ILTA11 The Final Day

posted in: LawFirms, LitigationSupport | 0

Thursdays notes. Note that the late night on Weds led to me missing a good chunk of the keynote on Thursday, but I will say that the idea of using humor in your business communication is an excellent on. It fits right in with what I’ve been saying about effective communication and building relationships as a way to increase the effectiveness of communication. Human beings have a sense of humor, sharing that is part of being human, and that only helps communication, when we can be human towards each other.

That being said, let’s move on to the sessions I did manage to see all of!

Emerging Ediscovery Technologies: Predictive Coding and Remote Collection

  • The biggest benefit of remote collection, can also be the biggest challenge. Obviously, not having to travel to where the PC is located is a huge time-saver. However, when something goes wrong, you’re not there to troubleshoot. Be prepared for this.
  • Legal Departments and firms should not punt decisions about collection to IT. They may understand the technology better, but they aren’t going to be able to make legal decisions that could help limit the scope of what you’re collecting. Lawyers have to start out involved, and stay that way through the process. (Lawyer as Project Manager? Get used to it!)
  • Dominic Jaar predicts that we will see a predictive coding technology placed in front of collection soon. Use of it here would eliminate over-collection at the very beginning of a project. (Do the two go hand-in-hand? Clearly limiting what you collect is the best way to reduce costs, so I expect any and all technology being used currently during the review process to show up in the collection phase soon, why not?)
  • Howard Sklar compared linear reviews to wooden tennis rackets. Once upon a time, if you went to Wimbledon, you would see everyone using a wooden racket, because that was the only kind available. As technology improved, and replaced wooden rackets, no one used them any longer. It put you at a competitive disadvantage to continue doing what you’d always done.
  • Human review should not be considered the gold standard. Study after study shows the error rate in human review is much higher than we seem to think it is. Predictive coding doesn’t completely replace it, but it does improve on it.

I think both of these technologies are here to stay. Remote collection seems to me to be a no-brainer to use when needed. Predictive coding has been a bit more controversial (Recommind’s patent discussion notwithstanding), but firms are going to have to get used to the idea. We simply can’t continue to think that a linear review is going to be possible with the amounts of data we’re seeing, nor that clients will pay for the cost of it. The days of making bank on large document review projects are coming very quickly to an end, as we saw from Wednesday’s Law Department session. Clients will be expecting their outside counsel to use these sorts of technologies, whether it’s in their own environment or a third party’s.

Legal vs. IT: Aligning Litigation and Practice Support

In all honesty, after already hitting the how to talk tech to lawyers session earlier in the week, and having heard about the difficulties aligning Litigation Support with IT, I wasn’t really surprised by anything in this session. That being said, here are a few key points:

  • Law firms need to remember that corporate systems are not built for ediscovery, they are built to support the business. Ediscovery is a business interruption, one that lawyers need to plan much, much better for. This reminded me of the lawyer who wanted me to “just run over” to a client’s office midday, and grab all the email from their server, like it was no big deal and they could continue to operate their business while I did this. Seriously, outside counsel does a poor job of accounting for the time it will take for ediscovery processes to get done in a corporate environment, which didn’t surprise me, typically lawyers don’t plan for the time it takes to copy, process and load data for review either. The lack of planning for this actually stresses the timeline on both ends.
  • Our job is to give lawyers what they want, when they don’t understand what they want, we have a problem. One that can only be corrected with better communication, going both ways, between technical folks, and legal folks.
  • The best way to bridge that gap is for the legal side of the firm/corporation, and the technical side are seen as equals. I think this is easier to do in a law department than a law firm. Audience member’s claims to the contrary, I don’t personally know of any firm where the attorneys and IT/Lit Support staff are considered equal, and go out for drinks together. It would absolutely improve the workflow if it happened though, as humans we communicate better with people we consider friendly than those we do not. Lawyers who are not friendly towards IT staff, tend not to get great service from them. Julie Brown, from Vorys shared a story of one particular IT person, who was very quiet, and introverted, and was hard to get to know, but who their Litigation Support folks needed assistance from. Eventually, they found out he liked chocolate cake, so they started baking cakes and bringing him some, and now they have a great relationship. Yes, it’s true, us geeky guys like sweets, and alcohol. It works 99% of the time. 😉

Clearly, the theme for this session, once again, was on building relationships, both ways, with the people you work with. Ediscovery is a complex process, but it’s not rocket science either. Doing simple things like getting everyone on the same page, getting them communicating, and getting them to trust one another, goes a long way toward simplifying the process. It’s much easier to adjust to a problem when you’re working with people you know and trust, than it is when a problem goes without being communicated, and work continues down the wrong path and has to be redone later. Again, as humans, we are more likely to flag a problem to people we know and trust to have the expertise and professionalism to deal with it properly, than we are to people we are uncomfortable with, and nothing will discourage that sort of communication more than blaming the messenger.

In fact, in the afternoon sessions, I want to continue this theme. I attended the Information Management BarCamp sessions, where we broke into groups and discussed different topics around this main subject. Since I was, literally asked to take notes for the official Barcamp Wiki as the first discussion was taking place, I don’t really have well-kept notes of my own, however you can see the since cleaned up notes for all the session, as well as the Law2020 bar camp sessions from earlier in the day over there.

First off, this was new, experimental, format for ILTA and one I have really enjoyed in other arenas. I think it’s a great idea for getting good ideas out of the entire crowd as opposed to just the speakers, however next year, they might consider not having one Thursday afternoon. Many people have either left town, or are simple too worn out from the week, and I would guess, Thursday afternoon sessions are among the lightest attended of the entire week. Given that this format thrives on crowdsourcing, you might do well to try and attract a crowd. As it was, we had a small crowd, but the discussions were lively, and interesting.

In my first break out group, we discussed Finding the Needle in the Infinite Haystack. We came to two conclusions, one of which was to further discuss the idea of what motivates users to create, and share content? A great analogy was updating your resume. The vast majority of us don’t do it until we need to. We’d be better off if we did, but there’s no pressing need when you aren’t looking for a job. (Full confession, I have not updated mine since starting at Ogletree, despite endless reminders and suggestions about how you should always have an updated resume, even if not for job searching, you just never know when you’ll need to give it to someone looking for a speaker, or when things might just change for you.)

But, back to the point, how do we create an immediate incentive for better documentation? When knowledge management truly matters to our day-to-day work, it will get done, but how can we prove it matters?

The second conclusion we came to was, that the best way to find a needle in a haystack, within the limits of what we have available to us now, is to eliminate as much hay as possible. Narrow down the area of hay in which you need to search. Obviously, this conclusion is applicable to the ediscovery realm, no? If you are focused on finding the documents that will win your case, do everything you can to eliminate searching in the places they are less likely to be found.

The second discussion I sat in on was Lack of Information Transparency is Crippling your Firm, What can you do about it? If you’ve been reading a long all week, you know that I’ve become a bit jaded about law firms, so this seemed an appropriately jaded subject. We discussed various methods for unearthing expertise and information from within. Simple things like listing years of service on the employee directory, which would tell you who’s been around long enough to know where the bodies are buried, so to speak, to creating internal social network platforms, where employees and attorneys could share their interests, their knowledge of different areas, and build relationships across departmental silos. It could also be used to find out who knows who, so when you needed assistance with a specific area, you could see who of your friends has friends in Accounting, for instance. We also talked about some of the reasons why people might not share their information and this is where that lack of relationships really stuck out to me. Bottom line, people don’t share information with people they don’t trust, (To either not usurp their expertise, or be overly critical of their work) and they don’t trust people they don’t know. If you have a firm full of gypsys, people who are constantly moving from firm to firm, you cannot successfully create a transparent culture.  I wonder if the same holds true for a firm that is spread out across a number of offices? Are these the sorts of things where small firms are going to be more effective, and kick our asses when it comes to getting good information, quickly, to their clients?

Anyway, it was a good discussion, and a great way to end 4 full days of sessions that left me with lots to think about, obviously! I’ve got a couple of more posts to get to this weekend before I wrap up my coverage of ILTA, but I’m glad I went. It has given me the nudge I’ve been needing to get back to blogging and tweeting regularly, and I’m enjoying the lively discussions on social media again. Hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate that into my new life and work habits better than I have been.

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