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Everlaw for CJA Program: Leveling the Playing Field

by John Carr


Conducting legal work today has become more complex and challenging to navigate. Things are even trickier for the criminal defense community, particularly Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys.

The evolving data landscape is rapidly changing criminal ediscovery too. Electronically stored information (ESI) data types are growing rapidly, case sizes are ballooning, and new forms of digital evidence are showing up in criminal cases. Additionally, complex ESI cases generally require litigation support resources not typically found in criminal defense practices.

New forms of communication, from instant messages to chat data to meeting recordings to social media posts, are working their way into criminal litigation as evidence. Additionally, other forms of evidence, including surveillance, geofencing data, CCTV, body-cam video sources, and low-quality jail call recordings, are making it more difficult to properly and efficiently process, review, and organize what has been produced—in a timely manner.

These changes present daunting challenges for criminal defense teams but also significant opportunities. Knowing what to expect, what standards apply, and what strategies and technological solutions to get in place in advance can dramatically impact criminal matters.

The criminal defense community, in particular CJA panel attorneys, need modern tools to capture and summarize information not tied to specific documents or files. This is especially true when their prosecution counterparts in the U.S. government have more control upstream in the discovery process, which creates a significant disadvantage for defense attorneys and their clients.

To empower CJA panel attorneys, Everlaw is pleased to introduce the Everlaw for CJA Program to law firms that take CJA appointments from the U.S. Courts to support accused persons who are financially unable to retain counsel.

The program provides access to Everlaw’s FedRAMP-Moderate environment and 50GBs of complementary data capacity, along with unlimited training, users, and ongoing customer success support at no additional cost.

Challenges for CJA Attorneys

The Criminal Justice Act established a means for appointing legal representation for individuals charged with a federal crime who are financially unable to retain counsel. Everlaw’s company mission is “to promote justice by illuminating the truth” and is based on the strong belief that justice is served by truth, driven by factual evidence, and that every legal professional deserves the best ediscovery platform regardless of their side in court.

Our values align with the CJA’s mission, and the Everlaw for CJA Program seeks to address some of the challenges faced by this special community of public servants.

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Competitive Imbalance

Unlike their counterparts in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the criminal defense community is often afforded fewer resources (e.g., IT support, staffing, and digital tools), less control, and has to manage a heavier caseload. This tilted playing field makes it incredibly difficult for CJA attorneys to scour through thousands (and, in some cases, millions) of relevant documents, which can be impossible for large, complex matters.

Limited Technology Expertise

Many practicing attorneys had gone to law school expecting they wouldn’t have to learn or handle complicated technology. That hasn’t been the case. Attorneys now need an adequate understanding of ediscovery to manage their day-to-day responsibilities. Yet, many simply don’t have the time to learn up on the latest innovations. CJA attorneys want and need a simple database that won’t require extensive technical training, which can drain valuable time and resources away from their clients.

Timelines and Data Volumes Vary Widely

Each case type has unique technical needs, workflows, and timelines. As a result, CJA matters require flexibility and scalability from both a technical and support perspective. The lack of predictability around data volumes and timelines can create significant challenges impacting everything from cost predictability and control to time management and resource allocations. The anticipation for rolling productions from the federal government requires flexibility in managing data operations, mainly if there is a time or resource constraint and relying on a third-party vendor is not ideal due to high costs.

Modern problems require modern solutions.

And for federal defenders, an easy-to-use digital platform is just that solution. Cloud-based ediscovery software allows for intuitive sharing and communicating, which ultimately improves professional efficiencies and frees up time to refocus on the mission work of the CJA.

Everlaw for CJA Program: A Simple Solution for the Defenders Community

To keep up with the exponential growth of discovery and rapid pace of change in communication and other digital evidence types, Everlaw offers a more intuitive and modern ediscovery experience.

Workflows within the Everlaw platform can be customized to meet criminal defense needs and, in some cases, meet CJA attorneys where they are by simplifying how they review and organize their discovery. The Everlaw for CJA Program gives these attorneys a platform to build their professional efficiencies on their smaller matters and competitive and predictable pricing if matters exceed the program’s monthly allotted threshold of 50GB.

Everlaw deploys a unique solution and service model that we believe will add value to the CJA’s mission, now and into the future, in four key areas:

Collaboration and Simplification

The CJA community needs a solution that can be easily deployed and accessible across geographically dispersed teams and allows for various user entry points based on technology proficiency.

Everlaw’s cloud-native technology allows for quick and easy deployment, regardless of where stakeholders are located and their level of technical expertise. Repeatable tasks and workflows can be eliminated and/or streamlined through the use of capabilities such as project templatesbinders to organize documents, collaborative case timeline building, and in-platform messaging.

Doing More with Less

The Everlaw platform is the ultimate force multiplier for CJA attorneys.

A single Everlaw user can handle the responsibilities that generally require multiple team members to complete. Speed and ease of use are core aspects of the platform, enabling teams to eliminate time-consuming roadblocks. The platform allows users to rapidly cull down non-essential documents and files and quickly perform data exports for any of their complex matters. Additionally, wizard-driven processes help support the more complicated workflows, such as data processing and uploads, predictive coding modeling, and batch assignments.

Data Management

CJA attorneys need a flexible and innovative ediscovery platform to manage complex and unique ESI and to expedite tedious criminal defense workflows. The Everlaw platform can help dramatically reduce the number of documents and files promoted to active review with in-platform early case assessment (ECA) databases.

Everlaw users can take advantage of streamlined culling of produced data (with full images and indexed searching) in a less expensive area and don’t have to worry if the file types they have to review are supported. Additionally, capabilities such as automated transcription of all audio and video (A/V) files upon ingestion (at no additional cost) can help eliminate future headaches and expenses.

Technical Support

Understanding technical jargon should never be a part of the attorney’s job description, especially for CJA teams who don’t have the bandwidth to learn complicated solutions. Everlaw users have access to unlimited onboarding support, straightforward training materials, and dedicated customer success support at every step along the way. For those who need more hand-holding while using Everlaw, in-platform walkthroughs and a help function that automatically offers relevant support materials are available at no additional costs.

Simplifying CJA Workflows with Everlaw

While each team’s technical needs and capabilities can vary, Everlaw’s unique combination of innovative ediscovery technology and expert support is CJA teams’ secret weapon. Our experience supporting the mission of the CJA has helped us identify new ways that the Everlaw platform can better support the criminal defense community.

CJA attorneys can utilize a simplified, approachable, high-performance suite of tools to maximize flexibility and address mission-critical discovery challenges—all without needing to be a technology expert.

For more information on the Everlaw for CJA Program or to see the platform in action, please request a demo today.