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eDiscovery at LegalTech – No ‘search’ needed.

1 Feb 2017 by Alan Byrne

I must have heard the term eDiscovery 1,500 times today whilst walking the exhibition floor at LegalTech 2017. As the amount of data we generate, collect and store grows exponentially each month, finding relevant emails, documents and other data related to a legal or litigation request has obviously become more and more difficult. Solutions to this problem are well represented at the LegalTech conference this year, with almost every third exhibitor showing off their latest eDiscovery and Search tools.

Even Microsoft is at the party this year, showing off some rather impressive enhancements to their Office 365 eDiscovery toolkit – including a range of features they acquired when they purchased Equivio 2 years ago. The types of deep, fast, search analysis and discovery that the Equivio engine allows for is truly staggering.  One of the ‘Equivio/now Microsoft’ product managers kindly took me through some of the features that they are rolling out in the next few months and I was pleased to discover that their compliance engine is backed by ElasticSearch, which is the same technology we utilise for the Cogmotive Discover & Audit application. It’s always nice to know that our engineers make the same technical decisions as those at Microsoft.

I first wondered why there were so many different eDiscovery vendors out there – surely they’re all doing the same thing!  But after speaking with so many of them it became clear that each vendor’s toolkit was specialised to work with a specific type of data.  Some specialised in text messages, others in IM messages, TIFF documents and dozens more file formats and data sources. It seems that these vendors focused both on the collection and the analysis of data.

Even Microsoft can’t compete with all these companies directly, as their eDiscovery tools can only access data that exists on the Office 365 platform.  This opens the door for 3rd party companies to develop tools within their own niche to collect data and provide the tools to search the data.

Other 3rd party companies specialise in collecting the data for import into existing eDiscovery services.  One such example is on display at Quadrotech’s booth (number #1418 where I’ll be based this week – feel free to drop by for a chat!). Their latest tool helps organisations gather PST files that may be lurking on their employees’ laptops, local devices, amongst other places, and helps ingest them into Exchange, Office 365 or Enterprise Vault. The tool gathers information without relying on IT involvement, and the advanced search capabilities mean that files can be gathered and organised by case ID, so that eDiscovery tools from other vendors can easily access and analyse the content.

Microsoft are also aware that while they have superior eDiscovery search capabilities, it’s only useful on the data sets that they have access to.  They have recently launched a program that allows these 3rd parties to provide data streams into Office 365 so that these compliance tools can search and categorise data sources outside of what is traditionally available on Office 365.

With so many vendors out there, it’s not easy to ‘search’ for the best eDiscovery tool for the job?

The answer isn’t obvious, but there are some indicators that may help narrow down the field.  It’s clear that with the amount of data being created, collected and stored each day – even by a modest-sized organisation, it’s too much for a normal on-premises server to handle.  To effectively trawl through thousands of users, millions of documents and billions of words for a single eDiscovery case you really need the power of cloud services behind you. No organisation is going to pay for a “Cloud amount” of on premises servers for a quarterly eDiscovery request. The scalable and elastic nature of cloud resources means that you can provide a superior level of service to your legal counsel, at an inferior cost. To leverage these kinds of highly intelligent services would have previously demanded the kind of capital outlay that is out of reach of most organisations.

Today was an interesting introduction into the eDiscovery world.  Tomorrow I’m going to find out about companies outside of this space that are contributing to the Legal Tech world!