Editor’s Note: This guest post is written by Jim Neath, president of strategic solutions at Morae, a global provider of comprehensive e-discovery solutions and proudly the longest-running RelativityOne partner in the world.
The first half of 2020 has been one for the ages—namely the global public health crisis and the beginning of fundamental cultural changes in US race relations. These events likely will usher in a period of increasing cross-border legal friction.
For nearly a decade, I led BP’s global litigation group and saw how international dislocations in the oil markets fed upswings in commercial litigation and government regulatory enforcement. My recent article on the tenth anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill observed how the global rise of nationalism risks exacerbating the coming litigation wave.
Lessons learned in the 10 years since Deepwater Horizon illustrated that traditional approaches to law practice may no longer suffice. Today, data management has become truly strategic to the practice of law. Responding proactively to the litigation wave stemming from new and evolving crises will require new technologies and new approaches to legal data management. Today’s litigator should assess and develop a strategic viewpoint on four accelerating data management trends.
#1: The Public Cloud is Leveling the Playing Field
Legal practitioners should understand where their legal data is stored. Renting data storage from a large data aggregator (akin to a public utility but with less regulation) enables large volumes of information to be accessed and moved globally with ease and speed. If a company’s email is outsourced to servers in the cloud, leaving the data in place during the legal process minimizes cost, delay, and the risk of data mishandling.
Managing legal data in the public cloud is more agile and cost-effective, and enables smaller firms to compete successfully with counterparties who have invested many millions of dollars in their own IT infrastructure. In this way, the public cloud has “democratized” discovery.
#2: Legal Technology is Collapsing the Traditional EDRM
Historically, phases of the discovery process defined separate layers of activity in a legal vertical, each with its own technical specialism and market economics. As a result, discovery vendor strategies have often been framed around these stages, aimed at commoditizing each stage of the process.
Today, the EDRM is more fluid and tremendous value resides in interconnecting these stages using advanced technology or artificial intelligence (AI). Advanced data analytics are now used at every step to identify key data points faster, collect and store key data more surgically to minimize data storage demands, and delay or narrow the need for expensive human review of documents. “End-to-end” e-discovery is no longer just a marketing term. Linking each stage using integrated technology has become a risk- and cost-management imperative.
#3: AI is Changing Cross-border Litigation and Investigations
Active learning and automated machine translation of foreign language data have transformed multilingual cross-border investigations.
Active learning greatly accelerates the search for key documents (i.e., needles in the proverbial haystack)—a driver of successful internal and regulatory investigations where presenting a timely and accurate view of the facts can favorably influence law enforcement.
Automated foreign language translation saves money by streamlining costly review by trained non-English speakers. Leveraging these technologies has become strategic for international legal and compliance teams.
#4: Remote Document Review Will Impact the Labor Market for Contract Lawyers
COVID-19 has accelerated industry acceptance of remote document review in litigation and investigations. More traditional law firms may prefer for employees to be located in proximity to the supervising partner to conduct document review. However, this is no longer the norm, and the pandemic already has shown that remote review can be performed safely and effectively.
Remote document review opens the playing field for cost-conscious corporate law departments. In the future, managing the cost of human document review will be less about capturing labor arbitrage across separate geographic markets (e.g., New York versus Kansas City). As automation displaces labor arbitrage, the focus will turn to operating execution and the use of AI to reduce the volume of data requiring human review.
Data management has become truly strategic to the practice of law. As the video below explores, many of today’s legal data managers are certified professionals who sit at the strategy table with senior corporate litigators and law firm partners. Corporate general counsel are realizing that they must own and actively manage the key data decisions that determine legal outcomes.
Responding proactively to the post-pandemic litigation wave will require new technologies and new approaches to capitalize on these four accelerating data management trends.