Monday, April 13, 2009

Summation tip of the week

I've started sending out weekly tips for using that ol' stalwart of litigation technology - Summation iBlaze. As not everyone likes having their email cluttered with yet more stuff, even if it is high quality, informative, educational material like I send out (ahem!!), I thought I'd put them up here as well.

For those of you that have had my weekly tip via email and would rather read it here (or not at all), just email me with "Unsubscribe - Summation Tip of the Week" and I'll be sure that you're taken off that email list. Be sure you let me know if you'd rather never hear from me again (in which case I'll head off into a quiet corner to sob) or just don't want to get the Summation Tips.

Summation Tip of the Week No. 1

Using Summation for electronic exchange of documents

This week’s tip explains a simple way to use Summation to exchange documents electronically with opposing counsel.

How does it work?

A Summation Briefcase will take the documents you want to send to opposing counsel (usually as an Affidavit of Documents) and package up the images, along with their document information from the columns that you choose into one file. You can then burn the file to CD or (if it’s small enough) send it via email to opposing counsel for them to import into their own Summation case database.

Pros and Cons

Some advantages of using a Summation Briefcase include:

  • No need to print out all your documents, or make copies
  • Reduces postage costs
  • You can redact the images if necessary and Summation will permanently apply the redactions in the Briefcasing process
  • You can select which columns (and therefore what information) to send to opposing counsel
  • You can give your documents new, consecutive numbers that disguise any “gaps” in the Bates numbers
  • Opposing counsel can integrate your Briefcase with their own documents in Summation, or view it in a separate Summation database

Some things to bear in mind with Summation Briefcases:

  • You need to have Summation iBlaze to create and directly access Summation Briefcases
  • Summation Briefcases are only good for up to 20,000 images or so – you might not be able to create or view ones that are larger than this
  • If you’re going to use Summation Briefcases to exchange Affidavits of Documents, get opposing counsel’s agreement ahead of timeTry to match the way you enter information in the columns with opposing counsel. You can discuss this at your Meet and Confer or include it in your Discovery Plan
  • Be careful about including OCR - it can reveal text in a redacted document

Monday, April 6, 2009

Great article from the ABA Journal Magazine this month on a research project being conducted by the Text Retrieval Conference Legal Track ( In short, as the article's title suggests, they're "in search of the perfect search", which translates to "just how many documents are missed with the various search technologies".

The answer (so far) is sobering:
Legal Track showed Boolean keyword searches using commands such as and, or
and within so many words across a range of different hypothetical topics
found only between 22 and 57 percent of all relevant documents cumulatively
retrieved through a variety of alternative search methods. But the Boolean
search was no better or worse than other more sophisticated search methods
tested, and it still represents the current standard.

Wow. That's pretty bad.

Slightly better news is that different searches find different documents, so if you combine several different types of searches, you're able to find up to 78% of the documents. As it says in the article (and as I've said to clients): ". . . No one off-the-shelf method will solve all of your e-discovery efforts."

So, in practical terms, what does this mean?

Well, for smaller data sets where you can feasibly (if expensively) look at every single document you are not as reliant on search technology to find the documents - you can categorize them as you see fit (usually by issue coding) and that, along with the bibliographic information coded into the review database is usually going to be enough to find your documents.

The big issue with this approach, of course, is consistency. Many highly-trained lawyers and legal staff just don't code the same (or similar) documents the same way. Use of near-duplicate technology, for example, can help with this, but you will still find variance in coding between documents that are similar in theme, if not content.

For larger data sets where it would take years for even a large team of people to look at every document, you have to rely on searches of the electronic data (or even OCR, which is a whole other post in itself).

The key takeaway is that you shouldn't rely on just Boolean searches, or just Concept searches, or any other kind of searching to do it all. Expect to use several kinds of search technology. Expect to come up with a smart set of search terms in the first place. If you're looking for documents about cars, don't just search on "autos" and "cars", search on "Ford" and "GoodYear" and "Mechanic" and "battery" and "gas" as well. These terms will pull up documents that are all about cars, but may never actually mention the magic word "car".

Thanks to Ralph Losey's Tweet which led me to the article in the first place.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

From time to time, there is evidence of some angst among lawyers that their jobs will disappear - and not necessarily due to the economy (particularly in the US). Paralegals/law clerks (depending on which side of the border you are) were once considered something of a threat to lawyers. Then it was outsourcing. And now it's technology.

These last two are concurrent concerns right now and have been exacerbated, thanks to eDiscovery, by the exponential growth in "potentially relevant" information that has to be reviewed by someone (or something) before deciding if it really must go to opposing counsel. Not to mention figuring out if it is privileged or not.

Lawyers may be interested in knowing that it's not just their own profession feeling the pinch of technology taking over the world. Some scientists may find this article from the trusty BBC a little worrisome: a robot which can not only perform certain experiments, but also plan further experiments to verify its hypothesis.

Imagine how that might look in the legal world!! Not only would WhizBang EDD Soup to Nuts edition manage, identify, preserve, collect, process, review, analyze, produce and present your data, it even figures out if your theory of the case has to be modified, and drafts the appropriate motion/modified Statement of Defence or Answer to Complaint for you!!

Lawyers would be reduced to little more than rubber-stampers (perhaps a new use for Bates Stampers?) of relentlessly logical legal arguments created by their AI equivalents. Best of all, these Litigation AIs (LAIs) wouldn't require absurdly inflated salaries right off the bat, and could work around the clock, pushing up their billables while reducing overhead dramatically. Clients around the world would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their litigation matters were being handled in a low-cost, logical, perfectly fair and balanced manner.

As Ralph Losey would have it - the practice of law is an art, not a science, and I doubt we're really going to see robots take over lawyers' jobs any time soon.

But it's fun to think about :-)