In February 2014, amid public outcry and widespread reports of problems with its ignition systems, General Motors began the largest series of automotive recalls in history. By the end of the year, nearly 29 million vehicles were involved, and litigation followed close behind. The result was General Motors Ignition Switch MDL—a massive class-action lawsuit that included 31 law firms, 200 reviewers and 2.5 million documents.
Somewhere in those millions of emails, spreadsheets and Powerpoints lay the plaintiffs’ argument. They just had to find it. The first step was to identify the most important documents—the so-called “hot docs” they would use to make their case. Using Everlaw’s litigation platform, plaintiffs’ counsel discovered 15,700—so many they had to create a new “super-hot” category to keep them all straight.
The next step would be even harder. Now that they had their key documents, the plaintiffs’ attorneys had to weave them into a story. They had to demonstrate relationships, establish timelines, prepare depositions and agree on an overarching strategy, all while operating in different jurisdictions and time zones. At first they were resigned to the usual solution: a hodgepodge of emailed Word documents, cloud services, Excel sheets and outlining tools. They expected it to be a slow, frustrating and inefficient process. It always was.
But shortly after the review began, Everlaw invited the plaintiffs’ counsel to demo a new feature called StoryBuilder.
“At first they were intrigued,” remembers Everlaw senior director of accounts Greg Marliave. “Then they were impressed. Then they got excited.”
The feature Greg presented was really two in one. StoryBuilder Chronology allowed teams to import documents from the review process, and annotate, filter and order them with ease. From there, they could add arguments, strategies and timelines using StoryBuilder Outline.
“Whenever we demo StoryBuilder, there’s always a ‘wow’ moment when people realize they can do inside Everlaw all the work they’re used to doing in separate applications,” Greg said. “They can instantly grasp how much time and trouble it saves. ”
Not only is having everything on the same platform convenient, he said, it makes the case stronger. “As the lead attorneys look at the documents, they can communicate with the review team while the review is going on. They might say, ‘This is amazing, we need more docs like this. Or, ‘We don’t have a document to match this beat in the story. Have you seen anything that fills this gap?’”
The attorneys got to work. Five of the firms used StoryBuilder to collaborate on a detailed timeline spanning 20 years of GM history, dropping in key documents to buttress their case. Others planned depositions. Still others used StoryBuilder to create case overviews to help new team members get up to speed. The entire team was able to concentrate on the job rather than worrying about issues like version control and document formatting.
“Building a case is a lawyer’s most critical job. But it’s the part of the process that hasn’t been well served by technology until now,” Greg said.
In the future, as attorneys increasingly work across teams in scattered locations, Greg expects features like StoryBuilder to become all the more important.
“With globalization, you have national review teams, international review teams—people from all over working on the same case. It’s impossible to get in the same room, so collaborative tools will be a must.”
Want to learn more about StoryBuilder? Download the full case study here.