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Case Study - Jerry Parker, Lawyer

Jan 1, 2005


Jerry Parker is a partner in the law firm Parker & Waichman, LLP ( His firm handles personal injury and product liability cases, including cases involving defective pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices. Most recently, they are one of ten law firms appointed to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the Zyprexa Products Liability Litigation, MDL # 1596.

Jerry conducts extensive research for this litigation as well as many others. In the course of this research, he regularly uses the legal database service, Westlaw, business and news services, and of course the Web.
 The Problems:

1. Organizing disparate material
After a typical search, Jerry would find himself with a sea of documents in a dozen different formats -- HTML, Word files, PDFs, even plain text -- from scores of different sources. He wanted to file them all together, by subject. It took too much time and was very cumbersome to do this by linking them to the “favorites” of his browser, or to build the very deep hierarchies he needed, via Windows. He couldn’t just link to the material on the Web, because he could never be sure it would still be there when he needed it.

Jerry also subscribes to news services that send notices with hyperlinks in them directly to his desktop. He wanted to merge the articles sent by these services with the other types of information found on a given topic.

2. Saving the results of database searches
A great deal of legal research is performed via databases; and websites are increasingly based on databases or ASP servers that generate “dynamic” pages on the fly. Jerry found he couldn’t link to the results of such searches at all, nor always create and save a file of all the records he wanted; he was faced with the laborious task of cutting-and-pasting to a Word document.

3. Time wasted on technicalities
Some of the time Jerry didn’t really need the entire document, only a section (or a few non-contiguous sections) of it. He wanted a select, focused information resource, not a vast array of full-text documents. It was therefore important to be able to cut-and-paste quickly and efficiently.

But he also needed to record the source information in a recognized, readable format - not just a long, meaningless URL. He needed a tool that would convert the source information into a standard bibliographic citation. Creating such citations himself was a big waste of time, and there was always the risk that he’d forget to record the source information when saving the document.

4. Heavy post-processing requirements
To make the material really useful and to enable him to find it quickly and efficiently, Jerry needed to add keywords and other metadata to it. To help him speed-read it, he wanted to highlight the especially relevant sections and have them in a separate area in the database, attached to each document saved. Also, he needed to be able to annotate or add comments.

5. Collaboration
Jerry rarely needed to send material from this resource to clients, but he did need to send some of it to colleagues working on the same project. How could he send material organized in deep hierarchical folder systems, via e-mail?
The Solution: Net Snippets

Jerry researches his cases himself, and as mentioned, he very rarely needs to send out professional reports to clients. He was looking for a tool that would help him organize and manage a huge information resource that mainly stayed on his own computer. He chose the “Professional” edition.
The Results

1. Quick, efficient organization of research materials
”I no longer have problems with my deep hierarchical folder structure,” Jerry notes. “It’s much quicker to make and organize folders in Net Snippets than in tools that rely on Windows – including Internet Explorer Favorites. And I can file selections of any size, from files in any format, simply by dragging them to the appropriate folder (though I usually find myself using the Net Snippets toolbar). Whether it’s graphics, text, or tables: anything Windows can copy, Net Snippets can preserve.”

2. Ability to save dynamic documents
Jerry can now save anything that’s displayed on his screen, or any selection of it; and he can add selections to previously-saved snippets, enabling him to build a list of relevant results from a database search, even if the database itself didn’t allow him to do this.

3. Fast, easy addition of rich metadata
Apart from basic text editing (including highlighting), Jerry can add a wide variety of metadata, such as: name, comments, an unlimited number of keywords, level of importance and “custom” information (he especially appreciates the ability to add customized labels to fields). “I can ‘block and drag’ text from the snippet to fields in the Net Snippets database attached to the document,” he explains. “For instance, you can ‘block and drag’ the title of an article to the ‘name’ field, the entire abstract in the article to the ‘abstract’ field, the author’s name to the author’s name field, etc. without any re-typing! It all saves time and makes maintaining an accurate database concerning your documents easy.”

4. Automatic tracking of important data
Jerry finds it a great bonus that “Net Snippets automatically captures the title, URL and date you captured the document, and files that information in the database under the heading ‘source’, which you can view and change.”
Unforeseen bonuses:

1. The Net Snippets “drop spot”
Jerry discovered that he could now drag-and-drop anything selected from any Windows application (Office, e-mail, his news alerts) to the “Drop Spot,” and then add it as a snippet to the relevant subject folder. “Very Cool”.

2. Easy collaboration, even though he hadn’t asked for it
Jerry can email an entire folder hierarchy to a colleague, just by right-clicking on it. Net Snippets automatically packages the entire contents of the folder (all the documents along with the related database) into a single file for email delivery.

3. The compliance with open-source standards
”I had previously used a different program,” Jerry explained. “But it used a proprietary format, which is a big disincentive for any professional researcher -- you don’t have direct access to the data and you risk losing it all if the file gets corrupted. Let’s not even talk of what happens if the software company is no longer in existence. Net Snippets saves everything in its original format and the information is always accessible via Windows Explorer as standard files”.

4. Fast performance
Jerry summarizes the advantage: ”It’s much lighter and faster than my old program; it doesn’t slow my browser down. The folder system and interface are more professional and more user-friendly; and the editing features are a real time-saver."

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