Web-Based Litigation Support
Lexbe Review in Legal Assistant Today
by Kim Plonsky
Reprinted from the July/August 2008 Issue Legal Assistant Today
Kim Plonsky has been a paralegal for more over 30 years,
specializing in civil litigation of all types, and is presently working in
Lafayette, La., as a freelance paralegal and writer. Plonsky recently was
selected a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the 15th Judicial
District, an entity of Louisiana CASA.
One of the newer technological trends to emerge in the legal market is the Web-based hosted software application. Software as a Service (SaaS), or Applied Service Provider (ASP), the previously favored title, refers to software applications hosted over the Internet that provide access to third-party customers, who purchase a service rather than a traditional software product.
Conceived and created by Gene Albert, a lawyer and entrepreneur, and Karsten Weber, a software developer, both based in Austin, Texas, Lexbe is set apart from more familiar and popular litigation support software products such as Concordance, Summation and CaseMap because, like many litigation cases, it’s focused and centered on documents.
Lexbe is easy to learn and use, primarily due to its simple interface and organized structure. Despite initial reservations, I was pleasantly surprised with the application’s responsiveness and overall performance, given that my only previous SaaS experience has been with online legal research applications, which at times can be sluggish.
Access to documents stored online in Lexbe is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to firm attorneys, staff and others selected by the firm. Lawyers will take comfort in knowing that Lexbe takes security seriously, as evidenced by its 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption and locked-down, limited-access data center with round-the-clock monitoring by camera. What is more, Lexbe performs nightly backups of client data to another secure data center in another area of the country.
Getting documents into Lexbe is as simple as uploading them by single or multiple upload, and then clicking a button to add them to the appropriate case. As part of the upload process, Lexbe automatically implements OCR of PDF files, enabling full-text searching of all case documents. Lexbe’s Concept Search feature makes detailed searches easy. For example, when searching for “injury,” most programs will find “injured” and “injuries,” but Lexbe additionally will return documents that include synonyms and related words, such as “trauma,” “abrasion” and “wound.” For handling compound or complex searches, Lexbe also includes the option to perform full Boolean (terms and connectors) searches.
Once part of a case in Lexbe, documents are automatically organized and presented in a sortable list, so that they can be processed using Lexbe’s powerful case analytic tools. From the Facts, Issues & Timeline view, case facts are added and edited, with the option to include start and end dates, and note whether a fact is contested or uncontested, and by whom (“us” or “them”). One of the things I like most about Lexbe, from a litigation management standpoint, is the ability to simultaneously, but separately, link a single fact to any number of case documents and participants. This makes it quick and easy to filter facts based on source documents, and identify individuals or organizations (Case Participants) with relevant knowledge.
Similarly, issues assigned to a case in Lexbe (such as liability, causation and damages) can be linked to any number of facts or documents. This makes determining the issues related to any case document as simple as selecting that document to apply as a filter. Lexbe gives users the option to include an explanation when adding a new case issue, which is extremely functional for keeping case theories, not to mention team members, on track.
Viewing documents from within Lexbe has a distinct advantage. Supporting over one hundred different file formats, Lexbe includes an enhanced version of Adobe Acrobat so that non-PDF documents can be viewed online in their native formats without the need to install native applications. Users have the option to download, open and edit any document in its native program (that is, as long as that program is installed on the PC that is used to access Lexbe). For quick viewing and performing case analytics, simply click on a document’s name to open it in a new browser window. (Users of Internet Explorer 7 might want to adjust their tabbed-browser settings if they prefer to go directly to the document browser window, rather than having to mouse-over to the next tab in Internet Explorer.)
Lexbe’s Document Viewer opens the door to an arsenal of tools ready to take control of litigation documents, including perhaps its most unique and exciting option — the new Discovery tools. Document processing tools in a tabbed sidebar offer choices for accessing and editing general information about a document, adding and editing private or shared document notes, and adding new or associating existing facts to a document. To facilitate Lexbe’s new Discovery tools, while structuring the discovery process, and maximizing case and document tracking, Lexbe receives uploaded files in “Data Sets” (groups of uploaded files). Data Sets can be named to identify their sources (for example, Documents from Defendant – 04/05/08) and documents can be added to an existing Data Set at any time. Lexbe even provides an easy tool for Bates numbering and reproducing production sets on CD or DVD.
Another distinct feature of Lexbe is its Contacts database, provided in addition to the database for case participants. Keeping contact information for experts, opposing counsel, court reporters, judges and even your team members in one place, separate from the true case participants (such as litigants, deponents and witnesses), provides quick and easy access to this frequently used information, which easily can be exported to any other Lexbe database. (Importing Outlook e-mails into Lexbe requires the purchase of a third-party program to first convert them into another format (such as MSG), which represents an added expense, another program to learn and the potential for conflicts.)
The list of other noteworthy features includes the ability to tag a document as already reviewed (denoted by an “eye” icon), Bates-number tracking that includes a note field to record things such as numbering discrepancies, dynamic chronology and timeline generation, a shared case calendar (with multi-case view capability), legal research management and, one of my favorite features, a versatile case notes database.
In my view, Lexbe is ahead of the curve in recognizing that transitioning of litigation support technology to the SaaS application is the next, logical step and solves a host of problems that have arisen by virtue of the electronic world in which we now live and work.