The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

–Bill Gates

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.

–Steve Jobs

Bill Gates is a very rich man today… and do you want to know why? The answer is one word: versions.

–Dave Barry

The iPhone.  The iPhone 2. The iPhone 3. The iPhone 4. The iPhone 5.  Who can even imagine was is coming next?

–Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G

We strive to be effective and efficient, especially in the divorce and family law field.  We strive to empower our divorce and family law staff to do their jobs to the best of their ability.  And yet, when it comes to technology, our minds can spin, and we can freeze.  What is best? What is most user-friendly? What is the best bang for the buck?  What do we do?

Bruce Olson and Tom O’Connor present for your consideration their Electronic Discovery for Small Cases: Managing Digital Evidence and ESI.  This guide addresses the “small case dilemma,” which affects lawyers across all spectrums, including the divorce and family law field.  While many vendors developed software applications for large cases and at a significant cost, smaller cases were not well suited to these vendors. The pricing models used by the big case vendors impeded their use in small cases, which included divorce and family law cases. The vendors had big case products for datasets affordable only in cases with large discovery budgets.  The products were not easily scaled down to small data set cases, which can be problematic to the smaller divorce and child custody law firm.


Olson and O’Connor offer insights and solutions that balance the ever-increasing amounts of digital data with the limited technology budgets of many smaller cases, including divorce and child custody cases.  They span the entire process from collecting to viewing and analyzing to presenting. Their commentary covers when to hire a consultant, how to select an appropriate collection tool, how to search and analyze a mixed collection of database files, how to use cloud-based applications, and how to use electronic records at during the litigation events — all of which the divorce and family lawyer needs to know.

Electronic Discovery for Small Cases has two main parts, each focused on the context of smaller cases, which is the important part to read for divorce and family attorneys.  The first is an overview of electronic discovery, and the second is technology tools for small cases.  The overview discusses recent changes to the Rules of Civil Procedure regarding electronic discovery, the early years of e-discovery, the dilemma facing attorneys with small cases (cases with a budget of $1000 or less for electronic discovery), and a cooperative approach to managing discovery in such cases.  “[Thinking as a good lawyer] is probably the most important thing you can do to minimize costs for your divorce and family law firm.  Take the time to think through what you really want in terms of discovery of ESI.  Make your requests targeted and specific enough to elicit exactly what you need for your case.”

The section on technology tools presents eight chapters highlighting specific software programs that work well in small cases (including for your divorce and family law practice) for solving specific problems.  “Our goal is to introduce you to a variety of products at varying price points that are capable of accomplishing specific tasks to help you develop your own strategies for dealing with the discovery in smaller cases.”  These chapters include specific “small case” software programs to facilitate: collection concerns, quick viewing, searching, processing and production, managing email and attachments, cloud-based solutions, and document production. These tools can become a life saver for smaller divorce and family law practices.

This second part of Electronic Discovery for Small Cases also addresses how to use electronic records at mediations, arbitrations, and trials, and it looks into the future for what is next, which is exciting for your divorce and family law firm. The authors include a glossary of the many technology terms used in their commentary, as well as an index.

Olson and O’Connor use their 143-page guide to help you think through your technology problems and solutions:

Planning, a targeted approach to discovery, cooperation between counsel, and the use of the proper tools to meet your specific case needs can help you lessen the cost of the e-discovery in smaller cases. There are many practical technology options available short of a dedicated litigation support database solution to meet your needs in smaller cases. You must find what works best for you within the budget you have available and the particular ESI you must manage.

Olson and O’Connor combine their backgrounds to provide solid recommendations on e-discovery for small cases for use in your divorce and family law cases.  Olson is the president of a technology consulting firm, a Wisconsin lawyer, and a certified civil trial advocate.  He co-authored The Electronic Evidence and Discovery Handbook: Forms, Checklists and Guidelines. He received the TechnoLawyer of the Year 2002 award and has served as chair of the ABA TechShow.

O’Connor is a lawyer as well, though he completed his education after developing his expertise in computerized litigation support systems.  He was a paralegal and technology consultant for many years. He served on the advisory board of the ABA TechShow and has authored The Automated Law Firm: A Complete Guide to Software and Systems and the second edition of The Lawyers Guide to CT Summation iBlaze.

Electronic Discovery for Small Cases is a quick read (which is important in your divorce and child custody busy law firm), highlighting ways in which technology can make your discovery more effective and efficient.  The software tools empower users, such as the divorce and child custody attorney, to produce outgoing electronic documents, to analyze incoming electronic documents, and to access and use electronic documents when you need them most, like when you have a particularly tough divorce or family law case pending.  Olson and O’Connor suggest the solutions that fit your case, are user-friendly, and offer good bang for the buck.  With their advice, you can do wonderful things for your divorce and family law clients. 

Bruce Olson and Tom O’Connor, Electronic Discovery for Small Cases: Managing Digital Evidence and ESI (American Bar Association 2012).  $79.95.