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Optimising eDiscovery: The role of Business Intelligence in legal processes

Modern day legal disputes and investigations are awash with data. Making sense of the data and gaining the insights necessary to win cases off the back of it, is becoming increasingly difficult.

As a result, lawyers have no choice but to ask as many questions about the existing data as possible. But, not being able to glean insights and make decisions based on data in a fast and efficient way puts law firms on the back foot.

Increasingly, those firms embracing new technologies and practices are finding themselves with a strategic fast-track to uncovering the insights that matter most in their case.

This is where the introduction of Business Intellligence (BI) into legal processes is starting to have great impact. It may seem obvious to an outsider, as for years a wide variety of industries from financial services to retail, have been capitalising on BI to balance risk against cost within their organisations.

However for law firms, use of technology to more effectively monitor and track efficiencies within legal process workflows has been tough to deploy.

Increasingly however, we’re accepting that eDiscovery is no longer just a legal process, it’s a business process that needs to be managed accordingly and the provision of access to real-time information about productivity and efficiency will both maximise the success and reduce the costs of the review process.

Considering the document review process accounts for 73 per cent of litigation eDiscovery costs, which in turn may comprise 70 per cent of total litigation costs for cases that don’t go to trial, it seems a natural place to start in terms of making sense of all the available data.

While the movement toward prioritised review has ushered in great opportunities to accelerate review with advanced technology, none of it happens in a vacuum. In order to successfully control the cost, time and quality of review, law firms need to know as much as possible about their team’s review activity, for example:

  • Which reviewers are more (and less) productive?
  • When - and how - are they getting their best work done?
  • Where are they finding the critical documents and what kind of files are they?
  • Which review environments are yielding the best results?
  • How do these results change when I go from issue to issue, day to day, reviewer to reviewer, and data type to data type?

However, these questions are only the beginning. To truly understand the metrics around a review process lawyers need deeper insights than those delivered by pre-canned, static reports provided by many existing platforms on the market.

Instead, they need to be able to ask new questions on the fly and follow where the data leads. An important consideration is that most discovery participants are not skilled at SQL query scripting and chart design. Data mining through review activity needs to be intuitive for the average user, something they can start doing right away without a training session or a user manual.

For this reason, Business Intelligence is the natural evolutionary step in eDiscovery processes, just as it has impacted other industries already. True BI is about more than reports - it’s about empowering typical users to self-direct their inquiries, exploring the available data freely. It’s about users being able to save, update and share their results easily and learning from what the data tells them so they can take meaningful action.

It’s certainly time that the level of interactivity and flexibility other industries have been leveraging for some time, can now be introduced to the eDiscovery process.

For example, in a retail context, a static report would tell a shop owner how many of a particular product they sold. Whereas BI would empower them to investigate why they sold that many by examining patterns over time, comparing with different product lines, and even introducing other data elements.

By providing deeper visibility into a legal team’s review processes, BI can help case managers organise and improve review efforts and environments, staff review projects more intelligently, budget more predictably, and even enhance the accuracy and consistency of both linear and prioritised review.

Analysing review activity is just the first step of a broader vision for the potential of BI within eDiscovery, yet it’s an important first step.

If law firms want to transform their review process with the power of advanced technologies, it’s critical that lawyers can make sense of the case data as well as the data around team’s efforts and results.

Simon Price is UK Managing Director for Recommind.