You don’t have to be visited by multiple spirits on Christmas Eve to know the technologies of eDiscovery Days past, present and future have changed and continue to do so at an increasingly rapid pace. In the spirit of eDiscovery Day (see what we did there), TCDI’s Caragh Landry and David York will reflect on the changing landscape of legal technology over past years, discuss the emerging technologies of today, and offer their perspective on what is ahead in the future.
eDiscovery Technologies of Years Past
We’ve come a long way from printing, scanning, and coding emails so that we could take something digital and turn it into another digital form for searching, review, and production. Those early days seemed so simple, even if they were full of mountains of banker boxes.
In the nearly two decades since that very first eDiscovery Day, legal technology has witnessed significant advancements, and we aren’t just talking about scanning printed emails. The continued growth of data volumes, and the increasing complexity of legal matters, were often met with the development of new technologies and strategies.
The early days of keywords and advanced search strategies were supplemented with the rise of data analytics, which resulted in concept searching, clusters, and interesting data visualizations. Advancements in analytic tools provided the foundation for technology assisted review (TAR), which gave us predictive coding, active learning, and more ways to understand our data through dynamic visualization and dashboarding.
Although the fundamental steps of the EDRM (Electronic Discovery Reference Model) have largely remained consistent, the workflows, processes, and tools employed during each stage have undergone significant transformations due to the exponential increase in data volumes, doubling or tripling each year.
The types of data continued to expand as well, as email and simple efiles quickly turned into a landscape full of structured data, cell phones, chats, collaboration tools, social media and other rapidly changing content. Not only was data rapidly changing as we hit the 2020’s, but technology that often took years to develop and implement soon reduced those cycles to months and weeks.
Emerging Technologies of Present
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
― Ferris Bueller
We know, jumping from references of Charles Dickens to Ferris Bueller is usually frowned upon, but it’s one way to prove we didn’t generate this content using ChatGPT. Just replace “Life” with “Technology” in the Ferris Bueller quote, and that pretty much sums up how many in our industry feel these days.
Technology is changing fast and artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of that change. Just as we got comfortable and embraced threading, near duplicates, predictive coding, and active learning, the advent of generative AI has swiftly shifted the conversation and focus. It feels like we’ve transitioned from the established practices of the past to the cutting-edge discussions of the future, all in the blink of a night’s sleep.
One reason that AI seems to be everywhere is because of its widespread application across so many industries and user populations. TAR or similar legal technologies may have only been utilized in a company’s legal department (or by their counsel), whereas AI has applications across legal, finance, HR, R&D, sales and all throughout an organization. AI is bringing change, and it is doing so at a rapid speed in every facet of our work and personal lives.
Luckily, this isn’t the first time the Legal Industry has seen ‘game-changing technology’ given to us as the solution for everything, so even though the pace of new technologies seems to be increasing, the adoption and application of new tools still seems to be following a methodical path. Proof of concept (POC) projects are all the rage these days. In the last few months, TCDI has participated in POC projects for AI and related technologies for autonomous document review, data extraction, redactions, document creation/drafting, contracts review, and summarization, just to name a few.
With each POC, we learn something new, as do our project partners, all leading to a purposeful and research driven approach to AI and other emerging technologies. The tools may be changing, but the diligent methodology leading to their implementation remains the same.
eDiscovery Days Yet to Come
Regardless of what the future brings (more AI, TAR 12.0, document review hoverboards), the approach with developing, evaluating, testing, and implementing new technologies should remain the same. We need to be aware of and understand new technologies, but we cannot lose sight of the data, processes, and people tied to these solutions.
- Remaining focused on data management is critical to control everything from volume to database fields and field values. It doesn’t help to have the latest and greatest technologies if the data is messed up.
- Understanding how, when, and where solutions fit into workflows to supplement or improve existing IT doesn’t help to implement new technologies if your processes are still not saving you time and money.
- Aligning the right people with the data, processes, and technology and recognizing the different interactions and impact. Technology can change the way we work and how we interact with processes and tools, but rarely does it eliminate the human element. There is almost always someone entering the prompts, training the tools, or QCing the results.
- Always being mindful of security regardless of the solution. None of the above items matter, if you ignore or forget security. Security is a must have – not a nice to have option that you can gloss over.
The solutions and impact may change throughout the years, but finding, developing, or integrating the latest technology should continue through the same due diligence and innovative thinking that makes this industry great. In the always changing realm of eDiscovery technology, the echoes of Dickens’s ghosts resonate through the days of past, present, and future.
Like Scrooge, we’ve journeyed from the simplicity of printing and coding emails to the complexities of generative AI, with Ferris Bueller’s admonition as a constant reminder. The eDiscovery Days of the past, with banker boxes and printed emails, have given way to present-day innovations, marked by the omnipresence of AI across industries.
As we glimpse into the future, where AI continues to shape every landscape, the core principles of data management, workflow integration, human collaboration, and unwavering security must remain steadfast. As Dickens’s spirits guided Scrooge, let us look to the lessons of past, present, and future, and embrace all the change coming our way while preserving the foundations that make this industry resilient and forward-thinking.