Documents tell powerful stories in construction defect litigation—from small, straightforward cases with a few hundred documents to highly complex cases with thousands of files and millions of pages. Attorneys working with these documents need a manageable way to cull, store, search, and review them. Some systems of document management are cumbersome and expensive while others are not robust enough. How do you choose the best document management system for your needs?
Consider the various types of document formats that a document management system must manage, like spreadsheets, scanned documents, CAD files, PDFs, photographs, videos, and more. To complicate it even further, some files may have a thousand pages that are made up of hundreds of individual documents combined into one single file. A document management system needs to deal with all types of files, and be logical, organized, consistent, and searchable so that stakeholders can access all the documents easily.
Most document management systems rely on optical character recognition (OCR) to extract the content of the document and build a database so that the information is searchable. But OCR is only as good as the document provided—if the image or file is of poor quality, the OCR cannot capture the content.
Optical character recognition works for hard copy text documents that have been scanned into electronic format. It is not useful for documents without text, like photographs, videos, and handwritten documents. To include these in a searchable database of documents requires special review.
State-of-the-art document management
As expert witnesses for construction defect cases, document management is critical here at CCA. One of the robust, state-of-the-art document management systems we have used is Access Data’s Summation. It has separate licenses and privileges so that attorney and client work products are protected, hidden, and separate from the work of our expert witness teams. Because each team shares a common document set with all the relevant information, like tags and categories, this system increases efficiency, reduces redundant cost, and provides support for all team members.
While this is a powerful tool, it and other similar tools like Lexis Nexis’ Concordance, are expensive and require special training and ongoing technical support. They are useful for complex cases with a lot of documents to manage. Some investigations do not warrant that kind of investment as they do not have the volume or types of documents to justify an expensive and elaborate system.
Simple and Elegant Document Management
A flat file, like a spreadsheet, is a simple document management solution that uses standard desktop tools and is often appropriate in certain cases, like for small and medium-sized construction defect cases and for cases with very specific or limited types of content, such as a case that deals only with a leaking roof or identifying the cause of an electrical short.
There are three simple steps to managing documents this way:
- Triage document submissions.
- Develop a high-level index of document types and content.
- Review the documents and create a table of files with descriptions of the content, using consistent terminology and describing attributes similarly to enable sorting and grouping of data.
This simple system provides a roadmap to the general topics contained in the documents and points you to the relevant materials. Because this system does not include optical character recognition, you are not able to identify every instance of a specific word or phrase. To find details within a document requires reviewing the full document.
This document management system is simpler to create, since it does not require any special software or licensing, yet it does require a lot of time to create. Someone must review each document to understand the content and create an index of attributes and topics within each document.
While there is no single document management solution that is right for all cases, there are good options for every situation. As expert witnesses with experience using a variety of systems, we know that choosing the right system requires technical skill and understanding of the specific construction defect case. At CCA, we have handled investigations of all sizes and used a range of solutions to solve the document management dilemma. We are ready to help with your case, large or small. Give us a call today at 781-280-0660.