Thoughts From ILTACON – The Future of eDiscovery

 Though I was in Vegas for ILTACON mostly to man our booth and interact with the attendees, I did also manage to attend a couple of sessions as well. (And obviously even left the hotel for a short time!)

One of the sessions I managed to sit in on was a panel discussion about where we are headed in eDiscovery. I found this panel to be quite interesting because not only did they talk about careers in eDiscovery and the technology in place, but what technology law firm clients are putting into place and how that might wind up having a significant impact on where we go from here.

Let me give you an example. During the presentation Eric Lieber, from Toyota, talked a bit about big data, and how tools being developed now might help him find the “couple of hundred” relevant documents immediately, without the need for anything else. After all, again quoting Eric “the goal is not to review a million documents, the goal is to find the relevant ones.”

So, if we can develop tools to handle big data, and do all the analysis to locate things very specifically like that, doesn’t that really change the way we think of eDiscovery? Right now, the review of a million documents seems to be a side product of trying to locate the few hundred that are actually relevant, but once data analytic tools can do that for us, why continue to act as though that is the norm?

Add in the fact that the new Federal Rules that go into effect on Dec. 1, specifically change the language from producing data that is likely to lead to the discovery of relevant documents to just the relevant documents, and there is a potential sea change coming in a few years. This was another topic mentioned by moderator Mary Pat Poteet, that the new rules are seemingly going into effect very quietly, but maybe we should really be paying attention.

Later in the session another question came up, about the dominance in the document review marketplace by Relativity, and whether anyone could challenge that.

Here’s a thought I had during the session:

The market challenges to kCura’s Relativity platform will come from other software companies, but the real challenge may come from big data scientists. After all, if we can find investigative tools to get us down to just the relevant documents that need to be reviewed for privilege, then the need for large document review projects, the kind where a tool like Relativity comes in handy, might not exist, or might become fewer and far between. The challenge will come not just from review platforms, but from indexing and other analytic tools that eliminate the need for much of the document review as well.

And yes, I also realize that this includes the company I work for, but I wasn’t particularly thinking of that when I was tweeting from the session. I was looking at it much more from a view of eDiscovery as a career. If big data tools can effectively eliminate much of the need for review projects, how does that impact the current batch of people working in eDiscovery? Should we be looking to become data scientists? Or will the legal industry adopt it’s usual snails pace and we can safely assume we’ll all be retired by the time this type of change takes place? Given what I’ve been hearing from clients, I’m not so sure about that.

What do you think? Do you think we’ll be replaced by machine analysis in the future?

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