Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up

Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up

It was announced yesterday (June 4, 2012) that Sanction Solutions had been acquired by LexisNexis, the rapidly-growing legal web and software giant. This adds to their current software collection of over 80 applications, including Concordance, CaseMap®, TextMap® and TimeMap®.

I have owned Sanction software for many years, although I’ve only used it when there was some special reason to do so. One such instance was a very large and notable trial which they (Sanction) referred to me, May-Carmen v. Walmart. It’s just good business to use their product at that point. I’m fine with that, and happy to do so. In the May-Carmen trial, Sanction worked well for me, and we won a very high-profile defense verdict.

So, if Sanction works well-enough to help bring a high-profile defense verdict, even under the added pressure of a very limited amount of trial prep time (started work the weekend prior to trial), why do I still prefer TrialDirector? As indicated by a recent trial presentation software poll taken on LinkedIn’s Trial Technology Group, I’m not alone in my opinion.

While the two programs are more similar now, earlier versions had some stark differences in how they were designed. TrialDirector was in more of a database programmer’s comfort zone, while Sanction appealed more to the “average” computer user, in that the user interface was simpler and easier to learn. Simple is fine within reason, but when it came to dealing with large complex data sets, TrialDirector’s power came through. With that, paralegals and other “occasional” users would often prefer Sanction, while full-time trial presentation folks and others who were comfortable with data management would turn to TrialDirector.

Now, both are relatively easy to learn at least the basics. What neither can do for you, however, is what is perhaps the most important step in the whole process – getting the data organized and into a manageable format, before importing anything to the software of choice. I have seen many a disaster, usually a result of sloppy and inadequate data management. While this article is not a “how-to” for the occasional user, I will just say that friendly and descriptive file names might be nice when you’re looking at a limited number of files and folders in Windows Explorer, but when you need to locate and present an exhibit to the jury in about 3 seconds, it won’t work. Any longer than that and everyone in Court will be looking at you, wondering what went wrong. That’s why they call it the “hot-seat.”

I reviewed TrialDirector 6 when it was first released in early 2010, and then offered my thoughts in a review of Sanction 3, which was scheduled for release in early 2011. By this time, TrialDirector was clearly pushing forward into the Windows 7 environment, while it appeared that Sanction had lost interest. While my first view of Sanction 3 looked promising, they had not had an update since Sanction 2.9, and missed their announced release date by several months. In the same period, TrialDirector had gone through 2 major releases and numerous minor updates. If you’re depending on your software to help make a living, the lack of regular updates is not a good sign.

Next, Sanction gets acquired by Gallo Holdings, who then goes bankrupt less than 3 years later. Again, if I’m depending on Sanction in a big way here, my confidence is rocked. While I don’t expect they have increased their market share, especially with newcomers such as ExhibitView and TrialPad now in the game, somehow they have survived the storm. Enter the LexisNexis rainbow.

So, if LexisNexis reads this article (and I’m sure they will), I would expect them to spend some time in the trenches with all of the user groups, be they trial presentation professionals, paralegals, attorneys, litigation support staff, or anyone else who may be a current, potential or former client. Rather than believing their own marketing or assuming they have the best software on the planet, they might want to find out more about their perceived strengths and weaknesses – from outside their own door.  In the past, I’ve witnessed an attitude, if not a degree of arrogance from the company (Sanction) via numerous postings on public forums. Get over it, get busy and prove it with actions, rather than words.

Competition drives us all toward perfection, so I welcome this new start for Sanction, and expect it to be a good thing. Time will tell, but with LexisNexis at the helm, we may be seeing more of Sanction.

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