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Case Study: Benefits of eTrials over Hardcopy 

Electronic document management platforms have become increasingly prevalent for discovery and review purposes. However, the same cannot be said for hearing preparation, where there is still a strong preference for hardcopy bundles. Setting aside environmental considerations, do the economics of working with hardcopy documents add up, and what is the alternative?

Consider the following example: In a small two-party matter, a court book consisting of 1,250 documents (5,000 black and white pages), already available in electronic format and which consumes less than one gigabyte of computer storage, is printed and organised into numbered tabbed, lever arch folders.

The cost to produce a single set is in the order of $1,500 to $1,750. At first glance, this may seem reasonable and insignificant in the context of the litigation. However, when you factor in the need for multiple copies, let's say 8, the print cost grows to $12,000 - $14,000.  Moreover, ongoing costs are often overlooked, such as maintenance, which can include court book additions, corrections, and reprints. These generally require an individual to spend the time to physically update the court book wherever copies may exist.  When such costs are considered, the true cost associated with a hardcopy court book becomes substantial.

Furthermore, during the hearing, these bundles also need to be transported to and from the court each day in addition to ongoing maintenance. This scenario worsens as the size of the matter or the number of parties involved increases. The combined print and maintenance costs grow significantly.


When objectively examining this scenario, it becomes apparent that the often-cited benefits of paper court books fall somewhat short. While it is true that paper offers tangibility: it can be flagged, written on, folded, and laid side-by-side, most of these stated advantages have been addressed by today's electronic platforms. Additionally, the cost of creating and maintaining electronic platforms is insignificant compared to their paper counterparts, especially if discovery is performed electronically.  Therefore, when one considers the value-adds that only electronic platforms can offer, the argument for transitioning to an electronic workflow becomes highly compelling.

Benefits of working electronically:

  • Economics: it is easier and more cost-effective to create and maintain than a paper equivalent
  • Utility: Offers greater utility than a paper equivalent
  • Accessibility: there is zero risk of leaving parts of the court book behind
  • Convenience: Is always up to date, as any changes made are instantly visible to all users
  • Analysis: Can be analysed in a variety of ways within seconds
  • Navigability: Hyperlinking and cross-referencing, enhancing the understanding of relationships between documents
  • Team-work: Encourages better collaboration
  • Portability: Is infinitely more portable
  • Productivity: Provides a wide range of markup and annotation tools that are editable
  • Security: data is secured by username and password combination as well as multi-factor authentication


In an ideal world, the exclusive adoption of electronic platforms would be optimal. By embracing modern electronic data management processes and systems, legal professionals can easily leverage the benefits outlined above, while reducing cost to their client, and simplifying all aspects of the hearing preparation process.  This applies to all matters, irrespective of size or complexity.

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