Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, emojis, blogs and vlogs, memes, and a myriad of other forms of public and private communication have had a profound impact on e-discovery. The amount of data produced in the standard case has ballooned exponentially, and along with that, so has the costs of each step in the process from identification through presentation. Estimates project over $11 billion will be spent on eDiscovery software or services by US law firms in 2019.
The variety of options available further complicates things – outsourced, insourced, hosted, on-premise, flat rate, per GB, blended – and the countless different feature offerings – indexing, tagging, transcription, machine learning, OCR – and the process of selecting an e-discovery service is daunting and mind-numbing even for industry pros.
Whether you decide on e-discovery in-house or with an outsourced service, there are several considerations that need to be addressed. The right solution is the one that will provide not only the best service to your clients, but also the most efficient use of your firm’s time and budget.
The first of the series, Core capabilities, represent the essential ingredients any e-discovery software or service should employ to produce the best results. Without these core capabilities, you will be seriously limiting not only your results but the admissibility of your findings. These are:
- Robust Search Capabilities
- Machine Learning
- Minimal Staff Impact
- Rolling Data Loads
- Defensible Data
- Audit Trails and Reporting
Robust Boolean logic search capabilities
The most fundamental function in e-discovery is search (the California State Bar even makes search skills an ethical obligation), and any e-discovery tool must have a powerful search query editor that can accommodate multiple lines of Boolean logic.
Machine learning tools
Supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms should both be included in your e-discovery tool. Concept groups automatically organize content into related clusters with topic labels, enabling analysts to get a big-picture view of their data landscape and target a specific theme of interest for priority analysis. Predictive coding learns from human relevancy decisions and builds a data model to “find more like this.”
Minimize data collection’s impact on staff
In the “old days,” organizations' only option was to take physical possession of an employee’s or client’s laptop or phone to collect evidence. This not only disrupts work but also tips your hand that something is up. Your e-discovery solution should have as little impact on the normal working day as possible. It should be able to collect data from a target remotely, without disruption as endpoints log in and log out of the network.
Rolling data loads
Even while the review is underway, your e-discovery solution must be able to incorporate additional information without disrupting project progress. Investigations are fluid and dynamic; the best e-discovery tools will seamlessly roll new data into an active project without disrupting the machine learning process.
It is essential to preserve the integrity of existing data, so your e-discovery software should not alter document properties when copying or moving them. If ESI (Electronically Stored Information) is modified, it not only risks legal penalties, but also calls the entire process into doubt. A forensically sound collections process is a critical component of your e-discovery solution. For many organizations, this means using a trusted format that has been examined by courts already, like the LEF (Logical Evidence Files).
Audit trails and reporting
Your chosen e-discovery software should provide comprehensive audit logs showing where data originally resided, what search terms were applied to collect it, and how it was handled. During the review, it is also necessary to maintain records of decisions and review workflows, not only for accountability and transparency but for process optimization as well.
These core capabilities should be the pillars of any e-discovery solution. Once you have established that the e-discovery solutions you are considering are designed with these core capabilities, you can then turn your attention to the specific features and pricing options most suitable for your firm and your specialties.