It’s that time of the year, again, the time when we turn the page on a new calendar year and begin to make plans for the upcoming 365 days or so. Plans to eat better, to exercise more, to finally learn a foreign language.
But your New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t stop with self improvement. There are plenty of professional improvements that can, and should, be made in 2018, too—particularly when it comes to discovery. And they’re a lot easier to accomplish than losing 20 pounds or apprendring Francais. So, here are four resolutions we think all legal professionals should adopt for the year ahead.
1. Ditch Legacy Systems and DIY Discovery
It’s 2018. If you’re still using discovery technology first developed in 1982, it’s time to make a change. And if you’re using no discovery technology at all, handling your own discovery needs with a cobbled together system of Excel spreadsheets, thousands of PDFs, and manual review, well, it’s time to change for you too.
If you’ve used legacy eDiscovery systems, you know that they’ve long shown their age. Users describe platforms like Concordance and Summation as “clunky, slow, and generally a pain to use.” They complain about antiquated interfaces and long waits to begin a review. Yet some still hang on to outdated systems, arguing that the technology is “already paid for.” But that logic requires ignoring the ongoing, significant costs of hosting and maintaining an in-house eDiscovery system, not to mention the cost of falling behind firms that have embraced modern discovery technology.
There are, as well, plenty of legal professionals who don’t use legacy discovery software—or any software at all. Consider this all-too-common scenario: A firm, usually one that typically deals with smaller discovery sets, takes a case requiring the review of several email accounts. Those emails are downloaded, converted to PDFs, and organized into a system of file folders. Attorneys and support staff read through every PDF one by one, apply manual redaction, individually Bates stamp documents, and track the whole thing in a giant mess of an Excel file.
That’s hardly a tenable process today. It’s going to be an even less sustainable one as discovery and data growth continue to explode in the years ahead.
Thankfully technology has made it easy to replace both legacy software and manual discovery processes—simply, effortlessly, and intuitively. And because this technology is on the cloud, it can instantly scale to meet the needs of your discovery project, whether it’s a massive petabyte-sized data set or just a few hundred emails. So this year, update your discovery process for the modern era. You'll be thankful you did.
2. Understand Your Technology
Not all discovery technology is equal. In fact, most eDiscovery software isn’t able to find the word “e-discovery” at all. Yes, software designed to help you discovery information often can’t find its own name—should you spell that name with a hyphen, that is. That’s because the technology behind some of the biggest eDiscovery software automatically ignores certain terms. The word “not”, single letters, periods, dashes, colons, and the like, all are treated like a nullity. For example, a keyword search in Relativity, one of the most widely used eDiscovery platforms, automatically excludes 112 default “stop words,” that the system has decided aren’t “meaningful criteria.”
It’s not just Relativity. Most eDiscovery platforms trip over their own feet when it comes to “e-discovery,” or even “can’t.” And though you probably won’t be searching “e-discovery” in your typical review, if your software doesn’t know how to find what you’re looking for, you could easily end up with a botched review.
So, in 2018, adopt Socrates’ advice and know thyself—or at least know your tech. (And if your tech is Logikcull, don’t worry. Logikcull can find “e-discovery.” Indeed, Logikcull adapts to match your specific search style, instead of making you change to match it. You can learn more about that here.)
3. Embrace Data
Data is growing. And growing and growing—at the absurd rate of about 2.5 exabytes a day. To put that in perspective, that’s about 75 trillion pages worth of information generated daily. It comes from our emails, text messages, and internet search histories. From our smart watches, smart speakers, smart thermostats. From drone surveys, monitoring sensors, cell phone GPS signals.
And it’s almost all discoverable.
If that idea gives you a sinking feeling in your stomach, you’re not alone. Several prominent judges, leading minds in the development of modern discovery, have told Logikcull that accelerating data growth will present significant challenges for legal professionals in the years ahead. That data growth “makes the discovery process much more difficult,” Judge Shira A. Scheindlin warns. It will “be a problem for years and years to come,” according to Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck. “It undoubtedly is going to be a challenge,” Magistrate Judge James C. Francis III explains.
But if you adopt resolutions one and two above, you’ll be in a good position not just to survive the deluge, but to thrive in it. That’s because modern discovery technology is catching up to the data growth. Today’s eDiscovery software can automate thousands of previously costly and time consuming steps, from data ingestion, to Bates stamping, to automatic tagging for potentially privileged documents. It can instantly deduplicate documents, drastically reducing the size of data sets. Its powerful search technology means that, even as data grows, finding the most relevant documents can be as easy as searching on Google. And because it’s on the cloud, discovery projects can be started almost instantly, allowing legal professionals to move quickly to find the documents they need. That means data becomes an asset, not a threat.
4. Stop Calling It eDiscovery
Though some parties may still pass bankers boxes of documents back and forth, the vast majority of information in litigation is electronic. In 2018, eDiscovery is discovery. Let’s start referring to it as such.
This post was authored by Casey C. Sullivan, who leads education and awareness efforts at Logikcull. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @caseycsull.