We non-lawyers often see attorneys a bit like doctors. There’s a lot of school involved, hearing them talk can make it sound like a foreign language, and they’re all insanely rich. Television programs have gone a long way to perpetuate misconceptions about those in the field of law as with probably every other profession. I’m a software engineer with over thirty years of experience but here at BTG this has been my first foray into this arena. What I have learned has opened my eyes a bit and made me feel pretty good about what I’m developing for our clients.
First, the amount of data that defense counsel must review is astounding. How did this get done in the days before software? 500,000 documents that might be email, affidavits, phone records, and many other types of files. Every case is different and the files provided might be of a similar category (wiretaps, emails, etc.) but the format can differ wildly depending on the law enforcement agency that the data originated from. So we do quite a bit of custom development to parse through the data and organize it, so that it can be reviewed in De Novo, our online discovery review platform. It can be time-consuming to get it right, but the end result is reviewable, searchable data that a lawyer can use to focus in on their client.
Second, lawyers do not have a lot of time to become technically proficient with software. This was a bit of a revelation to me that what I take for granted as an everyday skill is not present in many lawyers. Now it’s also true that being a software engineer I tend to be surprised at the level of computer acumen in most people, so let’s not single lawyers out as being technically backward. I’m talking about my perceptions. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They’re trained to work with the enormous history of case law and apply it to the defense of their client. Their focus must be on the application of law. When we at BTG hear grateful reports from our customers about how easy it is to use our products, that it saved them time in developing strategies for their clients, it encourages us to continue to improve what we do.
Lastly, it takes a long time to prepare for a client’s defense. Those television shows get a case wrapped up in an hour or less. The reality is months, sometime years where you do some work, wait, work a bit more, wait again, lather, rinse, repeat. It means that we have to keep data for a case available for a long time and supplemental data may come in during the time a case is alive as well. A case that we’ve archived may get brought back out because of any number of reasons. So we keep data around for quite a while and are prepared to update a case with new data as it is given to us.
In my years developing software the best work is that which is appreciated by those who use your product. There have always been wonderful moments where someone has told me how much their tasks have been helped by some application or utility that I’ve written. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps me going working at a keyboard day after day – hearing the success stories. I hope that those of you who work with us find what we provide a “couldn’t-do-without” type of help. That’s what we’re here for.