Merlin Digital Magic
Secure cloud software for legal and regulatory compliance


A Sorcerers Start


Twenty Years in the Making

The Merlin team has been building digital workflow systems for more than twenty years. We got our start at a large national law firm in the mid-nineties. Our founder was a longtime trial lawyer and law partner there who in 1995 became the first CTO of a major law firm. One of his first steps was to hire a sophisticated team of Internet developers to build web-based workflow that connected the firm’s ten offices across the country.

Tredennick and his team next began building litigation workflow systems that allowed law firms across the country to collaborate in complex, multi-jurisdictional litigation. Their first engagement involved trillion-dollar qui tam claims against most of the oil and gas industry. By last count, there were about 350 clients and law firms coordinating on defense. The system allowed them to collaborate, strategize and share files across all of the defendants. The team also supported major retailers in the defense of a large wage/hour class action brought by Saipan and other Pacific island workers claiming overtime.

In 1998, Tredennick met with the legal department at Sears Roebuck. The company was a major advertiser back then and was struggling with legal review of their many ads. The process was largely manual with ad copy being sent around to various departments for review. Once that was done, materials were overnighted to outside counsel for their review and approval. Often, outside counsel requested changes, which meant the drawings were couriered or faxed back and forth until everything was ready to go. The whole process was slow, cumbersome, expensive and error prone.

Tredennick suggested building a digital workflow system for Sears legal, one that would speed up the process, cut costs and reduce mistakes. The system ran securely over the web, requiring only a browser to use it. It allowed creative departments to upload ad copy and route it through internal and outside counsel. At each stage, the reviewer received notice that review was required and was able to do their work from wherever they might be. Faxes, courier fees and phone calls were minimized or eliminated.

Sears used the system for many years with substantial savings in time and money, without one reported incident. Tredennick took note of the power behind digital workflow and decided to explore further. Shortly thereafter, he built a system to help Albertson’s, a national supermarket chain, manage labor claims across the organization.

These efforts led Microsoft and Adobe to film videos about Holland & Hart’s technology prowess, cementing the firm’s burgeoning reputation as a technology leader. After Holland & Hart won several technology awards that went beyond the legal realm, Adobe's CEO in 1999 nominated the firm to be enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute as part of the Computerworld-Smithsonian Innovation Archives. The firm joined such technology luminaries as Netscape, eBay and Fannie Mae (first Internet-originated mortgage).


By 2000, enough people were hiring the firm for legal technology services that Tredennick decided it was time to spin out the business. With support from his firm, which kept him on as a partner, Catalyst became one of the first law firm technology subsidiaries. Originally named CaseShare, the company grew over the next two decades to provide a home for over 180 employees and five data centers located across the United States, Japan and India. Clients included many of the largest companies and law firms in the world.

In 2005, the firm asked Tredennick to buy out the business, which he did with several investment partners. Over the following years, Catalyst continued to break new ground by offering:

  • The first N+1 cluster-based search engine for enhanced speed and scalability;

  • The first end-to-end multi-language discovery platform to support global litigation;

  • The first multi-matter scalable discovery platform for large companies and serial litigants;

  • The first full-EDRM discovery platform—from legal hold and collection through search, analytics, review, production, reporting and trial; and

  • The first TAR 2.0 system based on continuous active learning rather than one-time training.

Indeed, Catalyst’s ground-breaking TAR algorithms and CAL protocol, became the gold standard for the entire industry and remain so today.

In January 2019, Catalyst was purchased by OpenText, a multi-billion global technology company. Seeking to use his accumulated skills and experience to help others, Tredennick left Catalyst after the sale, creating Tredennick Law to provide strategy and guidance to legal and business organizations.

Writing and Awards

Over the past four decades, Merlin’s founder and CEO John Tredennick has written or edited eight books and hundreds of articles on legal technology topics. For starters, in the early nineties he edited and wrote two American Bar Association best sellers called “Winning with Computers: Trial Practice in the Twenty-First Century,” (ABA Press 1991, 1992) During that period, he and a partner also wrote a book for James Publishing on “How to Prepare For, Take, Use a Deposition at Trial,” which they supplemented annually for a number of years. In 2000, he wrote “The Lawyer’s Guide to Spreadsheets,” again for James Publishing. Several years later, he wrote “The Lawyers Guide to Microsoft Excel,” for the American Bar Association (covering updates through Excel 2007).

In 2015, Tredennick wrote the breakthrough book “TAR for Smart People.” It was the first to discuss a new and dramatically more effective protocol for Technology Assisted Review called Continuous Active Learning (CAL), It was a key component of what Tredennick called TAR 2.0 and quickly became the standard across the industry. The book has traveled widely and is used as a teaching tool by federal judges, the Justice Department and lawyers around the world. Owing to its success, TAR for Smart People has been updated through its Second and most recently the Third Edition.

Tredennick’s legal and technology acumen has earned him numerous awards including being named by the American Lawyer as one of the top six “E-Discovery Trailblazers,” named to the FastCase 50 as a legal visionary and named him one of the “Top 100 Global Technology Leaders” by London Citytech magazine. He has also been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology in the Rocky Mountain Region, and Top Technology Entrepreneur by the Colorado Software and Internet Association. Catalyst received several awards including FAST 50, FAST 500, INC 500 and Colorado Technology Company of the year.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistin-guishable from magic.
— Arthur C. Clarke
The Merlin team was inducted into the Computerworld Smithsonian Hall of Fame

The Merlin team was inducted into the Computerworld Smithsonian Hall of Fame

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Download copies of Tredennick’s recent books:

And don’t miss the next edition of TAR Talk with John Tredennick and Thomas Gricks.