A document management matter with
international flair offers tips for counsel.
By Nancy Ritter
July/August 2003 Issue
When it comes to
handling a huge number of documents in a complicated piece of
litigation, Katherine Carroll is an avowed believer in finding the most
common-sense approach possible. The Washington, D.C., paralegal said she
has a mantra: “Simplicity is the key.”
Simplicity in a large litigation matter is, however, frequently more
difficult to achieve than it might seem. Before moving to the nation’s
capitol to work on a major patent infringement lawsuit, Carroll was a
products liability paralegal in Charleston, S.C., where the documents in
one asbestos case involving the World Trade Center filled two 18-wheeler
trucks when they were shipped to New York City for trial.
But if “complex” described that massive-document case, the word took on
new meaning when she undertook a recent assignment with her employer,
intellectual property firm, Sughrue Mion currently represents a Japanese
company, called Daiichi Pharmaceutical, which — along with Johnson &
Johnson and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical — is suing Mylan Laboratories
over an alleged patent infringement of an antibacterial drug used to
treat lung, skin, sinus and urinary-tract infections.
Many multiparty lawsuits can involve a large number of documents.
However, the Mylan case offers an interesting twist: The bulk of the
client’s documents are in Japanese. For Carroll, the challenge was to
quickly find a way to unlock the mystery of a complex language while not
losing track of the main priority, which was to manage the documents and
keep the case moving along to best help the firm’s client.
Rise to the Challenge
Drop thousands of documents in front of a paralegal, tell that paralegal
to find a way to organize it and, by the way, mention that a good
portion of those documents are in Japanese and you are likely to witness
a unique response. Experienced paralegals will tell you document
organization is a subject-neutral undertaking: document management and
database systems frankly don’t care if the documents involved concern
nuclear fission or the manufacturing of bottle caps … or if they are in
Japanese, for that matter.
“Once you have solid paralegal experience, the subject matter doesn’t
really matter,” Carroll noted. “It’s all about knowing how to organize.”
That isn’t to say the translation of thousands of documents — along with
charts and graphs and chemical formulae — from Japanese to English
doesn’t present a challenge. It merely means paralegals must focus not
so much on the actual dearth of work but, at least initially, on the
flexible structure they must construct that allows them to be efficient
law firm organized the client’s Japanese documents using a Bates
seen lots of paralegals make the mistake of organizing documents in a
complex manner,” Carroll explained. “But attorneys just want to find the
document they are looking for, so the most important thing is to make
sure documents are easily accessible, especially if I am not around.”
Coordinate Your Efforts
Long before Carroll joined the firm, or a management system for handling
the case’s documents was conceived, documents had to be collected from
the firm’s client in Japan.
One of the litigation team members charged with this task was paralegal
Trenton Osborne. He spent many weeks in Tokyo culling through various
documents, organizing them as best as he could and arranging for their
transport to the United States.
Meanwhile, the firm’s paralegal coordinator, Mary Krizan, was back in
Washington, D.C., trying to figure out a document management system, as
well as a way to get the documents translated into English as quickly as
“We needed a
fast — a very fast — turnaround,” she said.
First, Krizan chose a software program manufactured by Dataflight
Software Inc.’s Concordance to organize the massive document matter. She
said she oversaw the Concordance training for the firm attorneys and
paralegals on the case.
With a selected method for tracking and organizing the documents,
Krizan’s next priority was to find outside companies to handle the
translation of the thousands of documents from Japanese into English.
One of the two firms Sughrue Mion ultimately selected was TransPerfect
Translations, a global company the law firm had experience working with
Most litigation paralegals understand short deadlines; they live and
breathe in a professional world where the work product was expected
yesterday. But the translation requirements in this case pushed the
The first Japanese document in the lawsuit was sent to TransPerfect at
the end of December, and, by mid-March, 2,361,850 words had been
Sherfinski, Carroll’s point-person at TransPerfect on the translation
project, described the challenge in achieving the firm’s goal: “When I
receive a document from Katherine, I do a rough word count and give her
an estimated turnaround — and typically she needs it 10-times faster.”
One thing every paralegal who works on a large document case understands
is that a single document, such as a three-page internal memo, for
example, is likely to show up two, 10 or even 100 times in a company’s
business records. That memo might be a discreet document in someone’s
file, and it might be attached to a report in another file.
In some instances, the same memo also might contain handwritten notes or
other marginalia. When it comes to creating a translation of the
document itself, consistency among the multiple copies is crucial. It’s
also critical for a paralegal handling such a case to communicate with
document preparation companies and translation services to ensure these
duplicate or repeat text documents are not overlooked.
“When people come to us for translation services, they are most often
shopping based on price,” Sherfinski said. In doing so, she said,
individuals and businesses seeking translation services often don’t know
what they are looking at beyond the bottom line.
“Some companies have multiple steps to handling a project. For instance,
we have in-house proofreaders and translators for every dialect. Some
small mom-and-pop shops out there might not be able to provide you with
the resources you need. But if you are only comparing price, you will
miss the most important element of the services any such company could
provide,” Sherfinski explained.
She advised paralegals looking for quality translation services for
their firm’s documents to make sure they compare like-companies if price
is a point of consideration in the search.
Also, Sherfinski said you should know as much as possible about the
documents you have before beginning your search. Knowing what language
they are in is only the first and most basic step.
Questions to pose to document providers or your supervisors before
beginning your search include:
- How many languages are involved in
the different documents?
- How many documents are there?
- How will the firm decide what and
how many documents to translate, and when?
- Will the potential translation
company be able to meet deadline expectations?
- Will the documents need to be
scanned and converted to digital files before submitting to the
- How many experts will proof the
translated documents before turning them over to the firm?
- At what stages are original
documents compared against translated versions, and by whom?
Translators should make sure every
line in every document has been translated, and that the Bates number
and any internal numbers issued by the translation service correspond
on the original documents and the translated documents. Quality
translation services will guarantee like formatting from the original,
or any formatting changes you specify at the outset.
For example, if a line breaks in the translation document, that break
must match its corresponding line break in the original document. All
charts and graphs also must be properly placed and accurately
correspond to the original material.
As a precautionary measure, paralegals who oversee the translation of
foreign documents should have any translation service maintain a
record of who translated each particular document, as well as the
linguist’s expertise and qualifications. Most reputable translation
services will provide this information, Sherfinski said. However,
paralegals should ask for it nonetheless.
Get Organized And Stay Organized
Once all the players were in position with clearly defined roles, the
next obstacle for Carroll and company was assessing what they had and
how it should be addressed within the means at their disposal.
In the Mylan matter, some of the documents had previously been
translated — or at least summarized — by the firm’s client in Japan;
some had been translated in the United States; a few were actually in
the process of being translated when Carroll signed on; some were in
the possession of the firm’s co-counsel in Baltimore; and others were
simply in boxes, awaiting a determination of whether they needed to be
said she created a tracking system, including flagging the documents
in Concordance to indicate if they were “pending,” meaning if they
were in the process of being translated. Then she set about
coordinating the availability of documents with the needs of the legal
With careful consideration and according to Carroll’s mantra, keeping
it simple, she said management of the Mylan project has been mostly a
matter of using the existing system and structure that already had
been implemented, along with some basics common to all litigation
matters, such as using a Bates numbering system.
Because the case is an ongoing matter in the courts, Carroll and her
co-workers can’t relate the specific details of how their efforts have
fared thus far or the intimate details of how specifically the firm’s
document management system is set up.
However, Carroll did say successfully coordinating the database
implementation, data entry as well as data management, along with the
translation of pertinent Japanese documents, has allowed the
litigation team at her firm to focus on working for the client’s best
interest, which is the most important thing of all.
from a Pro
A paralegal expert shares his insight on
handling document management and what you need to know.
By Rod Hughes
Long before Holland &
Knight’s Senior Legal Assistant Lee Paige, CLA, found himself on the
cover of Legal Assistant Today (see “Bad Times at Belmont High”
May/June 2000 LAT), he and a co-worker were knee-deep in
litigation documents — thousands of them. After successful completion of
a $176 million lawsuit involving dozens of parties, their legal
representatives and entire rooms full of documents, Paige found himself
speaking to groups about document management and counseling
up-and-coming legal assistants on what they can expect from their
In an interview with
LAT, Paige advised paralegals to identify three critical planning
elements before handling document management:
the assembly and
categorization of documents by source of origin
the creation and
maintenance of a searchable, uniform computer database
the production of
working copies and keeping them separate from the originals.
[about document management] are that there is only one correct way to
manage a large document universe and that document management should
always be supervised by an attorney,” Paige noted. He explained that
because information on appropriate paralegal utilization is lacking at
some firms and because attorneys are not trained to use paralegals
effectively, such misconceptions continue to plague law firms that could
make better use of their resources.
Noting the common use
of software such as Concordance by Dataflight, Summation by Summation
Legal Technologies and Microsoft Access for document management
purposes, Paige said paralegals would benefit professionally from having
more than a passing familiarity with today’s software tools. He
recommended career-oriented paralegals seek training through both
employers and private resources such as community colleges, local
associations and specialized training programs.
paralegal will [always remain] vigilant in seeking new software
offerings that could streamline the document management process and
[provide a] benefit to his or her employer, and ultimately, the client,”
He also suggested
seeking out materials like West’s “Paralegal Today – The Legal Team at
Work” for those looking to learn more about effective document
management. In addition, Paige suggested those looking for more advanced
document management training consider a company called CaseCentral that
offers an in-house continuing education course for paralegals and
attorneys called “Discovery 1, 2, 3: Managing Electronic Discovery in
the Age of Technology.”
“Litigation in the age
of technology requires a basic understanding of electronic data. It
isn’t restricted to just large, complex, high-tech cases. Today,
litigators and paralegals must be aware of the impact electronic data
might have on the outcome of their case,” Paige said.