When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Arguably, litigation support has been a one-tool affair to date. What I saw at Legal Tech this past week suggests the possibility – if not necessity – of expanding the toolkit. 

To be sure, litigators have long been able to choose from multiple tools. But the differences among them have not been that great. More importantly, both law firms and litigation support processing vendors typically use a single tool to do their work.

At Legal Tech this past week in NYC, I saw several interesting and potentially very useful new ways of processing or analyzing the now ubiquitous vast volumes of digital data. Various full-text and semantic engines work in different ways and may produce different results. My guess is that there will be a market shake-out, but that several software developers and consultants that offer distinct approaches will prosper.

Consequently, litigation support professionals may need to change their mindset about how they process and analyze documents. The single tool approach may not longer suffice. The nature of a matter, the types of data and documents, and the goals of the analysis may all require a case-by-case determination of which tool is best for the circumstances. The hammer may be supplemented with screw drivers, wrenches, awls, etc.

Of course, firms should not lightly buy (or even rent) one of everything. But the differences in technologies and processes warrant staying aware of the options and preparing for the possibility that a single solution may not suffice in the not-too-distant future.