How to Leave Behind the Heavy Load of Paper Briefs

How to Leave Behind the Heavy Load of Paper Briefs

  • Blog Post
  • Posted on 1 February 2021

This article provides an overview of how Law In Order creates an eBrief for clients.

Obviously, the process can change depending on our client’s requirements; which parts they decide to do inhouse including the capabilities and time the client has. In short, our team can do as little or as much as the client requires.

Another factor is the preferences of the person receiving the brief.

Steps for Brief Preparation

The first step in preparing a brief is to obtain or assume a page count by conducting a review of the material to be briefed. This enables our team to provide a cost estimate. This applies to hard copy material, electronic material or a mixture of both.

Often, the next stage is assisting clients to deduplicate and clean up the material. We start by delimiting the data, which involves working through bundles of documents to separate them into individual documents. With a large PDF, this is accomplished by finding the start and end of each document. For hard copy material, the material is delimited during the process of scanning the loose documents.

Once all the documents are in an electronic format and the documents are deduplicated and delimited, they can be renamed. Mostly, the documents are renamed to match the document index number or something else within the list of documents so the documents can be easily identified. Alternatively, they can be named as required by the client.

Afterwards, if required, the document is rendered. Rendering simply means converting documents to PDF. Clearly, this would only apply to document files. Audio or video files would remain as MP3s or MP4s, for example.  The alternative is to brief the documents in native format (ie. as Excel, Word or Outlook files, etc).

The team then collates the documents in the correct order, either manually or automatically depending on the metadata (information about the documents) collected from the documents. Generally, the documents are ordered by date. Our team has a system that can do this automatically using coding. However, if another form of ordering was required such as putting the court documents into different sections, for example, our team would complete this manually.

During coding, the relevant fields for all the documents are completed in a list format. The most common fields would be the document number, document name and document date. Some clients require five field coding which is used for disclosure. This includes the document index number, document name, document type, the person who created the document and the document date. If the documents are named correctly, our team can use the documents’ metadata to automatically pull out those names.

Once the team has the list and the documents in the right order, we are able to combine them into one PDF if needed. In the combined version of the PDF, the team then ensures the bookmarks are working correctly. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) would then be applied to the documents to make them text searchable.

The other common option is doing a non-combined brief, which is similar, as the index is hyperlinked.  However, the documents are saved separately in a folder, meaning individual documents are easy to share or use for other purposes.

Pagination can be added to combined or non-combined documents.

Depending on the situation, hyperlinks can be added automatically or manually. The index can be used to open the documents.  The team will then finalise the index which allows page numbers to be added and adding any volumes, sections or ordering changes if required.

A Typical Scenario

Generally, clients will send our team the documents and an index they have created with the document name and document date, but without a page number.

Our team would then OCR the documents, combine them (if relevant), add pagination and hyperlinking, and add the page numbers to the index. Our team assist with the finalising, formatting and the personalising so it’s in a presentation that is easy to navigate.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips to make the process of creating a brief as cost and time efficient as possible:

1.  Naming the documents with the document index number or the document name and ensuring it is case sensitive. This enables our team to use automatic hyperlinking. If the client decides to do the hyperlinking inhouse, it’s very easy to figure out which document links back to the document index number.

2.  Alternatively, ensure the document naming is easily identifiable to the index. Although this means it can’t be automatically indexed, it saves our team or the client a lot of time when hyperlinking.

3.  If the documents are provided to our team PDF ready, this saves time and money in rendering.

4.  The other option is to brief the documents in their native format. Rather than making everything PDF and text searchable, brief the Excel, Outlook and Word files, etc. This would only be available in the non-combined briefs.

These tips depend on your staffing arrangements and access to the correct technology. It can be more cost effective to have our team undertake the entire process than have someone inhouse charge this to the client, plus take time away from billable work.

5.  When collating documents, have them in sub folders similar to physical folders, eg. one for court documents, one for reports, etc. As the matter progresses, make sure to categorise them along the way. It not only helps with creating the index, it also assists the matter to run more smoothly as it becomes easier to locate documents and other data. Everything is there in one search. If the document management system does not have a folder structure, it may be possible to tag documents as a court document or a report, etc.

6.  Speak to the person being briefed and check their preference for the brief format. If they do have a preference for hard copy and the brief is large, it may be possible to provide part of it in electronic format, eg. photos, plans, etc.

7.  If the index has been created inhouse, our team will require a Word version, so the index can be finalised with the page numbers.

8.  Provide the Instructions to Counsel for our team to insert in the front of the brief.

9.  Provide any preferred format of indexes, cover sheet or spine labels. Our team does have a standard Law In Order template that can be used, if needed however.

10. If a client requires regular briefs, our team can set up standing instructions. Using an old brief is a good starting point and our team is happy to provide advice.

There are many options for creating a brief and our team is happy to work within our clients’ preferences and offer any advice as required.

For more information, please contact our eBriefs team.

Like what you're reading? Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletterl.

Share this post