Bringing a case to court has become increasingly complex. Cases are taking longer, requiring more information and faster access to this data, and controlling costs is a constant challenge. Today, a range of litigation technologies and services are available that can help improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance argument.

The story of Merrill Legal Solutions

Although a relatively new name, Merrill Legal Solutions has an impressive litigation heritage which began back in 1988 when Smith Bernal won its first court contract. It quickly became the largest court reporting agency in the UK. During this time, the company pioneered the daily transcription service and from this grew the need for both a real-time transcript and a management tool, to enable lawyers to get the most from this service, and in 1991 the LiveNote software was developed.

In 1998 Smith Bernal was acquired by the US firm WordWave Inc. The business developed to comprise two units, LegaLink and WordWave International, and became part of an international network of court reporting companies that spanned the UK, North America, Asia and Australasia. WordWave International built a reputation as a leader in technology-driven services and pioneered real-time court reporting. LegaLink offered court reporting, legal videography and deposition services in North America. In 2000 this portfolio was enhanced by the addition of US subtitling business Vitac and the partnering with ITFC, part of ITV Broadcasting plc, to provide captioning services for the deaf and hard of hearing. Key to WordWave International’s success was its investment in research and development and technology, combined with a commitment to accuracy and efficiency across all its legal and media services.

In January 2006 Merrill Legal Solutions was created following the acquisition of court reporting specialists WordWave Inc by Merrill Corporation, providing clients with access to a wealth of resources, expertise and experience unrivalled in the litigation support marketplace.

From complaint to verdict

When it comes to litigation support, trial preparation and evidence management, there are a range of services for clients working in the legal sector – whether it’s a high profile court case, a complex fraud trial or a long-running arbitration or dispute resolution.

Every case starts with good preparation. Merrill can help the client collect and organise evidence or supporting information by scanning, copying and coding documents, as well as recovering electronic data from hard drives, CDs and DVDs. Meetings or telephone calls can be transcribed, providing a verbatim, searchable record of what’s been said as well as translating foreign language documents to provide a full suite of services to help clients assemble and analyse the case documentation. The Lextranet® software enables clients to manage their disclosure reviews and productions online and to work collaboratively with experts and other third parties in a secure environment through the document exchange and trial preparation phase.

Once the trial or hearing is under way, Merrill can quickly and efficiently capture what’s being said, help the client manage the evidence and open up proceedings to a wider audience. Traditional stenography or digital audio recording and transcription provide a full written account of proceedings. Real-time reporting gives participants the chance to read what’s being said as it is being said. Live remote broadcasts allow the client to share what’s being said with members of the public, the media, or other stakeholders.

In the past, all the benefits that the latest technology could offer were solely the preserve of large, international law practices. Now, however, the efficiencies that such technology provides combined with the growing use of the internet means that even the smallest company can reap the same rewards.

Web-based technologies in court

Document review

The Lextranet® software is a highly customisable state of the art document review tool. It provides clients with a secure, web-based repository of documents which can be used to annotate and prepare materials during the disclosure process and in preparation for trial.

Real-time remote access

Merrill’s real-time remote access is supplied to participants who wish to receive instant access to the real-time feed. The software enables participants to receive live transcript text directly from the courtroom from the stenographer’s computer. Participants are able to annotate sections of evidence, add notes and search the text during live proceedings, allowing fast and efficient review and consolidation of notes at the end of each day. As well as being a highly efficient tool in the courtroom, remote participants and interested parties can receive access to the real-time feed throughout the proceedings and can be streamed to the internet or as a television broadcast. There is also an instant messaging tool that allows private communications between on-site and off-site team members.

Casetrack

Instant online access to the latest legal judgments is vital in today’s legal industry. The company’s publishing service Casetrack was established in 1998. Clients are given a password that allows them to search through Casetrack’s extensive database of over 80,000 judgments from courts, including the Court of Appeal (Civil and Criminal Divisions) of England and Wales and the High Court. As part of this service, case preparation time can be accelerated through email alerts about relevant judgments as they are handed down or to track down obscure judgments.

From complaint to verdict, Merrill Legal Solutions is a single-source solution provider for the litigation support and information and document management needs of law firms, corporate legal departments and professional service firms.

Reema Corney is Marketing and Communications Manager of Merrill Legal Solutions.

Email reema.corney@merrillcorp.com.

Notes from Delia

Merrill Legal Solutions have been providing the courtroom technology for the Diana and Dodi inquests. They collated all the disclosure provided for the hearing and provided the tools to enable each interested party to comment securely on the documentation. They organized the display of evidence in court and the daily transcripts of the hearing containing hyperlinks to the documents referred to. As part of the service, they deliver the transcripts and evidence to the watching media attending in court and the annex within the royal courts of Justice and a live text feed.

Opus 2 reporting is a new company set up by Graham Smith-Bernal, the originator of the LiveNote Court Reporting Sotfware. The company is now licensed to supply and support LiveNote throughout the world, outside North America. Graham Smith-Bernal created LiveNote in 1990. He sold the original business Smith Bernal to WordWave which was in turn later acquired by the Merrill Corporation. The LiveNote product is now owned by the Thomson Corporation.

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