What is the future of electronic discovery technology?
The recession/credit crunch/depression is apparently easing, with much of Europe reporting growth. But the e-discovery market is not likely to pick up suddenly. There are also predictions, in a recent ABA report, of mergers and retreats.
If this is right existing companies are going to be under pressure to keep costs down and new companies are going to have to take a very careful look at entering the market. Salaries could also take hit, as companies are forced to keep prices low. Overall the market is probably to have to be more effective, leaner, and more efficient overall.
Companies like i-Lit and AllVision which don’t conduct electronic discovery processing and are independent of vendors may be ideally placed in the market if it changes as some suggest. Their business model is to advise on the best method to approach ED projects and can assist in the management of e-discovery and help keep control of costs.
But what about the technology? Is the ED technology going to change? It’s impossible to tell what will happen, but we can make guesses about technology based on market forces and current trends.
Effective culling strategies (for effective read cheap) will probably be a big thing. They will have to be deployed earlier on and more consistently. This has started already and will continue to do so. Concept Searching and near de-duping are increasingly common, with most major vendors now offering concept searching, and there are numerous concept searching tools on the market.
Early Case Assessment and More Culling
The idea of just ploughing through 100,000s of junk data is already long outdated; hence keyword searching and non-linear review tools are so popular. But more culling can, and will, be done to reduce the irrelevant data going into review: Concept searching tools are great but they are not free.
More effective selection of data sets, file types, and custodians will have to be considered. Is there any point in loading large numbers of large power point files into a review if there is no evidence that they are relevant, following a sampled review? Early Case Assessment tools and technologies will allow for more effective and better planned culling strategies.
Backup tapes are not going to go away, case law in the UK has seen to this, but the costs will have to come down; even though they are already lower than many people think. Tools like IndexEngines , which have not made any great impact in the UK yet, can offer a great way to cull huge numbers of tapes at relatively low cost.
Processing data is, in short, a bitch. There is no nice way to say. Most tools are buggy, have flaws, and huge error logs, or no error logs at all (the latter is more worrying). Then there is the compatibility issue.
You don’t need to be involved in the e-discovery industry to see that there is a lot of moving parts involved in collecting and processing data. In the example given 6 different tools are being used, which means staff need to be trained on six different platforms, and the skills are not all overlapping. E.g. the skills needed for EnCase are entirely different to those for managing a review platform.
Keeping people trained on so much technology is difficult, expensive and time consuming. Its time consuming for the employees and their employers. Some firms choose to separate the skill sets amongst their staff; with separate collection, processing and review management teams. This is no cheaper, in fact it’s more expensive for a smaller company, but it’s very scalable and allows the teams to focus on their different areas.
But with separate tools and separate teams there are going to be problems. Getting data from an ED processing tool into a review platform is fraught with problems. Just moving data between tools can have issues.
The report in the ABA Journal, which started this article, talked about merging and consolidation of companies, for economic reasons. It also makes sense, both in terms of economics and day to day e-discovery work, for technology to be merged. Why have 6 tools when 4 or 3 can do it?
Relativity a popular and effective review platform has already taken this approach. It allows for plugins to be created for its technology. There are already plugins for ContentAnalyst and Equivio, which allow them to work seamlessly with the review platform. This radically reduces the work load for those in the ediscovery companies, and increases the functionality of Relativity. No doubt there will be more plugins in the future, adding more capability and reducing the work load for e-discovery teams further.
Orange Legal Technologies – is another company which has consolidated several tools, but they have taken it a step further. It has combined processing, concept searching, and review platform technology into one product.
This means, as it’s been built from the ground up, it should be able to move data from processing to review with few problems of the problems that those with separate systems have. If Orange Legal Tech works as well as it should do (the author has not used the tool), this will remove many of the pains that those at the sharp end of electronic discovery feel: Keeping track of files, dealing with compound file issues, having a centralized interface, centralized logging of actions and errors.
Resolving these problems is a huge time and cost saver.
Technically Attenex took this approach several years ago, and it was a success. They combined WorkBench (processing), DocMapper (review) and MatterManager (reporting) into one tool. The problem? Attenex is staggeringly expensive.
If Orange Legal Technologies get their pricing model right, and the tool deliver what they say it does, then this could well be a new market leader.
 Both are UK based,