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Using the Complaint to Jumpstart
Case Analysis — A Protocol
By Greg Krehel
Our CaseMap® case analysis software makes it easy to organize the facts, documents, issues and case law in any matter. One of the many factors that make CaseMap quite different from other types of litigation support software tools is how it can be used to control critical case knowledge right from the very first day of any investigation.
In this article, we discuss how information from the Complaint can be organized in CaseMap to jumpstart the case analysis process. Invest a single hour digesting the key knowledge from the Complaint into CaseMap and you'll be able to create work product that can be used ...
• To drive the investigation process forward.
• As a way to get additional input on the case from your client.
• To impress your client no end.
The protocol outlined below also provides a great way to teach others on your staff the basics of case analysis.
If you represent plaintiffs, I hope you'll read the following and see that you could use the same steps in CaseMap not to analyze a Complaint but to organize the material that will be used to create it in the first place.
A PROTOCOL FOR COMPLAINT ANALYSIS
Here's a strategy for jumpstarting the case analysis process by taking the case details found in a Complaint and organizing them in our CaseMap case analysis software.
We're going to cull the case players, facts, documents and issues mentioned in the Complaint and use them to get a CaseMap file rolling. They'll provide the bedrock on which additional information is added as the case heads towards discovery.
When we're finished, we'll produce a CaseMap ReportBook that contains our analysis info and hand out copies to the client and everyone else on the trial team.
Step 1: Getting Started
Give the Complaint an initial read and then create a CaseMap case using the New option on CaseMap's File menu.
In under a minute, you'll have a new file that includes a Fact spreadsheet, an Object spreadsheet for organizing a Cast of Characters, a Document Index spreadsheet, an Issue spreadsheet and a Questions spreadsheet.
Each of these spreadsheets contain predefined columns that are ready to work. For example, default Fact spreadsheet columns include Date & Time, Fact, Sources, and Key (i.e., critical). You can add as many custom columns as you wish.
Step 2: Capture Questions
Many questions about the case will occur to you while reading and analyzing the Complaint. Use CaseMap's Question spreadsheet to capture these items for future follow up.
Step 3: Build the Cast of Characters
We're going to take a series of passes through the Complaint, each one focused on a specific type of information it contains. While this approach certainly isn't mandatory, we've found that it simplifies analysis. In our first review, we're going to identify all persons and organizations mentioned in the Complaint and build a cast of characters in CaseMap based on them.
Click the Object button on CaseMap's Sidebar at the left side of the screen. Doing so moves you to the Object spreadsheet. In CaseMap, we use the term "Object" to refer to the persons, organizations, and other things the case is about.
Scan through the Complaint and add a row in the Object spreadsheet describing each person and organization mentioned. In addition to the name of the player, capture a Role in Case, a pithy description of the connection between the person or organization and the case. As these players have been mentioned in the Complaint, we can essentially guarantee that they're critical to the case. Flag each player you add as being Key.
Step 4: Capture Documents
Once you've built the cast of characters, take a second pass through the Complaint looking for any case documents it mentions. Use CaseMap's Document Index spreadsheet to organize info about them.
CaseMap's document index spreadsheet includes columns you can use to capture such information as Date, Authors, Recipients, Type (e.g., letter, e-mail, fax), and Description.
Step 5: Capture Issues
A third pass through the Complaint is used to cull out the legal claims listed in it and organize them in CaseMap's Issue spreadsheet.
Enter a row in the Issue spreadsheet for each legal claim discussed in the Complaint. If the Complaint includes any language explaining or defining the claims, consider entering this information in the Description cell for each issue. If you have the Complaint in PDF form, you can select lengthy descriptions and then press CTRL+C to copy them, move to the appropriate Description cell in CaseMap and press CTRL+V to paste in the information you copied. Each Description cell in CaseMap holds 10,000 characters. That's over five single spaced pages.
Many legal claims have elements that must be proved to prove the overall claim. For example, proving Fraud requires a showing of Intent and Reliance. CaseMap's Issue spreadsheet makes it easy to outline these elements underneath each issue.
Step 6: Capture Facts
Use a final pass through the Complaint to identify the facts and events that are mentioned in it and move them into CaseMap. Facts can be typed into CaseMap directly into CaseMap's Fact spreadsheet. They can also be directly culled from the Complaint using the Send to CaseMap feature for Adobe Acrobat.
If you use the Send to CaseMap option from Acrobat, you can highlight text passages in the Complaint and send them directly to CaseMap's Fact spreadsheet. The Send to CaseMap Plug-for Acrobat also automatically creates a source reference and links the fact back to the specific passage in the Complaint. You can jump from a fact in CaseMap back to the specific passage in the PDF file of the Complaint at any time.
Step 7: Put Your Analysis to Work
As you complete the steps outlined above, you're in a position to create separate reports of the cast of characters, documents, issues, facts, and questions. You can also use CaseMap's truly unique ReportBook feature to instantly create a compilation of reports packaged together with a cover page, a table of contents, etc. CaseMap reports and ReportBooks can be printed or PDFed using CaseMap's built-in PDF Writer.
Let's try creating one of the prebuilt ReportBook templates CaseMap automatically includes in each case file. To create the ReportBook that's based on your Complaint analysis, click the ReportBook option on CaseMap's Main menu and then select the Case Summary option.
Hand out copies of the completed Case Summary work product to your client and everyone on the trial team. As the case moves forward, add additional critical knowledge to the CaseMap file you got rolling in short order.
I hope you'll give this Complaint Analysis Protocol a try on a current matter and that it will soon become standard practice for all cases. The first time you try it, you'll spend some time learning the process and tweaking to make it your own. Thereafter, you should be able to jumpstart a CaseMap file for a typical matter in an hour or two at the most.