Jay Leib Interviews Bruce Blank on Computer-assisted Review

by Jay Leib on April 19, 2013

Analytics & Assisted Review , Product Spotlight

In this installment of his interview series, Jay Leib—resident computer-assisted review expert at kCura—discusses best practices for rolling out computer-assisted review technology firm-wide with Bruce Blank, director of litigation support at Foley & Lardner LLP. Bruce has been with Foley & Lardner for more than a decade.

Jay Leib: What is your role at Foley & Lardner?

Bruce: I’m the director of litigation support, so I am responsible for all support and services for our litigating attorneys. I lead groups that perform court docketing, calendaring, and consulting for our case teams. I also support our litigation technology, both by ensuring we’re running a state-of-the-art setup and by training our attorneys in the software.

Your firm has been using Relativity Assisted Review for a while. How did you decide to start leveraging this workflow?

Our first push to implement the Assisted Review workflow resulted from reading an article in The New York Times. It came out a couple of years ago—you’re probably familiar with it—and it blew open the computer-assisted review process. We can look back and point to it, and see how it kickstarted a revolution in this industry by spurring a conversation among attorneys who started asking the questions we were all waiting for. We’d been leveraging Relativity Analytics since its inception, but we just hadn’t had the opportunity to put the computer-assisted review workflow to work. But when that article came out, our attorneys started coming to my team and asking if we could use that technology for them. Of course, we were happy to do it.

How did you get your team up to speed with the workflow, and how do you disseminate that knowledge throughout your firm?

It’s key for my team to be really well-versed in the tools we have in-house, so that we can help our attorneys leverage them in the best way possible. To that end, we spend a great deal of time on internal training. We often work with kCura to train our team, and we have our own training processes for continuous learning. Really, we want everyone to be an expert.

In terms of disseminating, for as long as I’ve been with Foley, I’ve traveled to each of our offices a few times annually to discuss the tools we have with our attorneys, and how we can use them to help their teams. It’s important for us to remember that our attorneys are experts at what they do, and we’re experts at what we do. The in-depth knowledge of the technology is on our end, because that’s our job. So when we bring this information to the firm at large, we try to make it as digestible as possible. Once we streamlined that knowledge transfer, our partners really became the evangelists for us.

How long after you started evangelizing Assisted Review did Foley run its first case with it?

I’d say it took about four to six months. When it did happen, it was the client on that particular case who was pushing for it—and that said a lot. The fact that a client had requested it and that we saw fabulous success with the project really busted those doors open throughout the rest of the firm.

What challenges are you facing in terms of adoption?

There are still some holdouts among our attorneys, but that’s to be expected. Any litigation support team is going to face that resistance. There are still some attorneys who don’t understand the technology, who are afraid of it, or who just haven’t seen a use case for it yet. This workflow isn’t going to fit for every case, so it’s understandable that some of our teams haven’t had a need for it.

But the fear factor is something we can fix. Our regional managers are trying to vet out the attorneys who do have a need, but are still hesitating to use the technology on a case. By working with them one-on-one, we’re trying to show them that we do have some amazing tools to offer—including Assisted Review.

At this point, how do your teams decide whether or not to use Assisted Review on a given case? Is it considered for each new matter, or is it only applied in special circumstances?

With our regional managers in place, we’ve built a new process for making those decisions. Every case that involves more than 75,000 documents is reviewed by the regional manager, and they help the case team decide what the next steps should be. The first thing they decide is whether or not it’s an appropriate data set for advanced analytics, and they’ll build an analytics index to explore that option. Once that’s done, the regional managers will work with the legal teams to implement analytics tools like clustering and keyword expansion. The regional manager can then suggest taking it one step further—using Assisted Review—to the team. Our goal is to make that happen for every case where it’s appropriate.

What would be your advice for someone in a similar role, at another firm, who is trying to implement this technology?

I think the first goal should be to deeply understand the workflow and technology yourself. The technology isn’t new and, in a lot of ways, it’s simple. But understanding the nuances can be complex. There are a lot of seemingly small things that you need to consider to get the workflow right. Be well-educated, because you need to deliver this properly the first time—or risk ruining it for everyone.

When you’re talking to the rest of your firm, it helps to break down the information into smaller sound bites that matter to the attorney, presented in a way that’s relevant and easy to understand. That information should be shared in whatever way works best for your firm: one-on-one training, educational luncheons, emails, seminars, the whole nine yards. Get the message out any way you can.

To me, those two items are key. From there, you need a good support staff that can help create and maintain indexes, and just assist throughout the process. Their focused expertise will be required for a large amount of time, so a dedicated team is what drives the success of a computer-assisted review project.

Posted by advice@kCura on April 19, 2013.

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