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Document management made virtually care free.

Mass torts and multidistrict litigation present unique document management problems for litigators. Computers have simplified and quickened the process of document storage and dissemination, but many questions arise when more than one law firm will have access to a significant number of documents.

How will documents be input into the electronic document repository? Where will they be stored? Will every law firm have to buy new computer hardware including installing local area networks) to make good use of the information? Will each firm need "tower"-type CD-ROM disk drives, which allow access to multiple CD-ROM disks simultaneously? What new software will each lawyer and staff person in the firm have to learn to use?

Up to now, the solution has been to scan the documents, place the physical documents in a document repository, and then create CD-ROMs for distribution to those involved in the litigation.

Using CD-ROM technology is significantly cheaper and more efficient than making photocopies of all the documents. However, creating the disks, updating them frequently, making copies of each disk, and shipping them off to each law firm is a time-consuming, error-prone task. And because new information is constantly added to document repositories during litigation, even the most recently updated CD-ROM disk is never truly up to date.

The Virtual Repository

Thanks in part to recent technology that has made the Internet easy to access and navigate, lawyers and their staffs can now use it to store and disseminate information. And, one company, Integrated Internet Solutions, Inc., has created an innovative program that allows lawyers to manage the large numbers of documents involved in complex cases. It's called the Virtual Repository.(1)

To use the program, documents must first be scanned and copied into a computer file. This can be done by your staff or by a company that offers scanning services.(2) The scanned information is then transferred to CD-ROM disks. These are sent to Integrated Internet's staffers, who then create a Virtual Repository file. The file can then be accessed by Internet users for whom you authorize access.

No expensive, specialized equipment is required. All that is needed to set up your own virtual repository is a 486, or better, computer that is running Windows, a 28.8 bits-per-second modem, and an Internet connection.

There are several benefits to using the Virtual Repository software.

Availability. Because the documents are stored on a computer in a central location, you can log onto the Net and work with your documents whenever you want from any place in the world. You can even do this from a beach if you have a notebook computer equipped with cellular phone equipment.

Ease of use. The Virtual Repository is easy to use. If you can operate a mouse and have used Netscape's World Wide Web browser software just once, you can learn how to use the Virtual Repository in a matter of minutes.

Search, capabilities. The system can perform powerful, high-speed searches for information-including dates, authors, and subjects-that has been coded specifically for this. You can search one or more fields of coded material at the same time to find the exact document or group of documents you want.

Viewing and printing. After you find the documents you want to work with, you can view them online or print them out if you have a laser jet printer. Viewing options allow you to zoom in on parts of a document and rotate the document. This is helpful when you want to read fine print and handwritten marginal notes.

Optical character recognition. The system has built-in optical character recognition software that allows you to convert words or even pages of images of documents into text with a single click of the mouse. You can then "cut and paste" information from stored documents into word-processing or other programs without changing the image of the document stored in the repository.

Document management. The system includes document management capabilities allowing authorized personnel to add new documents and edit existing ones. You can create a new document in the repository database and code it yourself, right from your own computer. Your repository can be set up so that only designated users can add or edit documents. These users win have Add New, Edit Existing, and Search Documents functions on their menus. Other users' menus will have only a Search Documents function.

Unlimited access. There is no limit to the number of users you can authorize to access the repository, and all users can access it simultaneously.

Low cost. The system's price varies, depending on the features desired, but it is lower than the alternatives available for document management. In general, you will pay a one-time setup fee and then a flat monthly access fee based on die number of document pages in your repository. The monthly fee remains the same regardless of how often you or other users access the repository.

Security

The system incorporates the latest techniques for keeping unauthorized people from accessing documents or intercepting them from the Internet as authorized users retrieve them. Authorized users are given a log-in name and password. Anyone without these who attempts to get into your repository will be locked out.

The system also uses Netscape's encryption security feature. All transmissions of documents are encrypted, or scrambled, so that anyone who tries to intercept them cannot reed them. Information that you request from the repository is also encrypted by the repository computer before it is sent to you.

Encryption is done on a request-by-request, user-by-user basis. This ensures that the transmitted data cannot be deciphered by anyone but the intended recipient.

This does not mean that the system is absolutely secure. But office telephones and fax machines aren't secure either, and lawyers us them to convey sensitive information every day. The only encryption code that has not yet been broken is called the "One Time Pad," but it is rarely used, even by government security agencies, because it is a cumbersome, manual, and paper-based system.

For access to thousands of documents by more than one law firm, the Virtual Repository seems to be an ideal resource. Any ATLA member involved in mass torts or multidistrict litigation should look into this creative new use of Internet technology.(3)

(1) The company can be contacted at 7400 East Orchard Rd., Ste. 160, Englewood, CO 80111; tel.: (888) 887-4274; fax: (303) 290-0757; e-mail: tkeaten@2s.com. (2) Integrated Internet offers processing services, including scanning, coding, and uploading of documents and images. If you want to scan and code documents yourself, the company's staff will work with you. (3) For an extensive description of the depository system, visit the Integrated Internet Web site at http://www.tvr.com. Enter "guest" as your user name and password-this will allow you access to the Frequently Asked Questions area of the site, which will provide detailed answers to questions you may have about the system. You can also register online to obtain a free evaluation copy of their TVR (The Virtual Repository) Viewer along with free access to the demonstration repository for 30 days. The software is available only for Windows- and Windows 95-based computers at this time, but a Mac version is being planned.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Association for Justice
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bernstein, Paul
Publication:Trial
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:1200
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