As others have recently commented, the sheer volume and associated “noise” in the e-discovery space makes technology-related decisions very challenging. There were 65 vendors listed in the 2011 LegalTech program guide purporting to have some sort of electronic discovery solution. It seems rather than finding some continuity in messaging, we continue to see hoards of new entrants with the latest panacea for your e-discovery malady. While I’m thrilled at the interest and bustle in my industry, I’m equally concerned that slick marketing is sometimes enough to move clients to action. Given the implications of using untested, new-to-market tools I was pleased to take multiple requests for “proof-of-concept” testing in the coming weeks.
SharePoint continues to be a popular topic, not only in data collection and analysis circles, but also around record management and governance. Microsoft just reported record quarterly revenue of $19.95 billion, no doubt fueled a great deal by SharePoint sales both internal and external to the firewall. SharePoint adoption has happened so fast for many organizations that a data governance strategy was left to the capabilities inherent to the platform. The reality for many is now a sprawling infrastructure that requires additional resources and software to properly manage. In summary, it is becoming a central target for discovery. Some vendors at the show offered indexing solutions to identify potentially relevant content, but they lacked either the ability to collect or the ability to index certain SharePoint features (libraries, blogs, wikis, etc). Others offered the ability to collect only the underlying files. I’m not sure what good this kind of piecemeal collection does for an attorney, as the context and chain of custody are both missing by the time the data gets to them for review. For those who are in the hunt for a SharePoint solution, make sure your collection tool can obtain all the SharePoint features you have deployed in the environment, the underlying files, metadata, as well as the page itself (commonly an mht file).
I was also excited to see additional emphasis at the show around management of eDiscovery as a business process. E-discovery is no longer a reactive assignment for IT staff. It should be managed and included in strategic discussions of most mid- and large-sized organizations. Many organizations do (and should) spend a bulk of their time on coordination and administration of e-discovery versus trying to configure or interact with a particular software solution. I’m not a fan of products that force you to bend to a preset workflow or activity sequence. Software should support your process or add to its overall effectiveness. For example, I’m not interested in having to use one solution to collect from my email system, only to have to use a second solution to collect from company PCs. I hope many of you were able to attend the “e-Discovery as Repeatable Business Process” or the “Intersection of Project Management and Practice Support” sessions. The discipline of project management has plenty to offer the legal industry as a whole, especially those involved in e-discovery. A great way to kick-start your maturity is to partner with a knowledgeable service provider. Not only do they have the process experience, but they’ve spent countless hours testing the technology.
AccessData has an established professional services offering, which is frequently imbedded into organizations to augment their e-discovery staff. I’m also a huge fan of D4, out of Rochester, NY, Protiviti also headquartered in NY and UnitedLex, in the Midwest. All are recognized players with heavy focus in the space, as well as national and global reach.
From a vendor’s perspective, I was delighted to see heightened attendance this year. The crowd visually signified a return of capital budgets. Many of my discussions focused on a proactive approach to solving e-discovery challenges, which also indicates a loosening of the proverbial purse strings. While an influx of new money will certainly yield continued advances in the evolving technology – such as predictive coding – it will also continue to attract the “copy shop turned e-discovery solution provider overnight” as well. Let’s keep our test data sets at the ready.