and documents associated with mass tort litigation and other large, document-intensive cases. Our case management programs enable communication and resource sharing between local counsel, trial counsel, coordinating counsel, and our clients. The firm currently maintains electronic case files for over 100,000 matters, all of which are easily accessible by both attorneys and clients. In addition, we have processed literally millions of pages of documents for production in response to discovery requests directed toward a client's electronic files. We are able to provide a high-quality and consistent defense of cases anywhere in the country by making information available to everyone who needs it, when they need it. LMOSM is the single resource center for all case, product, and witness information, discovery requests and responses, legal research, briefs, company records and other documents, and deposition transcripts. In this way we meet two important goals for our clients, first, that their best defenses are presented consistently in every case, and second, that they don’t spend money ‘reinventing the wheel’.
Further cost savings and flexibility are ensured by use of the Internet for sharing litigation resources and case management information. Authorized lawyers and other legal personnel can retrieve case information from any location with Internet access. Our clients have access to the same resources as our trial lawyers and can also easily and quickly obtain the reports needed for litigation management. Each client’s website is private, confidential and highly secure.
Eckert Seamans has invested in state-of-the-art computer hardware and software and has installed an expandable DS-3 line to the Internet, which can transmit up to 45 megabytes of data per second. This transmission line is the size used by medium-sized banks. The network is protected by the same security that is utilized for Internet financial transactions. Many of the PCs in the network are equipped with dual monitors, scanners and CD burners and are attached to high speed printers. Eckert Seamans has an experienced and dedicated IS support staff and employs a full time programmer to develop and customize databases to meet the needs of our clients.
Our attorneys and staff have hands-on exposure to a variety of document management systems and web-based software that allows resource sharing with other firms, including our own proprietary databases specifically designed to accommodate mass tort and complex litigation. We work with our clients and other firms to develop or select the system that is both cost-effective and best meets the needs of the particular project.
Electronic Case Management
There are at least two unfortunate realities about today’s litigation challenges that require an alternative to the use of paper files maintained by a collection of stand-alone law firms around the country. The first is the increasing use of a “discovery fraud” strategy by plaintiffs’ firms that are more interested in the leverage of a sanctions order than in the merits of the claim they are prosecuting. Therefore, responses to complaints, motions and discovery that appear to be inconsistent can lead to very damaging consequences. Even a slight change in a corporate defendant’s response to an interrogatory in one state can be used to suggest to a judge or jury in another state that the company was not being accurate or forthright. The second reality is pressure in the form of “transactional costs” that this type of litigation can impose on a company. All mass tort cases involve repetitive filings and discovery to a certain extent. The associated costs to a company can be extremely burdensome, particularly if responses are prepared on a decentralized basis. For our clients, such repetitive pleadings, motions and discovery responses are generated for all jurisdictions by LMOSM paralegals, assuring consistency and cost savings. Through the use of special templates, much of the process is automated, dramatically reducing the cost while increasing the accuracy of repetitive pleadings.
While most law firms now utilize e-mail in lieu of traditional paper correspondence, Eckert Seamans uses electronic document transmissions in several additional respects. Documents are electronically transmitted to local counsel nationwide for filing, saving both time and postage costs. LMOSM also takes advantage of the opportunity to file court papers electronically in those courts that are prepared to accept or require electronic filing. In addition, Eckert Seamans has adapted its case management system to receive service of process of mass tort claims electronically from the agent of service for some clients, thereby reducing paperwork for the client and ensuring timely response to new filings.
Eckert Seamans has also created discovery databases for clients to track prior research and discovery responses for repetitive mass tort litigation. These databases ensure consistency and accuracy, prevent duplication of effort or the loss of information over time, and minimize intrusions to the client. Paralegals work from these databases to prepare responses to routine, repetitive discovery requests, thereby freeing attorney time for the investigation, analysis and formulation of responses to more unique or focused discovery requests directed to the specific aspects of a particular claim.
Eckert Seamans’ attorneys have substantial experience dealing not only with the "routine" production of paper documents, e-mail, word processing files and the like, but also in investigating and determining how to most efficiently produce data from numerous different types of databases, electronic reporting systems and "unusual" e-document types. We are very familiar with the issues and processes involved in transforming e-data, including critical metadata, into a form that can be reviewed and produced.
The preservation and collection of electronic data required for litigation are crucial tasks to avoid discovery disputes with opponents. We have advised our clients accordingly and worked with their IT personnel and technical vendors to preserve and collect e-data. In terms of volume, such e-data has included dozens of terabytes and involved PC's, servers, backup systems, and other sources from sites around the world.
We have worked to successfully overturn (through both court proceedings and direct negotiation with plaintiffs' counsel) ex parte e-data preservation orders entered in some jurisdictions that would have cost the client tens of millions of dollars and severely disrupted normal operations. We provided the same service and obtained the same successful results to defeat burdensome e-data preservation motions filed in other jurisdictions. We have been directly involved in negotiations with plaintiffs' counsel in jurisdictions across the country on nearly every aspect of production and have been highly successful in avoiding costly and unreasonable demands made by individual plaintiff's attorneys as well as mass-plaintiff groups.
The LMOSM center, which is staffed by highly experienced paralegals and managed by tech-savvy lawyers, also provides traditional litigation support services, such as document imaging, coding and database creation. Depending on the needs of the client, document coding and imaging and privilege review can be performed by Eckert Seamans or outsourced to third-party vendors. Through the use of computer databases, attorneys at Eckert Seamans are able to organize, index and search large document repositories in a cost-effective manner not previously possible. This system provides attorneys with the confidence that they can instantly find the information they need and ensures efficiency, control and consistency in document productions.
Our firm’s mass litigation clients have realized substantial cost savings through the combination of our experienced attorneys and paralegals, sophisticated litigation technology, and the appropriate use of contract and temporary personnel. The use of document templates, document databases, electronic case files and proprietary programs to automate processing of case documents not only assists us in effectively controlling litigation costs, but also provides a structure for building the knowledge base that that gives us the ability to efficiently and quickly locate and access information critical to the defense of our cases.
Eckert Seamans can provide great flexibility in staffing, adjusting to the needs of the project and staffing at the level dictated by the client and the case. Our contract attorney rates are comparable to normal paralegal rates in most cities and probably less than those typically found in markets like New York or Washington, DC. The use of a contract staff provides the ability to rapidly ramp up or down to meet changing project demands, and a staff dedicated 100% to the project. These temporary attorneys and paralegals have demonstrated excellent abilities and work ethic and normally have substantial experience in mass litigation projects.
Eckert Seamans’ attorneys have broad experience in managing mass torts (including asbestos, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals) and other complex litigation, particularly in the areas of collection and preservation of documents and information (including electronically stored data and e-mail), responding to discovery, dealing with foreign language documents, and production of databases and other electronic data.
We have well-developed and tested protocols and procedures governing various litigation coordination tasks and projects. We have experience in structuring teams and assignments for large scale document productions and have developed processes to electronically screen the universe of "raw" data to identify documents that are potentially relevant/responsive for further review. We have successfully negotiated with major plaintiff groups to accept our procedures, thus avoiding court disputes and providing for a uniform method of document handling.
LMOSM demonstrates Eckert Seamans’ commitment to providing creative and cost-effective solutions for its clients, using all the tools of modern technology. We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of LMOSM at our offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Dennis R. McEwen
Robert P. Morgan
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