Law Office Computing
. . .Can’t Live if Living is Without You—Info Select and ISYS
(with apologies to Harry Nilsson)
As the amount of information we gather continues to explode, the need for simple information management tools becomes imperative. There are two pieces of software, other than my Outlook calendaring and email program, that are absolutely critical to my office information management system. They are both “database” tools but not of the ordinary variety. They are both incredibly easy to use, very powerful and fast information retention and sorting tools. Info Select is one of the oldest computer information management programs around. It started off many years ago as a DOS application known as Tornado, and it has gone through many iterations leading to the current version 6. It is a very simple program, easy to use and totally reliable. Info Select is a “random information manager”, which means that you open a window and put into that window any piece of information that you have in any form that you want. You might open a window and paste in a clip from a website. Or you might open a window to put in a name, address, and telephone number of someone that you want to keep tabs on. You might also open a window to keep notes about a brief or report that you have to write or to store a relevant set of cases and statutes. You can store account numbers, passwords and usernames in a special place. In other words, you can open a window to store any conceivable piece of information that you want to store. Once that information is in the computer, it is very easy to search for it using a simple word search mechanism that works very, very quickly and easily. I use Info Select as my primary way of maintaining information about people, places and random things. I put newspaper clips and photographs into Info Select along with other files and clips of endless variety. I can make notes and memory jogs without having to use somebody else’s idea of a form. There are preset forms in Info Select and you can create as many as you wish on your own. But I find that the totally random creation and access of information is the most efficient way for me to operate. If I have an idea in the middle of a project that relates to some other things that I am doing, I simply open a window in Info Select and save it. All of the information that you save in Info Select can be accessed in the way I have described above, but it can also be put into categories or books. Thus, if I click on a book that says Law School, all of the information that I have collected in the Law School book will appear on the screen. I can select from a list and find the information that I want. Go to http://www.miclog.com where you can read rave reviews and get more information and pricing. Recently, I have been converting a lot information into .pdf format and Info Select is the perfect place to store those file along with notes and websites that might be important. Info Select allows you to put all those different file types and urls into a single information box.
Info Select has a simple searching method and for limited amounts of information it is ideal. You may, however, have need for a more powerful searching tool called full text searching. Most of you are familiar with full text searching because you have used Westlaw or Lexis. The core of that search technique is the application of Boolean algebra to the process of analyzing a set of text documents. The Westlaw-Lexis pattern is to contain huge sets of documents in increasingly broad categories of content. Thus, for example, in Westlaw the database named “allcases” contained all of the cases decided by any American court whether it be state or federal. Any of those databases can be searched for specific terms or combinations of terms with lightning speed. Obviously if you search for the term “consideration” in the “allcases” database you will find a bazillion instances of cases where that word is used. Indeed, there will be so many that they will be virtually useless unless you are able to make a more precise search. That is where Boolean theory comes into play. The application of Boolean algebra to the text-searching engine allows you to refine your search by asking for all cases in which “consideration” can be found in the same sentence as the word “nominal” or some other descriptive word that serves to limit the number of instances or “hits” in the database. Obviously “nominal consideration” is a phrase that will appear fairly commonly in American cases. If you are interested in the concept of nominal consideration that has been developed in the Arizona cases, you may seek to restrict the number of instances by choosing only the “Ariz” database and if you are really concerned with the newest cases you may seek to further restrict your search to cases that have come about since 1990. All of those things are easy to do with full text searching engines. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to search all of the documents and email on your computer in the same way? One of the problems, however, is that construction of effective search terms is a bit of an arcane science. People undertaking the study of Westlaw and Lexis are often stunned by the complexity of the searches constructed by their trainers. My other favorite software has the answer to that problem.
That product is created and developed by Odyssey Development Corp. in Denver and is named ISYS. The people at Odyssey Development have taken into account the complexity of Westlaw and Lexis in the construction of ISYS. You can create unlimited collections or databases based on information that you choose. You may take all of the documents in a single case and put them into a database entitled Jones Litigation or you may take copies of every lease agreement your office has ever created and put them into a database called Leases. You might put all of your depositions in a single database entitled Depositions or you might put the depositions in the Jones Litigation in a database called Jones Litigation Depositions. In other words you may collect documents and store them in any category that you choose and once you have done that ISYS will allow you to create a database search engine for finding the places in those documents where information is contained. Let’s say for example that you have taken all of the depositions in the Jones Litigation and have put them into a single database. You are interested in finding every instance in which a witness spoke about your client George promising to do something in 1988. To find each of those instances all you need do, is to ask ISYS to generate a list of documents that contain the word “George” within ten words of the word “promise” that also contains the date “1988” and ISYS will generate a list of every document that meets that description. You can sort those documents in variety of ways, either by file name, or date, and then by a simple mouse click on an arrow go to the exact place in each document where those two words appear within ten words of each other. When you find what you are looking for another click will bring it up in your word processor or save it to a notebook. There are actually a number of programs that provide you with that kind of Boolean search capability. ISYS is different, however, because of the simplicity with which it constructs searches. ISYS has a “menu” based search construction device that makes it easy for anyone to quickly construct a search. ISYS is wildly powerful when you are reviewing deposition or trial transcripts. When you find something that you want, all you need do is to highlight it and click on “print” in order to get an immediate printout of the material you want. You can construct an examination of a witness in far less time than you have ever done before. You can prepare an argument based upon the transcribed record with ease. Finally, ISYS allows you put your email into a database and search it using the same refined searching capacity. I have about 20,000 email messages in my database and I never find myself at a loss for the information that Don sent me in 1997 about the train to Paris from Nice. The ability to search your entire electronic information store with a few clicks of the mouse is nothing short of amazing. I now keep all of my computer files in an ISYS database and whatever I want I can get in a second or two. All I have to do is remember a word or two in context and ISYS will take me there. You may not believe it, but I haven’t lost a file in years, except for a complete hard disk crash a few months ago! I will tell that sad story in a month or so. ISYS can be purchased direct from Odyssey at http://www.isysusa.com.
I use both of these databases every day and I could not function without them. I have too much email, too many documents and a host of numbers and names that I have to remember. You remember the song.