July 17, 2013
Before actually writing the brief, a great deal of time is required to conduct enough legal research to ensure that your brief has enough authoritative support – and, more importantly, so you actually know what you’re writing about.
Unfortunately, the legal research doesn’t just end when you start writing your brief.
As I’m sure you’ve experienced firsthand, additional questions about authorities or points of law arise as you’re getting into your arguments. Perhaps you’ve noticed a weakness in your argument that you previously hadn’t; or perhaps the authority you were prepared to cite isn’t as supportive of your position as you initially believed.
Even if you don’t necessarily need to do additional research while you’re writing your brief, you’ll almost certainly need to have your authorities readily accessible for your review while you’re forming your arguments – if for no other reason than to cite points of law directly from the texts themselves.
If you happen to be responding to an opposing party’s brief, you have the additional step of researching into the authorities cited therein to look for weaknesses in your opposition’s argument or to verify that the authority was even cited correctly.
To save time and money, Drafting Assistant has a new feature for litigators: Authority Compiler.
Authority Compiler is exactly what it sounds like: a compiler of legal authority.
It scans a document for citations and then collects the full text of these authorities from WestlawNext. It then adds a link within the document at each point of the citation.
However, those links don’t direct the reader back to WestlawNext. Instead, Authority Compiler creates an appendix (with table of authorities) with the full text of each citation integrated into it. Citations within the document direct to the full-text authority within the document itself – not to anything externally.
This is obviously valuable in more ways than one, but some of the more prominent uses are as solutions to problems mentioned above: as a method of compiling all of the pertinent authorities into one, easily- accessible document.
Even if you haven’t finished your brief (or even made substantial progress on it), as long as you have the citations in a document readable by Drafting Assistant (e.g. Word or PDF), Authority Compiler can assemble the full-text of each citation into one document.
In addition, although they are certainly useful as a research tool, the appendices generated by Authority Compiler may also be helpful in submitting to the court (along with your brief).
Even if not all judges may appreciate having every single cited authority attached to your brief, many judges certainly will.
And if you have cited any unpublished cases in your brief, you will in all likelihood be required to attach a copy of the case to your brief (check the applicable court rules to be sure).
Since you can select which specific authorities to include in the Authority Compiler’s appendix, you can easily assemble only the unreported cases in your appendix for filing.
Authority Compiler isn’t the only new enhancement to make writing a brief easier. There’s another that addresses some common issues faced by attorneys in the process of writing a brief.
For instance, what happens if you only have an image file of your opponent’s brief – such that the text of the document isn’t recognized by your system?
Case Notebook’s solution? ABBYY OCR FineReader.
For those of you unfamiliar with this software, it’s a godsend for attorneys. It allows the user to take an image document (TIFF, PDF, JPG) and convert it into a text file by identifying the characters in the image.
In other words, it lets you convert any image file into a text file that you can search through, and from which you can copy/paste portions of the text.
Apart from the obvious uses in being able to highlight and copy text from any document, Case Notebook allows you to send the now text-editable file into your word processor where you can use Drafting Assistant features such as “Insert Flags & Links” to quickly and easily validate the authority cited therein.
Apart from all of these benefits, the simplest advantages provided by Case Notebook OCR Technology and Drafting Assistant’s Authority Compiler are that they automate and simplify processes that you (or someone you are paying) will have to do anyhow as part of your due diligence as a litigator.
And if you can save yourself time and money, what’s not to love?