Litigation support focuses on electronic discovery, also known as e-discovery, which is the use of technology to handle, catalogue, review and categorize vast quantities of documents and evidence produced in discovery. This use of technology has proven vital particularly to certain corporate civil litigation. In addition to e-discovery, litigation support professionals' technological expertise often benefits attorneys who need a temporary remote office or "war room" for out-of-town cases, computer forensics to investigate hard drives and files, and legal exhibits, presentations and animations to bolster a case and drive home to the jury crucial details in a striking visual form.
Technology's role in the courtroom, as in other arenas, is increasing exponentially. Some firms have established litigation support teams, while some lawyers hire technology-savvy professionals as consultants. Attorneys in all practice areas will at times find themselves in need of support to make their best case using the latest technology.
Lawyers confronting casework in today's business world, often in civil cases, expect and deal with large sums of data in response to interrogatories and requests for admissions. For defendants, recent cases such as Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC and Qualcomm Inc. v. Broadcom Corp. specify the lengths expected on the side of defense attorneys and their civil clients in responding to requests. These decisions make clear that proper electronic discovery is crucial. Neglect of best practices in electronic discovery can result in sanctions.
Similarly, a plaintiff's legal team must have a way to handle large amounts of electronically stored information in discovery. In many cases, setting up the right software and professional support to run e-discovery is paramount. Whether relying on an in-house litigation support team or consultants or a combination of the two, attorneys will lean heavily on IT professionals to handle electronically stored information.
Attorneys can put a lot of effort into having a comfortable remote office for out-of-town casework, but they should not overlook the need for powerful computer networks, connections and software at their home away from home. Whether the war room will exist in a hotel or a temporary office, the need for powerful and reliable technology is real and can be met with the help of savvy information technology professionals.
Computer forensics is a skill possessed by a few accomplished technology experts, and it can uncover evidence such as "deleted" electronically stored information as well as details about when and how specific electronically stored information was used. Computer forensics is a science that prosecutors and plaintiffs will find of use in many investigations. Defendants answering requests may need computer forensics to preempt any allegations of spoliation of relevant documents.
Juries can be fickle, but graphical depictions, such as exhibits and presentations, can force jurors to take a look at any event in question as the attorney would have them see it. Some experts claim television programs about law and trials are driving a shift in what juries expect in the courtroom. Other juries today may enter the courtroom biased against the justice system in general or against a particular corporate client, raising the likelihood of unusual outcomes based on jury nullification or a generous definition of reasonable doubt. Technology makes it possible to show, rather than tell, portions of statements by the prosecution or the defense. Such reinforcements to the argument increase the likelihood of a favorable verdict, even in the face of unsympathetic juries.
In many cases that never go to jury trial, the threat of high-tech animations and presentations depicting incriminating or exonerating evidence will strengthen the client's leverage in reaching a settlement.