How one 'big data' tool is transforming the e-discovery process

Electronic discovery software from vendors like kCura uses analytics to help companies avoid fines associated with failing to produce relevant documents related to lawsuits or investigations.

When it comes to electronic discovery, what your company doesn't know could cost you. A whole lot. The good news is that analytics and 'big data' technology is making e-discovery software smarter, helping legal departments avoid costly fines associated with failing to produce all relevant documents related to lawsuits or other government investigations.

Many of us automatically associate the idea of business intelligence and data analytics with sales or industry forecasting tools. But it also is becoming central to next-generation tools for identifying and organizing documents relevant in legal proceedings. That's because the sheer volume of content that must be analyzed in the e-discovery has become staggering: In late 2010, for example, International Data Corp. estimated that the "digital universe" would increase by approximately 50 percent to almost 2 trillion gigabytes of content and information.

All the data can be a huge asset, but it can also be a huge liability. Consider the 2008 case of Qualcomm and Broadcom, which were embroiled in a patent dispute. Along the way, things got ugly when the judge fined Qualcomm $8.5 million for withholding evidence.

Whether or not the omission was intentional or just a huge blunder doesn't really matter, but the amount of information that a business has to analyze and consider when a request emerges can be daunting. Mobile computing is only exacerbating the situation. That's a challenge that technology companies like kCura, a Chicago-based software developer are trying to tackle.

kCura's Relativity is a well-known application among the legal community for considered heaps of structured and unstructured data that might be required for lawsuits or investigations. Structured data would be something such as records in a database or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Unstructured data takes the form of documents or even communication such as instant messages.

"Both types are subject to the same rules and procedures, but it is increasingly difficult for corporations to monitor this," said Jay Leib, chief strategy officer for kCura.

Relativity helps automate the search and review for documents and information that might be "responsive" to information requests -- it also helps identify data that isn't relevant and that might complicate matters. kCura pitches two primary benefits: the software's ability to help save time and the application's ability to help human investigators focus the bulk of their attention on reviewing the information that is really relevant, Leib said.

Paul McVoy, director of litigation support for Milberg LLP, a plaintiff law firm in New York, said kCura's software has helped his company save millions of dollars in manual processing. This is despite the fact that the installation required investments in server hardware and software licenses; that investment was recouped within a year, when the costs Milberg was paying previously to outsource this process are considered. In turn, the investment has positioned Milberg to assist other law firms with this function, he said.

"Analytics bring a whole other layer of functionality," McVoy said. "It allows us to use advanced analytics to review the documents. Now we can group documents together. We can do this with a lot less attorneys. It is another arrow in our competitive quiver."

Could analytics transform your company's e-discovery procedures? It seems like there is an open-and-shut case for every business to at least evaluate the potential benefits.

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