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A database is a collection of data, organized in a computer file in such a way that it can be easily searched and sorted. Litigation is the involvement in legal proceedings. Thus, a litigation database is any database that contains a collection of data related to legal proceedings. This could range from a personal collection of data on a lawyer’s cases to all or a portion of a practice’s records to a national or international collection of data on litigation in general or a particular topic of litigation in particular. The purpose of the database could be for record keeping or research, for example.
Software is available to assist lawyers and law firms in creating litigation databases. This is generally known as litigation support software. Documents are entered into a database that the user is able to search and sort, but also tag and filter. Newer to the market are SaaS (Software as a Service) litigation review tools which involve a litigation database that is hosted by a vendor on the Internet along with other services, rather than being maintained by an in-house IT team with a software installation and in-house server space. Examples of companies offering this service are ImageDepot® and Lexbe®.
Watchdogs sometimes post company-focused litigation databases. An example of a litigation database that holds a portion of the records of a practice is the Lloyd’s of London Litigation Database, which aims to contain all known litigation connected with the Society of Lloyd’s and investors it had recruited. This is a self-limited database as the litigation that was being chronicled is over. Nevertheless, material missing from the database continues to be added. Another example is the General Crane USA Bankruptcy Litigation Database, which documents the court history of the General Crane USA® lawsuits.
More common are thematic litigation databases, such as those focusing on intellectual property, asbestos, or medical negligence. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) hosts the Antitrust Multistate Litigation Database. Thomson Derwent® maintains LitAlert®, a national database of patent and trademark infringement suits that have been filed in U.S. District Courts and reported to USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). The NHS (National Health Service) in the UK has a database of negligence claims, which a researcher in 2000 pointed out would be valuable to both researchers and to NHS organizations to be able to check litigation records pertaining to a particular clinician. The Stanford Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse, the running of which is now shared with Lex Machina Inc., aims to be a comprehensive source of US intellectual property cases.
@Markerrag -- I'm not aware of one, but do some research and you may be able to find something. Remember that litigation support software is highly specialized and, for that reason, an open source package may not have been developed.
Besides, everyone assumes lawyers are rolling in cash. For that reason, no one may be in a rush to put out a product serving just that market.
On the other hand, a litigation support database is just a database. Someone who knows their way around one of those should be able to develop one from scratch. And, yes, there are plenty of open source office suites out there that feature great database software.
This type of software use to be horrible, but there are some very good products out there. Isn't technology wonderful? The problem is trying to find the best and most convenient to use software out there (it is true -- attorneys generally hate to fight with technology and want something they can use to get the job done quickly).
Fortunately for attorneys, the American Bar Association maintains a handy overview of the more popular litigation support packages out there. A quick rid of that can narrow down your choices in a hurry.
Sadly, a lot of that software is quite expensive. There are great open source (i.e., free) packages out their for office suites, graphics suites and a lot of other things. Is there a good, open source package for litigation support out there?