In one of my recent blog posts “Become a Discovery Ninja” I set out my workflow for responding to discovery requests. The most important rule of my workflow is to respond to the discovery requests within 48 hours of receiving them. I’ve had several attorneys ask me how I can do this so quickly in light of most attorneys’ hectic schedules, including being in trial, responding to ex parte motions (or regular motions for that matter), responding to motions for summary judgment, morning appearances, etc. 

 

It is my belief that 95 percent of the time trial attorneys can meet (and likely exceed) the 48-hour response rule. Keep in mind I do not believe there are any shortcuts to learning the facts and law of a particular case. Of course as plaintiff attorneys we usually have plenty of time to research and evaluate a case before engaging with a client. The evaluation period is the perfect time to learn the facts, witnesses, and documents (or things) pertaining to your potential new case. Learning the facts, witnesses, and reviewing pertinent documents always takes time and effort—and then some more time and effort. But once you have the facts down, and understand the application of those facts to law, responding to discovery should be straightforward. Okay, now to an application that can help you quickly respond to discovery.

 

I use TextExpander for many things in my practice—including responding to discovery. (TextExpander can only be used with Macs, but there are other applications available for PC users such as Breevey or Snippet Bin that function similarly to TextExpander). 

 

ScreenShotTextExpander.png

 

For discovery responses I have two groups of “snippets”, namely Discovery Objections and Discovery Responses. As you can see in screen shot above there is a file for “Discovery Responses” and a file for “Discovery Objections”.  I’ve selected “Discovery Objections” for the screen shot to show a few of my objection snippets. 

 

I have over 60 objection “snippets”, including attorney-client privilege, work product doctrine, calls for expert’s opinion from a lay person, equally available to propounding party, etc. For each one of these objections I have a snippet that can be used to respond to Document Demands, Form and Special Interrogatories, and Requests for Admissions. 

 

For example, if the defense attorney requests that my client provide an expert opinion in special interrogatories I simply type “ROG ExpOp” into my word procesor for that special interrogatory response. TextExpander immediately inserts the objection. You can see the text that is inserted below in the screen shot.

 

ROG ExpertTextExpander.png

 

You can insert this objection  each time you come to a question asking your client to provide an expert opinion. I simply re-type “ROG ExpOp” and my snippet is immediately inserted each time. As you can see from the screen shot above I also have objections for work product, right to privacy of financial records, collateral source (not sure how good this objection is after Howell), asked and answered, etc. 

 

Before TextExpander I used to cut and paste from a template of objections. While this works, in my experience it takes much longer and it is easy to get lost in a large response file. 

 

As you can imagine, using TextExpander speeds the process up for responding to written discovery. Give it a try in your next discovery response. 

Responding to written discovery can be overwhelming. In most cases defense attorneys send the bulk of written discovery early on in a lawsuit. This discovery generally includes Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Requests for Admission, and Demands to Produce. Due to the size and expansive scope of this discovery one can become overwhelmed by it and tend to put it off until the last minute. Of course putting it off leads to stress, resulting in either poorly drafted last-minute responses (leading to defense motions to compel), or asking defense counsel for an extension of time to respond (which means asking for a favor.)

A better option is to establish a workflow for responding to discovery before it is ever received. Then, once your workflow is in place, it is triggered and implemented when discovery is received.

The essential components of an effective workflow for responding to discovery includes the following:

Form Interrogatories:

Obtaining completed answers to likely Form Interrogatories from your client before you receive Form Interrogatories. I usually go over the Form Interrogatories with my client before I file the lawsuit, or shortly thereafter. In any event, I do it well before a defense attorney sends discovery.

 Once I complete the likely responses I simply save them in my file to include in future formal responses I will need to provide once Form Interrogatories are actually received.

Documents:

Obtaining all documents (and things) in your client’s possession pertaining to the lawsuit before the lawsuit is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. Don’t think you can get all these documents once you receive the Document Demand from opposing counsel. Get every document from your client, including privileged documents, before the lawsuit is filed.

 Once I have these documents, I scan them into my case management system under a file named “Documents”. I then break these documents down into natural categories, i.e., Communications, Special Damages, Medical Records, Medical Billing, FDA, Bank Account Info, Attorney-Client Communications, Photographs, 911 Transcripts, 911 Phone Calls, etc.  

Contact information:

Obtaining the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all individuals and entities that have (or may have) documents pertaining to the lawsuit before it is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. If your client does not have actual possession of responsive documents after making a good-faith effort to find them, then the Discovery Act requires your client to identify any individuals or entities that may have these documents.

 I enter all names, addresses, and phone numbers of these individuals and entities into my case management system indicating that they may have documents pertaining to my client’s case. It always surprises me how long this list of names gets when you actually think about all individuals and entities that may have documents pertaining to your client’s case.

Objections:

A list of likely objections to improper discovery requests. I’ve built this list up over time and find it very useful to review as I respond to each discovery request. I keep theses objections in a handy application, which I use when responding to discovery.

Self-imposed deadline:

Simply stated, respond in 48 hours or less.

And that’s it! You now have a feasible workflow for responding to discovery. In my next blog post I will introduce an application that significantly reduces the time it takes to respond to discovery—thus ensuring you make your 48-hour deadline. 

I’m a huge fan of the iPad. I keep finding new ways to use it in the practice of law. One of the best iPad apps I’ve come across is iAnnotate PDF by Aji, LLC. At $9.99 it is a bargain.

I recently finished a three week trial and ordered all 1200 plus pages of the trial transcript in order to prepare my closing brief. When I received the trial transcript, it took up three large binders.

I’m flying out of state in the next couple of days and I want to take the trial transcript with me to review while on the plane. Normally this would require me to fit all three binders into my carryon luggage so I could access them during the flight. Additionally, it would require me to encroach upon someone’s seat space to open up the binder to review, mark, and make notes on the transcript.

But that will not be a problem with my iPad and iAnnotate. I had my paralegal save the trial transcripts as PDF documents. I then uploaded all 1200 plus pages of the trial transcript to iAnnotate using iAnnotate’s Aji PDF service (which is free and works with both PCs and Macs). I now have all 1200 pages on my iPad, and I get to use all the great features in iAnnotate to mark them up and make notes. I can spend my entire flight with my iPad navigating the transcript and preparing my notes for the closing brief. Once completed, I can e-mail the marked up PDF to myself and open them in Acrobat Reader, etc.   

Not only am I happy that I have the complete trial transcript on my iPad, I’m sure the passenger who sits next to me will enjoy their extra space.

P.S. I am not affiliated in any way with Apple or iAnnotate, other than being a consumer of their products.

 I’ve used my iPad for about a year now. It has changed the way I practice law—mostly for the better. Here’s my list of top 10 iPad apps for lawyers:

1. GoodReader. I recently appeared at a motion hearing where I was opposing a motion for summary judgment. Before the hearing, I was able to download all of my motion papers (as well as my opponents) all in GoodReader. I then sorted the motion papers into their own named files, and even bookmarked all exhibit and declaration pages so I could retrieve them quickly, if needed. I appeared at the hearing and relied solely on a blank legal pad, pen, and GoodReader. I found it much easier to find the documents or moving papers I was looking for in GoodReader, rather than fumbling with a thick file trying to find that one sentence in a declaration I needed to support one of my arguments. It may take some getting used to, but GoodReader makes it easy to find the documents and papers you need quickly during a court appearance. 

2. Outliner. I use Outliner all the time—in client meetings, preparing for trial, taking and defending depositions, etc. I don’t know how I did depositions before Outliner. When defending a deposition I simply take notes of all issues the opposing attorney is going into when questioning my client. Timelines are simple to complete by using a function in Outliner that allows you to rearrange the outline as you take notes. If the opposing attorney jumps back to a different topic and date out of order, it is simple to start a new line item and then quickly move it to the place in the timeline where it should appear. After my client’s deposition is completed, I have a beautiful outline of the areas that I will see again at trial. This is a versatile app and well worth it. 

3. Penultimate. There are other handwriting apps out there, but I use Penultimate. When I’m in a hearing and the court gives me the next hearing date, time, department, and reason for the hearing, I simply jot those items down with my finger as a pen. I then hit the email function and send the new hearing information immediately to my assistant who opens the email and adds the new information to my litigation calendar. Done. Now I don’t worry as much as I used to about missing a hearing because I forgot to enter it into my calendar when I got back to my office (due to being barraged by phone calls, clients, etc., when I get back from court). You can also use this app to take simple notes. I use Outliner for more detailed notes. 

4. NewsRack. I use NewsRack to keep track of my favorite blogs. You can follow my blog on NewsRack as well.

5. Twitterrific. I use Twitterrific as my Twitter client. I am able to filter my message types into individual folders, i.e., Legal, News, Blogs, etc. 

6. Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. I use all three. I plan on using Keynote for an upcoming bench trial. 

7. Instapaper. I rarely use Instapaper to save web pages for offline reading at a later time (i.e., in an airplane). But I really enjoy reading the “Editor’s Picks” folder. I recent went on a cruise and ended up reading obscure articles out of the “Editor’s Picks” folder that I never would have read, but for Instapaper. I now have all kinds of interesting topics to raise at my next cocktail party. 

8. Pandora. I recently heard a song by Neil Young and loved it. I have not listened to many songs by Neil Young. Pandora changed that. I selected the “Neil Young” station in Pandora and was treated to many other songs by Neil Young and his contemporaries. Best of all, it’s free.

9. iAnnotate PDF. My paralegal sent me a brief that I opened in iAnnotate PDF. I was able to make comments on the brief and email them back to my paralegal. She made all the changes and it was sitting on my desk ready to sign when I got back to my office. I also use this app to review long deposition transcripts. You can mark them up as you go. Nice app.  

10. Friendly for Facebook. I didn’t like using the iPhone Facebook app. So I downloaded Friendly for Facebook for iPad and I love it. 

That’s my top 10 iPad Apps for Lawyers. Let me know your favorite apps.