The History and Future of Summation Software – “old Summation” vs. “new Summation”

There is still a LOT of confusion in the marketplace about the Summation namesake software. I continue to encounter many law firms using “old Summation” and I’m sure they’ve all been contacted by AccessData to upgrade … except that there’s no upgrade. The “new Summation” is different software, different licenses, and a different company.

Last month AccessData tweeted a link to Terry Mazura’s review of Summation 6.0 and they graciously let you download it from their website.

LJN Summation 6.0 review


I was happy to read Terry’s well-written review and I got the impression that Summation is addressing some of the issues that mid-size and smaller firms are facing in e-discovery challenges:

I have found that Summation gives me the ability and confidence to stand my ground against opposing counsel demands because I know that my processing engine (FTK, under Summation’s hood) is world-class, my database is sound, and Summation generates detailed audit logs I can use to demonstrate exactly how data was handled by users…This is crucial because it allows smaller law firms such as mine to compete vigorously with government and larger law firms that have deeper e-discovery support and resources.

My only disagreement is that today’s Summation (aka “new Summation”) is NOT always the best choice for mid-size and smaller law firms handling “routine cases with modest document volume” as Mr. Mazura suggests.

The “new Summation” requires much more of a financial stretch than what firms were used to with “old Summation.” Larger firms can justify the cost because they routinely handle LARGE document volumes, and once the platform is in place, certainly it can be used for smaller volume matters.

The History of Summation

The original Summation was developed in 1988 and became the standard for document review for many years.

Who remembers the file drawers?

Who remembers the file drawers?

Summation Legal Technologies was acquired by Wolters Kluwer in 2004 and folded into the CT Corporation, so the product was branded “CT Summation.”

I reviewed Summation iBlaze 3.0 in January 2010 (see “iBlaze 3.0 Goes Native”). Turns out this was the last version of the “old Summation.

Review-iBlaze 3.0 Goes Native

In June 2010, AccessData acquired Summation and plunged the software into its “dark years” as the company struggled to find how “document review” complimented their highly-esteemed FTK forensic tools and utilities.

In my 2010 review, I explained how Summation had evolved from managing lists of scanned paper documents into a platform coming to terms with electronic data:

CT Summation was born out of the idea that lawyers needed an electronic solution to manage, organize, and review the boxes of paper documents they collected in a litigation matter. There was no need in 1988 to process and host massive PST files. CT Summation was designed to be a simple database to hold scanned images of paper documents, providing litigation teams with a spreadsheet-like list where they could ‘code’ relevant objective and subjective information about the documents.

I also discussed some improvements that iBlaze 3.0 made to the transcript tools, which was one of the best features of the Summation platform.

iBlaze 3.0-screenshot-redaction

Some of you will remember that there was a specialized product called “Summation Enterprise” for larger, high-end matters that was the first Summation product to utilize a SQL database backend rather than the proprietary “Saturn” database utilized by Summation iBlaze.

Fast forward to February 2014 when I was fortunate to review Summation 5 Pro, one of the first major releases of the Summation platform since the AccessData acquisition.

Only this was NOT an upgrade to Summation … this was a COMPLETELY NEW PRODUCT.

Summation 5.0 Review

Here’s how I described it in my review:

Summation 5 is not a simple, long-awaited upgrade to a legacy Summation installation. The new Summation Pro and Express versions bear no resemblance to anything from the days of iBlaze. AccessData has kept some transcript management tools and the side panel is still called “Case Explorer,” but beyond that it’s Summation in name only.

Summation 5.0-review layout

I didn’t have room to editorialize in that review, but I understand and acknowledge what AccessData did by keeping the name of the product. It was a brilliant marketing move, but at the same time completely misleading and a bit disingenuous.

There are many mid-size and smaller law firms that don’t have a full-time litigation support crew, nor do they have IT consultants that are familiar with legal-specific software. This brilliant marketing move took advantage of the prior name-recognition, but the product was COMPLETELY different. AccessData should have christened the product with a new name and announced that Summation as we all knew it was dead.

The “old Summation” continues to limp along in many, many, many law firms today. Most of those firms are keeping it on life support for a handful of legacy matters that have a miniscule chance of being accessed again, but they’re not important enough to migrate to another system.

One excellent strategic move by AccessData with the “new Summation” was to use their FTK forensic technology as the data processing front-end before documents were loaded for document review. Prior to this, firms mostly used third-party tools such as LAW PreDiscovery (Lexis) or eScan-IT (Ipro).

The Future of Summation

Chris Dale at the eDisclosure Information Project recently hosted a great interview with AccessData CEO Keith James (fellow UD Law School grad!) who discusses “a number of changes and strategic decisions that [AccessData] made earlier on in 2015 to focus more on [customers].”

James had specific comments on Summation:

For standalone document review, we have Summation. People are very familiar with the brand name but some people may not realize that we have in the last several years completely retooled that product.

There are many things which are unique about Summation: we have made a lot of advances in the stability and speed of it, and we have advanced features such as visual analytics, technology-assisted review, and fact management, as well as transcript management.

These things are all part of the standard Summation, so from a value standpoint we’ve got a scalable, fast, reliable product that has all of the advanced features built in. It is something we are particularly proud of and have made a lot of progress with.

I was glad to read Mr. James’ comments and happy to hear that AccessData has re-focused their resources on customers and their needs. Summation 6.0 sounds like a great step forward in that direction.

(Ed. Unfortunately, ALM decided to utilize a paywall for any articles over 6 months old so my old reviews are not accessible unless you have a LexisNexis subscription. If you are interested in reading the old reviews, e-mail me at and I can send you a PDF of the reviews. Thank you!)

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