Construction and Engineering disputes typically involve a large number of documents. There are significant advantages in using electronic storage systems where the dispute warrants it.
Our document management systems have improved over the last decade or so and it is now relatively cost effective to scan all relevant documents, place them into a database and then convert them (where necessary) to a text searchable form.
How the system works in practice
A short anecdote from a case demonstrates the benefit of this system. On one occasion late on the night before a negotiation was scheduled to occur, lawyers for the opposing party sent a fax to one of our lawyers. The fax included a quote from a letter sent some years earlier by our client to their client. The quote was particularly damaging to our client’s case. Needless to say, our lawyer went into somewhat of a meltdown for a short time, trying to reassess the merits our client’s case which until then had seemed unassailable.
The case involved many thousands of documents. The documents had been placed on a database and were text searchable. Within 5 minutes, our lawyer was able to find the letter by searching various phrases from the quote. As it happened, the quote had been taken out of context and was entirely misconstrued by the other client’s lawyer. At the negotiation the next day we produced the entire letter to set the quote in context and settled the matter on terms very favourable to our client.
Once the database has been created, it can be updated and notes can be placed against documents so that various lawyers or the client can access the database remotely. Documents can be categorised so that individuals have differing levels of access to the documents, depending on the necessary level of security. Access is subject to a sophisticated password protection system, so that data can be made available to expert witnesses, counsel or client personnel preparing claims. If the trial is to proceed by way of electronic documentation, the court room or arbitration venue can also be set up to utilise the same database by providing disclosure through a particular category of document.
The system is designed to, and does, save time and money, by hugely reducing the time taken searching through documents looking for evidence on particular topics, and by very significantly reducing the amount of photocopying that is necessary to give access to members of the legal team, both within our office and outside.
The database service is charged on an initial set up fee and then a monthly fee for the duration of the matter. The cost depends on the number of documents.