The legal sector is currently going through one of the most significant transformations in its history. The downturn in the economy is reducing the overall volume of legal work, and factors like the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) are increasing the competition in the market. At the same time there is a significant amount of regulatory change taking place with, for example, the Jackson Review increasing the cost and complexity of running a practice. This is creating a “perfect storm” as described by Samantha Barrass, executive director of the SRA, of reduced volume of work available and increased amounts of competition bidding for what remains. This is forcing many law firms to explore ways of improving efficiency in the delivery of services and reduction of costs. Many firms face these challenges by streamlining internal processes, outsourcing tasks to specialist providers, or merging with other practices to drive economies of scale and protect market positions.
Ever-increasing data volumes further impact the legal sector, adding technical complexity and cost to the review or consideration of a case. In a recent study by the computer giant EMC, the estimated the total volume of electronic data doubles every two years. Data is also arriving in different formats, such as Twitter, as highlighted by the legal proceeding brought by Lord McAlpine in December 2012, who brought defamation claims against some Twitter users for wrongly naming him as a paedophile, or mobile phone data as demonstrated by the case of the Labour Peer Lord Ahmed, who was sent to prison for texting while driving. This creates an ever increasing issue of finding a needle in the haystack that is doubling in size every two years.
Traditionally, law firms have lowered costs through the use of outsourced review service providers or in-house paralegals to sift through the initial volumes of information, order the evidence, and prepare it for review by the lawyers. In large cases, this process can stretch into days, weeks, months or even years, all adding cost to the client’s bill. Indeed, in Professor Susskind’s book, Tomorrow Lawyer, he outlines the challenge for firms bidding for a reduced number of large and complex cases that need an approach that is commercially competitive and provides demonstrable value to the client. Most clients “do not mind paying significant fees for experienced lawyers but they do object, with increasing indignation, to paying, for example, high hourly rates for relatively junior lawyers to undertake what they perceive as routine and repetitive work.”
In an effort to bridge the gap between the increasing volumes of data and the need to reduce costs, software vendors race to create increasingly sophisticated solutions that span the whole Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), responding to the rising call for process and efficiency in ediscovery. Such solutions must be capable of absorbing both electronic and paper based information, as well as making use of information obtained from mobile phones and tablets, as easily as it deals with historic paper records that could go back hundreds of years. These solutions facilitate quicker categorisation, and even provide computer-based analyses and decision making, commonly known as predictive coding or technology assisted review (TAR). Indeed, Professor Susskind goes on to say that “systems, if properly primed, are now able, in terms of precision and recall, to outperform paralegals and junior lawyers when reviewing and categorising large bodies of documents.”
E-discovery solutions provide an opportunity for firms and corporate legal departments alike to reduce the cost of litigation by automating and speeding up the work that has traditionally been completed by human resources. This technology frees highly skilled lawyers to focus on the tactical and strategic decisions in litigation rather than months of mundane and labour intensive project management, in turn making them more competitive in today’s market.
Summation Litigation Technologies released the first software product to address this problem, Summation iBlaze, in 1988. The product evolved over the past 25 years to become AccessData’s Summation. It is used by both the largest and smallest legal institutions in the world, spanning corporate legal departments, government offices and some 1,800 law firms. With 100,000 users relying on this technology on a daily basis, it has received 45 legal industry technology awards to date.
With the release of version 5 of Summation firms can leverage the benefits of predictive coding and graphical visualisation of document content. Summation is the first e-Discovery platform to use an integrated processing and analysis technology, that provides a data ingestion, assessment, culling, search, annotation, redaction, export (load file creation) and web-based review capability, all in one platform. Many organisations use separate tools and/or providers for different parts of this process, leading to multiple export and import file conversions, increased volume-based pricing and the introduction of unnecessary risk to the process. Bucking this expensive and risk-inducing trend among software makers, AccessData eliminates the use of third party licenses in its products wherever possible, including Summation, passing substantial savings through to the client and speeding development response time.
AccessData’s software suite captures and processes information with high speed file ingestion and support for over 700 file types. With over 20-years’ experience, AccessData’s technology provides a forensically-sound approach to data capture, validated through numerous court proceedings across the world.