If you have looked for a paralegal position recently, chances are you have seen many ads requesting “knowledge of Concordance.” Law Firms and In-House Legal Departments are requiring this knowledge of paralegals more than ever. Have you ever heard of Concordance? Have you ever seen it in action? Have you wondered why it may be important to law firms? Have you ever wondered how it can help you land a job? This article will clue you into the what, why and how of the basics of Concordance.
What is Concordance®?
Concordance® is a document management software that can handle large volumes of paperwork, emails, and even PowerPoint presentations. It will itemize everything in a nice table, which looks a little bit like an Excel Spreadsheet. If you have hard copies, you can scan the documents onto a computer server and with a little bit of technology magic (and typing), you can click on a line item in the table, and that hard document will appear in a separate window. Concordance is used primarily in litigation matters.
In the table window, you can sort the dates of documents and items in chronological order, or you can sort the last names of individuals in alphabetical order. In the document window, you can highlight the document image with key information, bates label a batch of documents, and can do any redactions of confidential/privileged items.
What if I need to find documents relating to specific issues or witnesses? Can Concordance help me with that?
Yes. Concordance uses OCR (optical character recognition) to identify specific words and phrases in the actual body of the documents. If you are handling a medical malpractice case, you can search for the word “heart” and Concordance will find all documents that mention the word “heart.” If you are preparing for Dr. Jones’ deposition, you can search for “Jones” and all documents where he is referenced will be identified.
Can I save my searches?
Yes, there are several ways to save searches, so you are not reinventing the wheel over and over again. You can also see what searches you did in the past to make sure you covered all possible searches for items related to case issues or witnesses.
What if I need to print documents. Does Concordance do that?
Yes! Concordance can print items in batches or separate items, with or without bates labels or highlighted portions and in color or black & white.
I have a bunch of pictures from a site inspection. Can I see those in Concordance or does it only handle documents?
Concordance can see color photos, and it can even see more obscure items such as AutoCAD drawings. It understands a variety of software programs, and what is not automatically listed as a software item, you can program Concordance to see a specific set of software items.
Why are more and more law firms using it?
Part of it is out of necessity and part of it is out of desire.
The Courts are now responding to this “brave new world” of technology and that means that law firms have to keep up or they run the risk of harming their clients’ cases and/or being sanctioned. On December 1, 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were revised to address the needs of “e-discovery.” E-discovery is using the standards and rules of discovery in litigation and applying them to computers, network servers, cellular phones, and other technological equipment that houses ESI (electronically stored information). For those of you who do not practice much Federal Law, you are in luck! On June 29, 2009, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the California Electronic Discovery Act into law. It mirrors the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s e-discovery guidelines and applies it to the State Courts.
There have been some cases that have scared attorneys into submission (e.g. Zublake and Qualcomm cases1) and more and more firms have responded with purchasing computer software to not only find case-relevant ESI (electronically stored information) in their clients’ computers, but to review the information quickly and keep discovery moving along. More importantly, using this software could potentially save clients a lot of money in the long run of the case.
Why should I know how to use it?
Technology does not appear to be going away anytime soon. If you learn how to use this software now, you can expand your employment pool to more job opportunities. You may also be compensated with a higher salary for having the specialized knowledge. You will also find that this software makes hours and hours of document review time much easier for you to do.
What is Summation?
Summation is a similar software product to Concordance®. Summation, along with iConect® and other software, are made by different companies.
I don’t work in litigation. How can Concordance help me?
If you work in Family Law, Estate Planning or another area of law, Concordance can still used to manage documents relevant to your client. If your clients’ documents and information are scanned in, then you can quickly access your client’s information to revise their matters or answer questions in case they need to know something. In case you may want to try working in another area of law, knowing Concordance would be a good item to have on your resume. It may help you get into a position where you may not have been qualified before.
Our firm uses trial presentation software. Is Concordance like it?
Concordance is not trial presentation software, but it can easily sync up with Sanction or Trial Director for trial presentations.