23 e-Discovery

E-discovery gets a significant amount of press and attention. This may be because it is useful in large document volume, large dollar cases. It may be because many vendors who worked with documents and search have seen it as a path forward from their non-digital, or non-legal, market.

Whatever the case, it remains a highly discussed area. But a significant number of lawyers will never have used e-discovery in a case – about 40% of respondents to the 2013 ABA survey had never received an e-discovery request and 43% had never made one – and so its place in the legal technology world is overstated. It is key for those litigators in those cases who need it. You should determine whether you need it or not based on the size, complexity, and value of the case you are handling.

If there is anywhere other than the cloud that involves a loose definition of its scope, it is e-discovery. Many of the things you might do with e-discovery will be mediated by the provider. Other than sending them the documents or other electronically stored information, your role may just be to license their product and have them do the work for you.

There are some interesting developments, though, in e-discovery. The first is the way cloud enables solos and smaller law firms to leverage the types of computing power needed to do large scale document reviews. In the same way that cloud computing has enabled scalable, as you need it computing in other areas, you can often find e-discovery providers with a cloud option.

The other side is that use of alternatives to typical keyword searching to determine which documents are relevant. If keyword search is all that’s needed, there are generic search tools that can handle that need. In fact, some desktop search products like X1 have morphed over time into e-discovery products to handle this more focused area.

While most lawyers in the ABA survey indicated that, when it came to e-discovery, their primary search method was by keyword, the use of predictive coding and other machine learning may also make more e-discovery tools amenable to casual lawyer use. It will be interesting to see if the consumerization so common in other areas of cloud-based technology reaches into the e-discovery world.

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