Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Keeping it all (your data, that is) together

Posted by rjbiii on September 17, 2007

DM Review has posted an article discussing the challenges of navigating the rules of compliance on one side, and discovery rules on the other.:

Corporations were thus presented with a dubious choice, one that really wasn’t a choice at all: attempt to get the unstructured data genie back in the bottle in favor of the old paper-based world or lean heavily on technological tools to implement an infrastructure better equipped to handle both structured and unstructured data.

The author discusses the familiar issues with trying to find structure and patterns within unstructured data. Then, voila, something big happens:

the search and categorization industry grew up. After a few false starts and some premature hype, search and categorization tools became easier to use and, more importantly, started delivering better results. Search and categorization tools eventually became the unifying force of information management within many enterprises and professional service firms as they could make sense of huge volumes of data in a relatively effective fashion. Furthermore, search and categorization technology began solving particularly thorny issues such as records management, compliance and e-discovery, which went a long way toward cementing the critical role that search is playing in today’s enterprises. The following three brief case studies highlight the increasingly effective roles being played by search and categorization to resolve specific business issues.

In focusing on litigation, the article waxes a bit optimistic on the technology used for document review:

For the legal industry, time is money – literally. With associates’ billing rates exceeding $250/hour and partners’ upward of $500/hour, efficiency is critical. The challenge for law firms is that their incredibly valuable intellectual property (their work product and expertise) resides in multiple, separate repositories and applications, making information accessibility extremely difficult and time-consuming. Worse, particularly for large diversified firms bidding on new business, lawyers don’t know the full breadth of expertise living within the firm and will either spend a significant amount of time figuring this out or will simply avoid bringing in new clients for fear that the firm won’t be able to meet their extensive needs.

The solution: a search application that unifies access to all data within the firm in a single, easy-to-use interface, thereby giving access to all of the work product and expertise within that firm. This solution not only pulls information from the usual sources (file servers, databases and intranets) but incorporates highly sensitive sources (e.g., from time/billing systems and personnel records) and even external information feeds. And in order to meet the firm’s stringent ethical and conflict of interest-avoidance requirements, the system applies multiple levels of security to both the users of the system and the content residing in it. Thus, the legal industry has increasingly turned to this “Google for law firms” solution to make its practice far more efficient, thereby allowing them to raise their rates while actually improving their cost-effectiveness for clients.

Google for law firms, eh? I haven’t seen the killer app in lit support yet. In fact, many of the leading lights of law are just now beginning to acknowledge that “eyes only” review is not the most effective and accurate means of processing information out there. The Sedona Conference has released a new paper on using seach technology in the e-discovery process (download the report in pdf format by clicking here). An excellent view of the recommendations contained in the white paper may be found at e-Discovery Team.
What is certain is that technology associated with e-discovery still has a ways to come (although it has certainly progressed in the last few years). What is perhaps even more important, is that learned counsel become, well, learned. Greater knowledge of the technological capabilities and techniques, as well as familiarity with the laws of discovery procedure with regards to e-discovery, will result in much greater efficiencies and less nasty surprises for clients.

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