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How One Law Firm Overcame Their Mass(ive) Tort Problem

Liz Durkin

Last month at the 2015 Relativity Innovation Awards, Kroll Ontrack and Reilly Pozner walked away winners for Best Service Provider Solution and Best Law Firm Solution, respectively, for taking the Relativity platform to the next level and building smart applications that solve big challenges.

We recently caught up with Scott Shadler—IT director at Reilly Pozner and the man behind Damages Calculator, the winning law firm solution—to learn more about the application and how it came to fruition.

Liz: Why did you build Damages Calculator?

Scott: Our firm’s mass tort practice area needed a better way to perform quantitative analysis of mass tort data. To perform calculations, we would export the data out of Relativity. But, because the calculated data was kept outside Relativity—and often in spreadsheets that could be modified without tracking or control security—we would often run into fragmented analyses and differences between versions. This, coupled with the added work and security risk of exporting data into Microsoft Excel, was the driving force behind building the application. Now our team can perform data calculations, store the results of the calculations, and display the calculated data in a usable way with Relativity so multiple users can access the information at once.

Do you think the challenges you faced are common pain points for e-discovery teams?

Yes. Data is an ongoing obstacle for any e-discovery team and legal organization. Keeping data available, confidential, and with integrity is a constant struggle. Mass torts are particularly complicated, as each case differs per litigation effort and can range widely between drug or device injuries for example. Additionally, as a mass tort case progresses through negotiation and the lifecycle of the litigation, the potential award money for individual clients based on injury type and adjustments can affect the value of a given portfolio.


How did you approach building Damages Calculator? How does it work?

I built a calculator engine that I modeled after the open source project of NCalc to develop the workflow, interfaces, and processes to wrap and hook the engine to Relativity. The solution uses dynamic objects to create award scenarios, then converts Relativity data into numerical values to determine awards based on the chosen scenario.

How has this solution impacted your workflows and your clients?

The solution has allowed us to manage all case-related data for our mass torts practice area in Relativity from intake to resolution payment, and we can also perform analysis and project forecasts within Relativity so data never leaves our secure system. Not only has this greatly improved our team’s efficiency around these types of issues, but it has transformed the operational and administrative processes of mass tort resolution at our firm. We’ve streamlined the procedure of responsibly managing data for thousands of personal injury clients, which has resulted in clients receiving better real-time information, and quicker closure and compensation.

What tips do you have for other teams looking to build their own solutions?

Start off small with narrow goals that are targeted to the immediate need—but keep awareness and forethought to expand beyond.  Also, look to the open source community for ideas on how to tackle the challenge.

What lessons have you learned from building this solution? Any “Aha!” moments?

The range of flexibility of the Relativity platform is astounding. Coupled with open source projects, the need to solve a problem, and the spark of innovation, you can do anything with it. Just remember to start small.

Interested in learning more? Check out Scott’s live on-stage interview from the Innovation Awards.

Scott Shadler is the IT director at Reilly Pozner, focused on design, development, administration, and system implementation. He manages the firm’s technology infrastructure while constantly developing strategic technology initiatives that will better serve clients.