October 26, 2014

e-Discovery Trade Shows – What Do We Really Learn?

Source: Fine Art America

“Really? Forensic Software? You got the wrong guy pal, I need e-discovery software.”

You know that moment when you realize a whole industry has become too smart for itself (or in some cases not smart enough)? You’ll know it when you see and hear it, I promise you that. My colleagues have been posting their wrap-up impressions from ILTA 2012, and I’m here to do the same, though my take on it is a little different just because of what I’ve personally seen and heard from all the ILTA’s and LegalTech’s of years past. You see, I’m the guy that is so literally jaded, if you told me, “X,” I’d say, “Really? It’s shades of Y.” But I digress…

A little about me first: I’ve been attending legal technology tradeshows now for roughly 12 years. I’ve been a participant as an attorney, I’ve been the expert consultant on panels, and I’ve even chaired one here and there – nationally and internationally – within my e-discovery tenure. I’ve also been – for several companies – the engineer booth monkey, too.

You know that guy, right? Doesn’t pass the look or smell test as a sales rep, but there is something about him that shows remarkable patience…like they have had to demo to a school of blind adults using smoke signals and clicking noises to show off their software. And I say that with affection (mostly) because let’s be honest: When Jane Doe comes up to your booth hell-bent on grabbing the latest chotchkie that your company is giving out for free, and tosses up an embarrassingly absent-minded softball question like, “So what do you guys do…” as she glances up at the gigantic e-discovery and litigation review banner behind the booth, you do everything in your absolute power to smile back and NOT say the following:

“We raise Himalayan elephants to sell to goat herders who have to have the latest in elephant technology to cross the mountain passes. It’s incredible what these elephants can do, let me show you what’s possible with a Himalayan elephant…”

I mean, that’s what a good engineer would say, right? Instead, you give elevator material back. The pitch. The 1-2 paragraph spiel to grab someone’s attention in a quick moment’s time only to realize that half of what you said has fallen on an ADD-saddled attention span of someone that is visually still recovering from the activities of the night before. Meaningful discussion? Hardly.

Sometimes you do get to experience one or two insightful moments. For example, you come across someone there for the first time tasked to learn as much as they can for their law firm in order to compete with surrounding firms and not be included in the group that is considered minimally competent to spell e-discovery. For them, it’s like drinking from a firehose. For one of us, it’s the moment where we can slow things down for someone, and help them identify key elements to focus on when deciding on new technology. It’s immensely beneficial in several ways: Product Education, Workflow Introduction, and developing the handy dandy Glitz Glam Filter necessary to attend ANY litigation support technology show!  (Don’t be blinded by the shiny silver orb.)

The key to any successful tradeshow, from a participant’s point of view, is to have your Glitz-Glam Technology Filter on at all times. Rarely do first-time goers receive these filters. Usually by your 2nd or 3rd show you start to filter everything you see and hear by what it is, from what it is most definitely not.

“We process 500GB an HOUR!!!”

“Oh really? On what kind of data set.  One specifically cultured for your processing engine. Maybe pure text files?”

“We are end-to-end!!!”

“Backside to Elbows? What’s today’s definition Mr. Sales-guy?”

“You don’t need forensic software; you need e-discovery software!!”

I had to laugh when I was walking around the floor and heard a vendor say that. That’s akin to a car salesman showing the prospective female car buyer the benefits and luxury of a large center console to store her makeup and an equally impressive rear view mirror to apply said cosmetics.

Many define “forensics” separate and apart from electronic discovery when it’s really part and parcel to an effective and legitimate  electronic discovery solution. [SPOILER ALERT – Most e-discovery service providers use a very small handful of tools to handle the collection and processing of ESI. Those tools likely have their roots in forensics.] Audit trails, chain of custody, and the ability to handle the jungle of real life data types apply in triplicate to e-discovery.

Now why on earth would you ever want THAT when all you need is some off-the-shelf, unproven “e-discovery” software that distinguishes itself as a knowledge and information management platform?

Ok, I’m off my soapbox. So what did we really learn? Himalayan elephants are the best of breed for an end-to-end solution? No, I’m reminded to take a step back, remember the larger objectives to reduce risk and cost and to try and steer clear of the hype.

David Speringo

David A. Speringo, JD, C.C.E., ACE, Senior Consultant/Engineer at AccessData. With ten years of experience in the e-discovery sector as a practicing attorney, electronic discovery consultant, and computer forensic specialist, David serves as a senior consultant on staff with AccessData. Prior to joining AccessData, Davis has held senior-level management and consulting positions at both ends of the e-discovery spectrum -- within a law firm and at a national e-discovery litigation support company. Within these roles he has taught classes providing continuing legal education for attorneys and has been a guest speaker at several legal conferences on the topics of litigation support technologies, best practices and litigation technology cost management. Within the forensic world, David is a certified computer examiner (C.C.E.) and has led forensic teams on the investigative acquisition and analysis of data for clients composed of several AMLAW 100 firms and Fortune 500 companies over the past 7 years. He received his B.A. in Political Science/History from the University of Connecticut in 1997, and is law degree (J.D.) from Roger Williams Law School in 2000.

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