June 30, 2000

Support forlitigation
Litigation support – the transfer of information, text and images to asearchable database so as to manipulate the raw evidential material of a case– is universally acknowledged to be a good thing. SCL and this magazine havebeen pioneers, and I have been a sterling advocate.
But there is room for questions whenyou get down to it. Does a computer literate lawyer want all case informationcontrolled by database software? What are the real benefits? What are thedrawbacks? I am provoked into this by Richard Brockbank’s article on the topicin the last edition of this magazine: ‘Litigation support for the many not thefew’.
He is entirely right and indeed my firm is one of his company’ssatisfied customers. But the benefits: ‘efficiency’, ‘effectiveness’,‘time saving’ are slightly more chimerical. Systems do not give a lawyer theability to understand large volumes of paper, they confer the illusion ofcontrol and management. If a judge wants to decide a case on the basis that xwrote to y 35% more e-mails in a particular period than x sent to z, then thesystem will provide the tools for doing this and there will be no appeal. Butthere has been no qualitative analysis and we should not presume that anysystem, however expert will deliver this.
The drawbacks are the need to avoid the ‘rubbish in, rubbishout’ paradigm: something which is easy to get trapped by when cases areoutsourced to bureaux who know nothing about the case in question and verylittle about litigation (I have seen an example where the person before whom anaffidavit was sworn was listed as the author of the document). And even giventhe relative cheapness of computer memory, it is sad to think of how many bytesin how many cases are taken up by images of the least possible relevance and howmuch processing power is expended in the search to sift out the chaff.
We still need to work at identifyingwhat Richard Brockbank calls the ‘realistic advice’. Litigation supportsystems are a valuable tool to sharpen your competitive edge but they are not apanacea.

Domainnames: what we want from Italy
The People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine famously found a surprisinglist of Roman accomplishments. In terms of what the present day Italians havedone for us, the list is equally long and varied. Pancetta, proscuittio, polenta.Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino. The San Sirostadium, the view across the Venetian lido (I was in a boat on Breydon water theother weekend and the view to Great Yarmouth was similar), Piazza Navona, TheTuscan countryside, Quattro stagioni.
It also has the national first-level domain name: ‘.it’. A lotcan be achieved with that, for both IT lawyers and IP specialists creatingbrands. And indeed IT lawyers building and selling brands. Just think of thepossibilities of associating your brand with this national registry. Nikepresumably have ‘’. Michael Jackson no doubt has ‘’.Cole Porter afficionados will go for ‘’; libertarians for ‘’.Legal services could be incrementally sold under the URL’s: ‘’,‘’, ‘’ and finally ‘’.
The overlap between domain names, brands and trade marks certainlyhas scope for some interesting conflicts. Brand managers and trade mark lawyershave seized on the domain name issue to create a whole new field of endeavourfor IT lawyers. The main thrusts of activity are the protection of well-knowntrade marks by using them in URLs and the acquisition of interesting genericnames to draw in visitors.
Does a company need all its brands in its domain names? Do people,not attracted by brand names, key in generic names by way of guesswork ratherthan use search engines or links in existing sites. Is the ‘.it’ extensionso exciting after all or should the Italians be encouraged to deprive its use toforeign undertakings seeking ‘interesting’ generic registrations. Let’shope so, the more that can be done to discourage the boring old generic domainname industry, the better.

Shh …
Finally and in passing, I see that noted City law firm Stephenson Harwood haverebranded themselves with the initialised lower case logo: ‘sh’. I keepwondering what their information technology department think of that and whetherthey will add their initials to create a distinctive sub-brand. And, indeed,whether they will register an Italian domain.

Richard Harrison is a solicitor and partner inLaytons. He may be contacted at