Why Fact Management is Key.

Case management software needs fact management. And so do you.

In any legal matter, the case chronology is paramount. No lawyer or litigator worth his salt works without one in any dispute, litigation or investigation. And fact management is paramount for building chronologies: you have no effective case chronology without facts.

We dissect some properties of facts, look at why fact management is so critical, and finally what separates the right fact management solution from the rest.

Fact Development Dissected

Developing and setting out the facts behind any dispute or investigation is a fundamental step in understanding story of a case. How widespread is this? In a recent survey of large law firms every respondent stated they built a case chronology for every single one of their cases.

That’s not surprising.

Every lawyer or litigator knows they must understand and lay out how key facts, documents and events unfolded over time. Some facts may be merely statements of information (citing an authority for example), but the majority will have a date and time component and form entries in the case chronology – along with key documents or their extracts or other events – that tells the lawyer or litigator what happened when, where, how and why, revealing the story behind their case.

What is surprising is that a majority of respondents to that survey said they use Excel and/or Word to build their case chronologies.

Here’s our take …

  • Excel is not the way to go. And,
  • Word is even worse.

Now you might say that we’re biased being at MasterFile, and of course, we are! But we have a good reason to be and in this article we explain why. If you’re a smaller firm, or working on smaller matter, take note: You’ll have key advantages over your adversaries with a fact management software platform. (Naturally, we suggest MasterFile as your chronology software. Why is that? MasterFile is built specifically for fact management and developing your case chronology besides the capabilities you need to manage all the moving parts of any litigation – from intake through depositions, trial and settlement. And, it’s affordable to boot.)

4 reasons why you need Fact Management

We think it’s pretty straightforward why your law firm needs a fact management platform and hopefully, this short introduction explains why managing facts and a case chronology in Word or Excel nowadays is passé – even for a small matter. So don’t go there. Instead, get an effective case chronology tool.

When you look at your case chronology, you have to be confident not only that it’s reliable, but also, that it’s actually up to date. That is, when either you or a colleague reviews, edits or adds a chronology entry, it’s a current snapshot and the current understanding of case facts and events — which implies real-time collaboration, whether on-cloud or on-premise.

Saving new versions of the case chronology in Excel or Word doesn’t cut it: sending documents back and forth via email, or version check-in and check-out found in document management systems, means a) someone is effectively going to be out of synch, b) you lose track of who is working off what version, and c) you end up with multiple sets of ‘truth’. In more complex litigation, this is even more important as the active case team may be working on different aspects of the master chronology simultaneously, splitting it up by issue for example.

In MasterFile, case facts or events on the case chronology are short summaries of the key extracts, documents, affidavits, etc. that they link to. An event therefore is not just a quick summary of probative material and the issues at hand. Collectively, the list of facts and chronological events becomes a visual snapshot of how the case is shaping up. That’s going to be invaluable as you prepare argument and case strategy. But to prepare for depositions, a witness interview, hearings or trial you need those linked reference documents to create your binders or books. You should be able to do that easily — plus still continue to search, filter, highlight and annotate new excerpts or facts, link to other facts or issues, etc., simultaneously.

An effective case chronology lets you link any evidence, facts and events on the case chronology to the issue outline. That makes it easy to browse to or drill down to focus on and analyze specific issues, letting you filter your chronology to specific events by issue. It also makes it simple to parcel out logical sections of the chronology to your colleagues to work on.

A cast of characters is found in every case or dispute: individuals, companies, governments and so on. Some are very important: the parties or key witnesses; others not so much so: a person mentioned in a key letter or two. The value of a player can and often does change as the matter proceeds, as new facts emerge and as player relationships are uncovered.

To be effective, a case chronology tool like ours must consider players their own entities to which facts, documents and issues are linked. And vice versa — i.e. allow linking players to chronology entries or to facts and documents that relate to them. All visible at a glance. Player profiles should also allow detail enough to develop persona, including titles, responsibilities, and more.

With that now out of the way, let’s look at four features your litigation management tool needs to manage facts in more detail.

The Importance of the right Fact Management tools

Facts come in two types: those with a time component – an event or occurrence (a phone call or observation) – and those that are just information (she’s his sister). Facts arise from documents, depositions and the like, and their details are the when, what, where and who. The ‘why’, of course is foundational to your matter;  it comes from a deeper analysis of evidence and connections that software like MasterFile helps you uncover – the story behind the evidence of your case.

No doubt, all kinds of pieces of information from different sources will make their way into your set of facts. And it will be your job to weigh a source’s importance, authenticity, credibility or reliability and impact – that is, your confidence in that material’s relevance to the issues you are defending or prosecuting. Facts, therefore, are not a lesser form of evidence, and relying only on documents for fact development would not be wise.

As you piece together the story behind your case, you naturally will be identifying new facts. These facts cause your search and exploration of evidence to fan out: new search terms, new custodians, new people to look into and directly impact the case chronology, your argument and your preparation for hearings, trial and so forth. It is important then, that you choose the right case management software tool with at least these essential capabilities so you can do that deeper analysis and insight:

  • You need to be able to quickly add facts to the case chronology.

    These will co-exist with document and other event entries so you can quickly see how they all relate in the case chronology.

  • Any fact can have a time component, so you need to be able to assign date and time information.

    And since, like documents, facts relate to case issues, you must be be able to link them to case issues. Lastly, you need to be able to track the source(s) of any fact.

  • Key people and entities are often linked to facts too.

    So, besides seeing case facts alongside your key documents, you need to be able to deepen your understanding of any facts by linking them to key players and entities. These relationships are distinct from a fact’s source and go to its importance: for example, who was present on a call.

  • Linking facts to documents and other facts.

    In litigation, context always matters, so being able to link facts to relevant documents and other related facts is instrumental.

These are the four basic necessities for effective litigation management software and have been a part of MasterFile since its inception – as well as, of course, production, transcript and evidence management, and document review.

In our related article on case management software (it’s not what you think it is), we go into detail on the term’s confusion with “practice management software”. Here’s a synopsis to give you a taste

The confusion stems from using “case management” and “practice management solution” interchangeably without differentiating the two — an act that even the ABA is guilty of — when in reality there’s a real and practical distinction.

Here in Canada and the United States, “case” is typically used to describe legal disputes between parties. Case management software not only keeps all case evidence and legal material organized, replacing the paper physical case file, but also, focuses on managing the substance of your cases: key pieces of evidence, key facts, key issues, key people and key testimony. Practice management is about the business aspects of law firms and practicing law, and internal firm processes related to the client file: client intake forms, appointment scheduling, client communications, trust accounting, reporting, workflow management, etc. That is, managing the client record and your practice, not actual cases. A personal injury law firm or personal injury lawyer does need to deal with filing deadlines of course, but the substantive matter is what happened when, where, how and why!

If we had to pick a label, it would have to convey that MasterFile’s an end-to-end, all-in-one team collaboration tool – a cloud solution that helps your team organize, produce, review, analyze and discuss case information. But whatever you call us (or case management software), what you really mean, is this: legal software able to manage a litigation file throughout its litigation lifecycle – the critical documents, key facts, key issues, key people, key transcripts and key testimony from onset through depositions, motions, trial and appeals.

That’s MasterFile.

Manage your evidence, disclosures, production, case chronologies and case analysis more efficiently and more effectively in MasterFile. Win more – and have an easier time doing so!

See how MasterFile can help your firm.

Book a demo today →

The Importance of the right Fact Management tools

Facts come in two types: those with a time component – an event or occurrence (a phone call or observation) – and those that are just information (she’s his sister). Facts arise from documents, depositions and the like, and their details are the when, what, where and who. The ‘why’, of course is foundational to your matter;  it comes from a deeper analysis of evidence and connections that software like MasterFile helps you uncover – the story behind the evidence of your case.

No doubt, all kinds of pieces of information from different sources will make their way into your set of facts. And it will be your job to weigh a source’s importance, authenticity, credibility or reliability and impact – that is, your confidence in that material’s relevance to the issues you are defending or prosecuting. Facts, therefore, are not a lesser form of evidence, and relying only on documents for fact development would not be wise.

As you piece together the story behind your case, you naturally will be identifying new facts. These facts cause your search and exploration of evidence to fan out: new search terms, new custodians, new people to look into and directly impact the case chronology, your argument and your preparation for hearings, trial and so forth. It is important then, that you choose the right case management software tool with at least these essential capabilities so you can do that deeper analysis and insight:

  1. You need to be able to quickly add facts to the case chronology. These will co-exist with document and other event entries so you can quickly see how they all relate in the case chronology.
  2. Any fact can have a time component, so you need to be able to assign date and time information. And since, like documents, facts relate to case issues, you must be be able to link them to case issues. Lastly, you need to be able to track the source(s) of any fact.
  3. Key people and entities are often linked to facts too. So, besides seeing case facts alongside your key documents, you need to be able to deepen your understanding of any facts by linking them to key players and entities in the litigation or investigation. These associations are separate from a  fact’s source and go to its substance (e.g., who was present in a call or at a meeting).
  4. Linking facts to documents and other facts. In litigation, context always matters, so it is crucial to be able to link your facts to relevant documents and other related facts.

These are the four basic necessities for effective litigation management software and have been a part of MasterFile since its inception – as well as, of course, production, transcript and evidence management, and document review.

Four reasons your law firm needs a fact management platform

We think it’s pretty straightforward.

  1. Everything in one place.
    When you look at your case chronology, you have to be confident not only that it’s reliable, but also, that it’s actually up to date. That is, when either you or a colleague reviews, edits or adds a chronology entry, it’s a current snapshot and the current understanding of case facts and events — which implies real-time collaboration, whether on-cloud or on-premise.
    Saving new versions of the case chronology in Excel or Word doesn’t cut it: sending documents back and forth via email, or version check-in and check-out found in document management systems, means a) someone is effectively going to be out of synch, b) you lose track of who is working off what version, and c) you end up with multiple sets of ‘truth’. In more complex litigation, this is even more important as the active case team may be working on different aspects of the master chronology simultaneously, splitting it up by issue for example.
  2. What (where) are an event’s underlying documents?
    In MasterFile, case facts or events on the case chronology are short summaries of the key extracts, documents, affidavits, etc. that they link to. An event therefore is not just a quick summary of probative material and the issues at hand. Collectively, the list of facts and chronological events becomes a visual snapshot of how the case is shaping up. That’s going to be invaluable as you prepare argument and case strategy. But to prepare for depositions, a witness interview, hearings or trial you need those linked reference documents to create your binders or books. You should be able to do that easily — plus still continue to search, filter, highlight and annotate new excerpts or facts, link to other facts or issues, etc., simultaneously.
  3. Searching or browsing the issue outline or hierarchy.
    An effective case chronology lets you link any evidence, facts and events on the case chronology to the issue outline. That makes it easy to browse to or drill down to focus on and analyze specific issues, letting you filter your chronology to specific events by issue. It also makes it simple to parcel out logical sections of the chronology to your colleagues to work on.
  4. Players and the case chronology.
    A cast of characters is found in every case or dispute: individuals, companies, governments and so on. Some are very important: the parties or key witnesses; others not so much so: a person mentioned in a key letter or two. The value of a player can and often does change as the matter proceeds, as new facts emerge and as player relationships are uncovered.
    To be effective, a case chronology tool like ours must consider players their own entities to which facts, documents and issues are linked. And vice versa — i.e. allow linking players to chronology entries or to facts and documents that relate to them. All visible at a glance. Player profiles should also allow detail enough to develop persona, including titles, responsibilities, and more.

Hopefully, this short introduction explains why managing facts and a case chronology in Word or Excel nowadays is passé – even for a small matter. So don’t go there. Instead, get an effective case chronology tool. With that now out of the way, let’s look at four features your litigation management tool needs to manage facts in more detail.