On December 1st of this year, new rules went into effect pertaining to the electronic discovery of documents for civil cases. These rules require that when two companies are involved in civil litigation, they must meet shortly after the lawsuit is filed and prior to conferring with the court, to decide how electronic data will be handled. The parties must agree on which records will be shared and in which electronic format. Failure to comply with these rules by producing electronic data in a timely manner can result in costly fines. This new e-discovery policy affects all businesses and has IT departments scrambling to ensure they have the technology in place that will allow critical business information to be easily converted to an electronic format, stored, and quickly searched and retrieved.
PAPER PROCESSES SLOW DOWN DOCUMENT DELIVERY
Anticipating the e-discovery needs of the business community, Corporation Service Company (CSC) decided to invest in a technology initiative aimed at enhancing the legal services it delivers to its clients. Founded in 1899, CSC provides litigation management and registered agent services, corporate compliance and governance services, domain name and patent management services, public record services, Uniform Commercial Code services, and motor vehicle titling services to many of the largest companies and law firms in the United States. As a registered agent for corporate entities, CSC acts as the legal representative of client companies in the states where they do business. In this role, CSC receives SOP (service of process) documents, such as summons or subpoenas, on behalf of its corporate customers and must regularly process and deliver this information to the appropriate contacts at the client company.
Traditionally, CSC’s SOP procedures were paper-based. For example, processors at every CSC local agent office (CSC has branch offices in all 50 states) received hand-delivered, overnight, or mailed packages containing SOP documents from process servers and attorneys’ offices. These packages were opened and the SOP documentation was distributed among the processors who would manually enter important data contained on the documents (e.g. plaintiff, defendant, date served, court name, jurisdiction) into the CSC litigation management system (LMS). A cover sheet containing a summary of this important SOP data was then generated, attached to the top of the SOP document, and the entire set was sent via overnight mail to the client. CSC repeated this process thousands of times a day across each of its locations.
Under ideal conditions, this procedure took a full day to complete, and CSC clients would receive their SOP documents the very next day. However, circumstances often arose that would add days to the SOP processing cycle. “Oftentimes SOP documents were received at a local CSC office that needed additional assistance to completely process the information,” says Mike Desch, director of corporate services for CSC. “For example, several clients might request special procedures to be implemented or specific data to be collected from their SOP documents that only certain CSC processing specialists could perform. In these instances, processors at the local office would collect the basic document attributes and then overnight the SOP to another CSC office that had the processing skill set required. With this additional routing, the SOP delivery process could take several days. Plus, it added to overnight shipping costs, which were already costly.”
Another factor that impacted SOP delivery was that the processing capacity of CSC was restricted by geography. For example, a new piece of legislation may cause one particular state office to be suddenly bombarded with SOP documentation. With the paper process that was in place, it was difficult to effectively distribute this workload evenly among multiple CSC offices, and this volume discrepancy sometimes caused delays in SOP delivery.
On the surface, a day or two delay in SOP delivery may not seem like a big deal, but turnaround time is one of the most important aspects of the registered agent business. A corporate client has only a set amount of time to respond to an issued SOP, and a service is effective the moment an SOP document is presented to a registered agent. The longer it took CSC to process SOP documentation, the less time its clients would have to prepare their responses. CSC wanted to reinvent the way it processed SOP documents and make potential delays a thing of the past.
ENHANCE WORKLOAD VISIBILITY WITH A WEB-BASED APPLICATION
To expedite the SOP delivery process and facilitate the future e-discovery needs of its clients, CSC knew it had to eliminate paper from the equation and transfer SOP data electronically. Enabling this delivery method first required CSC to completely revamp its LMS.
“Our original LMS was based on Sequent OS,” says Desch. “It was basically a green-screen application that was data entry-intensive and limited in terms of the information it could collect due to data field restrictions. Plus, it was a closed system that couldn’t be accessed in a distributed environment. We decided to rebuild this system as a Web-based application using Java, Web logic, and an Oracle database. Now, all of our offices can access the system 24/7 to view and process data.”
A Web-based environment also enabled CSC to create an online global work list that allowed employees to view a dashboard of the processing workloads of all CSC offices. Using this dashboard, more sophisticated processing tasks could be disseminated to other offices once basic document attributes were collected. This capability helped ease the workloads of offices overwhelmed with incoming SOP documentation, reducing instances of SOP delivery delays due to volume inconsistencies.
DISTRIBUTED SCANNING FACILITATES COMPANY-WIDE PAPER CONVERSION
CSC’s new LMS was launched in 2004, and although not originally deployed as part of the initiative, the platform was designed to accommodate distributed scanning and ECM components. For the better part of 2005, CSC focused on extending its corporate network to all 50-plus local agent offices around the country and investing in the ECM products that would allow them all to electronically convert, transmit, and store electronic SOP documentation data.
CSC standardized its document scanning platform using scanners manufactured by Fujitsu Computer Products of America. The company installed Fujitsu fi-4530 departmental scanners in its small local offices, fi-5650 midvolume scanners in its midsized offices, and M4099D and fi-5900 production-level units in its busiest offices. Dedicated scanning personnel were hired to operate the production-level units, while CSC processors were responsible for scanning in the smaller offices. Scanning training is provided to new processors on a regular basis via seminars CSC hosts on a monthly basis.
Next, CSC hired an ECM industry consultant to review the company’s distributed capture, data transformation, content management, and delivery requirements and asked the consultant to recommend the ECM platform that would best address these needs. The consultant suggested InputAccel by EMC Captiva and the capture component of the system and EMC Documentum as the content management repository.
“We decided to standardize on Captiva and Documentum components before either company was acquired by EMC,” says Desch. “However, the company mergers have since simplified our client-server configuration over the many sites supported by the platform.”
ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT DELIVERY IMPROVES CUSTOMER SERVICE
CSC completed its distributed capture and ECM deployment in October 2005. With the new system, SOP documents are now scanned as soon as they are received at a local CSC office. These documents are converted into searchable PDFs by InputAccel and uploaded into the EMC Documentum document repository. CSC employees then process each SOP using the electronic image. Rather than leafing through a paper document for key SOP data (e.g. plaintiff, defendant, date served, etc.), processors can simply execute a search for key phrases and copy and paste data from the image into key data fields in the LMS application. Document images are then linked with the electronic data in the LMS system so they can be electronically routed to other CSC offices in instances where further processing is required. This electronic procedure has allowed CSC to process SOPs nearly twice as fast as the old paper-based method.
More importantly, this new processing method now enables CSC to provide its clients with same-day delivery of SOP documents. Once scanned and processed, documents are uploaded into the appropriate client’s folder in the Documentum repository. An e-mail is then immediately sent to the client, notifying them that the document is ready for viewing on the CSC SameDay SOP interface on IncSpot, CSC’s Web portal. Authorized client employees can then access and view the SOP document image 24/7 via a password-protected Web account. CSC has made electronic delivery part of its standard registered agent service offering, so no additional charge applies to clients that wish to receive their SOP documents in this format.
“By delivering same-day SOP processing, our corporate customers receive the benefit of having more time to prepare their response to litigation,” says Bettina Tweardy Riveros, associate general counsel and director of product development for CSC. “Plus, delivering the SOP in an electronic format allows our clients to share, distribute, and collaborate on their documents more easily. When we delivered the documents in paper form, many of our clients would make numerous photocopies of each document and distribute them through interoffice mail. Now, the documents can be e-mailed, or all necessary parties can be provided with online access to appropriate SOP documentation. Lastly, by receiving SOP documentation in an electronic and searchable format, our clients are better prepared to comply with new e-discovery requirements.”
In addition to helping CSC better serve customers, its electronic SOP processing system has helped the company eliminate costs associated with shipping paper. “More than half of our clients now accept their SOP documentation from us in electronic form,” says Desch. “Electronic routing has drastically reduced the number of overnight packages we send both externally and internally. We have saved literally millions of dollars in packaging and shipping since our ECM solution was implemented.”
CSC’s ECM system is not only instrumental in the company’s SameDay SOP service, it is also a core component of the company’s CSC PowerBrief service. CSC PowerBrief is an online litigation and matter management tool that allows CSC clients to set up user groups, collaborate with outside counsel, and generate reports on litigation documents using many of the capabilities of EMC Documentum’s back end content management platform. CSC is also using key data collected in this process to feed into the CSC General Counsel Dashboard, an integrated risk management tool that aggregates corporate data and provides trend analysis for the General Counsel. In addition, CSC is looking to extend its ECM platform to streamline operations in other divisions of its business, specifically its intellectual property management and Uniform Commercial Code processes.