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John Tredennick says his wife calls his company "Google for lawyers." It's a quick way to describe Catalyst Repository Systems but only hints at the complexity the legal database software company simplifies for its customers.
In a world where a civil suit could turn on a Facebook posting, electronic discovery has transformed the way attorneys practice law - and created a growing business for companies like Catalyst.
Spun off a decade ago from the law firm Holland & Hart, the Denver-based company has grown from six people to a staff of 110 spread out in several locales around the globe.
"What we do is help large corporations and their law firms manage electronic discovery," says Tredennick, who founded the company after a 20-year career as a trial lawyer. "Electronic discovery means discovery of electronic documents - e-mails, Word documents, PowerPoints, Excel files - you name it. They're at the heart of civil litigation these days."
Those documents have exploded in both size and number in the Internet age, Tredennick says, making it more difficult for attorneys to manage the flow of information.
"What used to be a big case involving 30,000 documents is now a case involving 3 million e-mails, PowerPoints, videos and the like," says Tredennick, who this fall is teaching a course on electronic discovery at the University of Virginia.
That rapid increase in volume has helped fuel the company's rapid growth over the past few years. A desktop computer is no longer enough for an attorney to manage civil litigation. Catalyst can help its clients manage an unlimited number of documents in multiple languages, including Russian, Arabic and Japanese.
"The companies we work with all have companies across the world, and they communicate in dozens of languages," Tredennick says. "We've hosted 3 million Chinese documents for a large software manufacturer. ...The combination of the growth of electronic communications with multiple languages has led people to companies like ours who are really set up to handle them."
Tredennick came from a law firm that has always made pro bono work part of its credo, and that community connection continues with Catalyst, he says. In addition to traditional charitable work, Catalyst provides its document management software to nonprofits like the Denver Dumb Friends League.
"They have a board that is spread out across the region and across the country, and it's very important the board be kept abreast of what the organization is doing," Tredennick says. "We donated a Catalyst system that they can use to manage and organize the board."