Planet Data Press Releases

E-discovery in the NYTimes

After reading the recent NY Times article “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software”, I was impressed that the term “e-discovery” is now being mentioned in the same paper as critical world news and the famous crossword puzzle.

On the other hand, I was mostly struck by what was not mentioned. The most important aspect to a successful review, whether manual or automated, is how the data was collected and processed. This distinction is frequently lost in articles such as this, since many still believe that ESI processing is a commodity service, not “exciting” or noteworthy to mention, and that everyone does it the same anyway. The assumption is that the electronic data is “magically” ready to review immediately without any type of intervention prior to being loaded into a review tool. Not true!

Automation and software have clearly made legal review much more efficient from the days of hardcopy review of boxes of paper. However, the technology that created successful tools such as Content Analyst, Relativity and Exego could not be so without the ability to process the data in an accurate and defensible manner so the legal teams could perform their review. Even in the days of “manual” document coding” (which was the precursor to ESI in a way) the accuracy of the review depended upon teams of coders indexing fields of data (metadata, basically today). If the coder had a bad day and their mistakes not caught, the review teams would miss important data and their review would be flawed. This was not the fault of the software, assuming that it was vetted, but because the data was not processed in a qualitative manner or more simply “garbage in, garbage out.”

With the advancement of search technology, especially in the areas of conceptual search, legal teams now have even more accurate tools to be able to review their collections in a comprehensive manner. Conceptual search provides more options for searching data than traditional keyword approaches. Combining conceptual and keyword search enhances the search results and provide the legal teams with a better view of their data and allows them to be more thoughtful in their search strategy. This approach, coupled with processing it accurately and completely, means that the legal team will have a more comprehensive search result, while saving their client money.

So, next time you read an article that discusses the ability of software to reduce the review time or save costs, ask yourself how the data was processed and then remember that some due diligence is necessary to make sure it was done correctly.