Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Da Silva Moore, Global Aerospace, and Kleen Products – Hyped Triumvirate, But Dispositive Opinion Is Yet To Come

Three recent cases have taken the spotlight in the eDiscovery world, lauded as groundbreaking for their approval of predictive coding. This blog is no exception, having contributed to the commotion, particularly that surrounding Monique da Silva Moore, et. al. v. Publicis Group SA, et al.

In Da Silva Moore, the parties initially agreed to use predictive coding (although they never agreed to all of the details) and Magistrate Judge Peck allowed its use.  Plaintiffs have since attacked Judge Peck and most recently formally sought his recusal from the matter.  That request is currently pending.
Global Aerospace Inc., et al, v. Landow Aviation, L.P. dba Dulles, is the most recent case to address predictive coding, and it goes a step further than Da Silva Moore.  In Global Aerospace, the defendants wanted to use predictive coding themselves, but plaintiffs objected.  Virginia County Circuit Judge James H. Chamblin, ordered that Defendants could use predictive coding to review documents.  Like Da Silva Moore, the court did not impose the use of predictive coding, rather, the court allowed a party to use it upon request.
Kleen Prods., LLC v. Packaging Corp. of Am. goes the furthest, and is perhaps the most interesting of the three predictive coding cases because it is different than Da Silva Moore and Global Aerospace in one very important way: the plaintiffs in Kleen are asking the court to force the defendants to use predictive coding when defendants review their own material.  The court has yet to rule on the issue.
These three cases are in the spotlight because the use of predictive coding is seemingly at issue, and yet, in some ways, predictive coding is only marginally at issue.  Yes, in one sense the courts are ruling upon the technology itself and whether it is viable; if a court allows it to be used, it is implicit recognition that the technology works, at least enough to try it out and see how it goes.  However, these cases are really about who gets to choose the technology and method utilized.  These cases and disputes could exist with fact patterns where the parties are arguing over key word searches or linear review and the analysis would be much the same as they are now with predictive coding.  Can the parties pick and agree to a review method and technology?  In Da Silva Moore, Judge Peck said yes.   Can one party pick how they perform their review?  The Virginia court in Global Aerospace said yes.   Can one party force another party to use certain technologies and methods to perform their review?  The Kleen court has yet to rule on the issue. 
These questions are not new and novel and so far, the answers have not been so either.  Yes, they have allowed the parties to use predictive coding, but like with other technologies, the courts have taken a wait and see approach.  If the predictive coding technologies and/or processes used are unsuccessful in meeting obligations and needs, the courts appear more than willing to make adjustments, and perhaps embrace different technologies at that time; they are willing to give predictive coding a shot, but they are not betting the house on it either.
It is understandable why proponents of predictive coding are happy and view these cases as victories.  After all, these are the first opinions approving the technologies use, even if in a somewhat implicit manner.  However, the industry and the legal community must wait before drawing our final conclusions.  Only after a party has successfully used predictive coding in a case and survived a challenge of the results/end product (not just a challenge of its use) and it is captured in written opinion or order, will a true victory be won by predictive coding proponents.  Until then, predictive coding is still the equivalent of a highly rated draft pick; there is a lot of potential, and most people think it will succeed, including myself, but it still needs to prove itself in the trenches.  The predictive coding industry is bullish about its potential for success, and it may only be a matter of time until they are proved right, but only time will tell.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Plan on Planning – Help Your eDiscovery Personnel Help You

I had lunch with an eDiscovery colleague last week and he related to me a recent case he worked on. A few weeks ago, his client informed him that they had agreed with opposing party to make a production in four days. The client did not have a production population determined, and they had no idea how long it would take to create and run a production before they agreed to the deadline with opposing counsel; they picked a date in no way related to the reality that was their data set. None of this had an effect on their expectations for the viability of the project of course. The result? A rush project, extra people working extra hours to get the job done, tension, and having to renegotiate a new deadline with the opposing party because the date was simply unrealistic given the amount of data eventually involved. Ideal? No. Fun? No. Avoidable? Yes.

The above story exemplifies (although perhaps somewhat to the extreme) the experience eDiscovery personnel (whether in-house, outside counsel, or vendor) have with far too many clients in far too many cases. eDiscovery personnel are often left out of the decision-making process and have to scramble to meet artificially created deadlines that have little or no bearing to the work. We all have deadlines beyond our control, so eDiscovery personnel are no different than most in that regard, however, what can be exasperating for eDiscovery personnel, is that in the case of eDiscovery, the deadlines need not necessarily be so tight and out of our or control, or at least knowledge.

To avoid such rush projects, unobtainable deadlines, and wasted time and money, counsel should plan ahead for eDiscovery and include their eDiscovery personnel in that process, as well as in the negotiation of deadlines, to the extent possible (even if just as a point of reference and knowledge). Some easy things you can do to help your eDiscovery personnel better meet your needs, include:

• Create an eDiscovery Plan ASAP – Ideally you would create this before the case begins or soon thereafter. Be sure to include your eDiscovery personnel in this planning so that they can assist with properly setting eDiscovery related deadlines and expectations.

• Leverage Your eDiscovery Personnel’s Expertise – A classic example would be engaging them for search term analysis before agreeing to terms with the opposing party and before you make any productions. Provide the terms to your eDiscovery personnel for testing and sampling, leveraging their ability to write searches and manipulate review platforms. Via such exercises, they can sample documents testing for precision and recall, with the ultimate goal being to create a data set that is defensible and proportionate to the value of the case.

• Do Not Agree to eDiscovery Deadlines Before You Know What the Job Will Entail and Without Input from Your eDiscovery Personnel About How and If It Can Be DoneI-Med Pharma, Inc. v. Biomatrix, Civ. No 03-3677 (DRD), (D.N.J. 2011) is a great of example of why you need to know what the task entails before agreeing. The plaintiff’s in the matter agreed to search terms without testing them and without the advice of their eDiscovery personnel. The terms generated over 64 million hits and 95 million pages, unreal (and expensive) numbers.

• Build in Extra Time and Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute – The only thing worse than trying to complete a complex and important project precisely and accurately, is doing so with little notice and no time for mistakes. By engaging your eDiscovery personnel early in a matter, you not only put them on notice, but it will help them help you obtain the knowledge you need to negotiate and enter into reasonable deadlines and tasks with plenty of time.

You may be asking Why should I do all this, after all, are not my eDiscovery personnel paid to work for me? The answer is, aside from making your eDiscovery personnel happier and more motivated, it will also improve your case; you will have more time to do a better job and implement quality control measures, the court and opposing party will appreciate that you can deliver on what you promise, and by planning ahead, you can create cost saving efficiencies and avoid increased fees for rushed projects.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Consolidation of Services and Functionality: A Growing Trend in the eDiscovery Field. Will It Cost Customers in the Long Run?

Reed Smith, a US based international law firm, announced this week that they would be bringing Relativity in-house, continuing their expansion into the eDiscovery market (in 2011, the firm established a team dedicated to eDiscovery that has grown to over 50 lawyers). This marks a developing trend in the industry; many law firms are taking deliberate steps to ensure they keep eDiscovery work in-house and take back any business they may have lost to traditionally lower cost eDiscovery vendors and service providers. From the firms’ perspective, this makes sense; keep as much business inside the walls as possible, even if that means making capital expenditures.

Reed Smith indicated they would utilize Relativity primarily for document review, which is a relatively cheap (from the firms perspective) and easy way for the firms to make money off their clients. Money, that previously often went to eDiscovery vendors who offered superior technology. Many other firms are employing a similar strategy. With the acquisition of programs like Relativity, the vendors no longer clearly offer superior technology, and decisions about who performs the work become more contingent on relationships, which are often to a law firm’s advantage. In the long term, this is smart business for the firms.

From the clients’ perspective though, this could mean higher costs, as law firms traditionally charge higher rates than their eDiscovery vendor counterparts do. For the eDiscovery vendors, it obviously hurts them, as Firms like Reed Smith will take some, although not all, business that the vendors previously attracted because they had better technology and tools.

Software companies are likewise consolidating the functionality they provide either via development or via acquisition. One need not look any further than KCura’s Relativity for an example of the former, while Symantec ‘s acquisition of Clearwell is a clear example of the latter. Both KCura and Symantec offer products regarded as best in class, and both are aggressively expanding those products’ capabilities, sometimes at the expense of other less dynamic companies and products that not that long ago were consider must-haves in the eDiscovery world.

KCura is aggressively developing Relativity, once limited to review functionality, on both the front and backend of the review process. KCura is improving Relativity’s processing capabilities, adding the ability to ingest and process raw/native data, and creating tools like Fact Manager, which allows users to track and manage important facts, people, and documents within Relativity. The first improvement is a direct attack on programs like Law Prediscovery, while the later provides direct competition to CaseMap, a Lexis product.

By developing and adding these new functions, KCura has not only increased Relativity’s value and utility, but it is threatening formerly symbiotic products by poaching their customers; if you are going to use Relativity for a given matter, and especially if you are going to use it for multiple matters, it simply makes more sense to use the functionality built into Relativity and included in the price rather than license and pay for multiple products. While products like Law Prediscovery and CaseMap and will remain viable options for those not using Relativity, they will also begin to see their customer base shrink because of Relativity, which could mean difficult times ahead if they are unable to adapt quickly.

What all of this consolidation and expansion likely means is that it is going to be more difficult for the small and niche services and software providers to survive. eDiscovery shopping may become more convenient, as one-stop shops and applications become more common, but it may also become more expensive, as customers are forced to pay law firm prices and purchase programs that do everything and have a price tag to show for it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Da Silva Moore Update: Judge Peck Responds to Plaintiffs' "Scorched Earth" Campaign

In the latest twist in the Da Silva Moore predictive coding case, Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck has responded to Plaintiffs' personal attack on him.

In a two page Order specifically addressing Plaintiffs' March 28, 2012 letter requesting Judge Peck's recusal, Judge Peck projects an aura of control, restraint, and is matter of fact in his statements. Judge Peck states:

"The Court notes that my favorable view of computer assisted review technology in general was well known to plaintiffs before I made any ruling in this case, and I have never endorsed Recommind's methodology or technology, nor received any reimbursement from Recommind for appearing at any conference that (apparently) they and other vendors sponsored, such as Legal Tech. I have had no discussions with Mr. Losey about this case, nor was I aware that he is working on the case. It appears that after plaintiffs' counsel and vendor represented to me that they agreed to the use of predictive coding, plaintiffs now claim that my public statements approving generally of computer assisted review make me biased. If plaintiffs were to prevail, it would serve to discourage judges (and for that matter attorneys) from speaking on educational panels about ediscovery (or any other subject for that matter). The Court suspects this will fall on deaf ears, but I strongly suggest that plaintiffs rethink their 'scorched earth' approach to this litigation."

Judge Peck’s response is in sharp contrast to Plaintiffs’ emotional and personal attach levied against the Judge. I applaud Judge Peck for taking the highroad and sticking to the facts, while still making his points. I am sure there will be more to come from this case and the eDiscovery News blog will keep you posted with any updates we become aware of.

To read the eDiscovery News blog’s original post about Plaintiff’s attack on Judge Peck please use the following link:
Monica Bay of Law Technology News wrote an interesting article summarizing some of the commentary of Plaintiffs’ attack. That article can be reached via the following link: