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It’s been six years since I attended the annual Legaltech event in New York. The last time I was there in February 2010, I had the honor of presenting the Day 1 Keynote, “Don’t Build Your eDiscovery Program on a Digital Landfill.”
I thought it would be useful to share some of the interesting technology developments and trends and a few of the big takeaways I observed at the event. They include:
- “Eye candy” showed up almost everywhere. Analytics visualization has grown up.
- Information management is now information governance.
- Everyone responsible for information management or delivering these solutions should read the December amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) and the associated notes.
- The big, thorny challenge most companies still face is trying to remediate the large number of file share Z, S or G drives, which contain hundreds of terabytes of content.
- Some companies are using e-discovery analysis tools to analyze their vast repositories of contracts.
- Effective e-discovery is more about the people and process now–the technology is pretty good. Also, the focus by many companies is on change management and adoption.
Almost every vendor with an e-discovery analytics or early case assessment solution has now included flashy connection graphs to show relationships between emails and senders or other related concepts. Some of these tools can speed up the analysis of vast amounts of information, but customers need to look under the covers and understand any limitations. For example, one solution I saw had great-looking graphics to depict email threading, conceptual clustering, categorization and near-duplicate identification but could not conduct the analysis on the content in an existing repository. The content had to be extracted to be analyzed. Buyers need to look deeper at these solutions and beyond the pretty “eye candy.”
Information management is now information governance
The buzz phrase I heard in several keynotes and other sessions for information management was information governance. I heard this numerous times, and it showed up on solution provider collateral. My view is if using “information governance” gets the attention of the C-suite and directors and helps the organization to invest in getting a company’s information and data in order, then great. The other thing I noticed was that remediating old content (sometimes called redundant, out-of-date, trivial content or ROT) to reduce risk and improve information and data quality is now called information governance by many. This remediation is also getting the attention of heads of e-discovery and general counsels. So, we have an ally in these organizations who can help support the business case for effectively managing information.
Read the December 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)
This was a recurring theme during the keynote panel discussions, especially by the federal judges. During the opening keynote, which included Hon. James C. Francis, Hon. Lorenzo F. Garcia, Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte, Hon. Andrew J. Peck and Hon. Pamela Meade Sargent, they drove this point home over and over again. My advice to anyone responsible for designing, developing, operating or buying information management, document management, content management or whatever you want to call these solutions is to read the amendments to the FRCP to make sure that you are not introducing any downstream risk that could surface if there is ever any e-discovery of the information managed by these solutions.
File shares everywhere
A common theme in the sessions and keynotes I sat in on was the challenge many companies still face trying to remediate the large number of file share Z, S or G drives, which contain hundreds of terabytes of unclassified, and sometimes unknown, content. This falls into the information governance discussion above. I heard several heads of e-discovery mention this challenge as one of the big risks that they wanted to get after. They see the fact that much of this content is ROT and that most organizations have little idea what is actually contained in these repositories as a big risk. This is not an e-discovery technology problem per se but something that these technologies can help with to analyze content in an attempt to defensibly dispose of the ROT content.
Using e-discovery analysis tools to analyze contracts
Some companies with large repositories of contracts are looking to e-discovery analysis tools to help identify risks, to make sense of this large volume of contracts and to create some structure from these unstructured documents. This challenge often shows up after a merger when the acquiring company inherits a large volume of contracts and need to analyze them in the context of their existing contracts. Readers of DOCUMENT Strategy may want to explore these technologies for other similar challenges.
Effective e-discovery is more about people and process than technology
The technologies supporting e-discovery have continued to improve over the last several years, but an area which has not progressed as fast is user adoption and effective change management programs. Let’s face it: When it comes to the efficacy of a legal hold and preservation order, a company can have the best technology and processes for communicating and tracking legal holds, but it does no good if the employees are not completely compliant. Effective change management programs are critical to making sure that all participants in this very distributed (organizationally and potentially geographically) process fully understand the importance of complying with the legal hold and preservation instructions. Another critical component discussed was the need for senior management attention and emphasis as a part of these change management programs.
What this means for you
I found it interesting that information governance (really, information management) is getting the attention of company general counsels, the C-suite and corporate directors. For information and data managers, practitioners and CIOs, this offers an opportunity to gain support for your programs and solution initiatives, especially if you can show a near-term risk reduction for the organization. For solution providers, this is a potential new group of project sponsors to discuss your solutions, which support information governance and the e-discovery process.
Russell Stalters is the founder of Clear Path Solutions Inc., author of gettinginformationdone.com and is a recognized information and data management expert. Previously, he was the director of information and data management and chief architect for BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. Follow him on Twitter @russellstalters.