When it comes to e-discovery, many firms have not integrated a fundamental analytics tool—predictive coding.
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Tania Mabrey and Monica Bay
Although predictive analytics may be difficult to master, it’s a tool that can greatly improve litigation results.
There’s no question that Big Data analytics are dramatically changing the practice of law. Legal technologists are creating “computational law” tools that can process traditional legal tasks in minutes, not hours. Examples include LexMachina, which mines information about judges, lawyers and patents in intellectual property litigation, and Beagle, which diagnoses errors and friction points in lengthy contracts.
These technologies not only help lawyers and other legal professionals deliver legal services better, faster and cheaper—but cut the time and costs of executing those tasks. Advantages: lawyers can focus on more high-level tasks; clients get better service at a better price.
Yet, when it comes to e-discovery, many firms have not integrated a fundamental analytics tool: predictive coding.
E-discovery managed services (EMS) can help firms create a bridge to analytics—making it easier for firms and legal professionals to transition into these tools. EMS provides the people, process and technology needed to smoothly run e-discovery, with “a la carte” flexibility. Firms can choose what features, technology, personnel and pricing options are best.
For example, some firms may want the EMS provider to run just about everything, including providing software licenses and all necessary hardware, hosting e-discovery processing, reviews and other software on their servers—and provide administrative execution and support for those tools. Other firms might want to maintain higher levels of day-to-day administrative execution and control but rely on the EMS provider primarily for external hosting, maintenance, and upgrades for those systems.
Over the last six months, The Cowen Group interviewed legal professionals about their experiences with EMS—from senior partners to CIOs to litigation support professionals, at numerous law firms of various sizes.
Many interviewees cited the same initial challenge: overcoming the perceived barriers associated with adopting predictive analytics. For example, Susan Usatine, a member of the litigation department and co-chair of the discovery practice group at Cole Schotz, notes that many firms fail to take advantage of e-discovery technologies, claiming that analytics are too complicated, too technical and that courts do not accept them. Those firms are “dead wrong,” she says, because courts do accept the technology.
Cole Schotz, with 130 attorneys with offices in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Texas, specializes in bankruptcy and corporate restructuring in addition to a general civil practice. Usatine reports that the firm’s contract with its EMS provider includes a wide range of predictive coding and analytic capabilities.
A key to increasing comfort and success for resistant professionals is to be sure that everyone (including the lawyers) participates in the training, she suggests. By attending training from the EMS provider, everyone will learn how predictive analytics works to improve the e-discovery process, even if they won’t personally be handling the process.
Jason Reid, litigation support manager at Morrison Cohen, a 100-attorney international firm representing middle market businesses and financial institutions, also cites the training offered by its EMS provider as a significant factor in helping his firm fully utilize predictive analytics and technology-assisted review in discovery. Once Reid gained a strong understanding of the process, he set up and used analytics for different cases.
When assistance is needed, the EMS provider acts as a partner, sharing its knowledge and expertise and helping the firm determine what they need to do in a specific case, he said.
Another advantage: several firms reported that EMS enabled their organization to process predictive analytics in large and/or complex cases that otherwise would have been outsourced.
Alan Rushforth, director of practice support at Stinson Leonard Street, notes that EMS helped provide the necessary infrastructure and environment to handle complex analytics and analytics indexes.