eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Despite What NY Times Says, Lawyers Not Going Away


There was a TV commercial in the mid-80’s where a soap opera actor delivered the line “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”.  Can you remember the product it was advertising (without clicking on the link)?  If so, you win the trivia award of the day!  😉

I’m a technologist who has been working in litigation support and eDiscovery for over twenty years.  If you’ve been reading eDiscovery Daily for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve written several posts regarding significant case law as it pertains to eDiscovery.  I often feel that I should offer a disclaimer before each of these posts saying “I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the Web”.  As the disclaimer at the bottom of the page stipulates, these posts aren’t meant to provide legal advice and it is not my intention to do so, but merely to identify cases that may be of interest to our readers and I try to provide a basic recap of these cases and leave it at that.  As Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations”.

A few days ago, The New York Times published an article entitled Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software which discussed how, using ‘artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost’ (extraneous comma in the title notwithstanding).  The article goes on to discuss linguistic and sociological techniques for retrieval of relevant information and discusses how the Enron Corpus, available in a number of forms, including through EDRM, has enabled software providers to make great strides in analytical capabilities using this large base of data to use in testing.  It also discusses whether this will precipitate a march to the unemployment line for scores of attorneys.

A number of articles and posts since then have offered commentary as to whether that will be the case.  Technology tools will certainly reduce document populations significantly, but, as the article noted, “[t]he documents that the process kicks out still have to be read by someone”.  Not only that, the article still makes the assumption that people too often make with search technology – that it’s a “push a button and get your answer” approach to identifying relevant documents.  But, as has been noted in several cases and also here on this blog, searching is an iterative process where sampling the search results is recommended to confirm that the search maximizes recall and precision to the extent possible.  Who do you think is going to perform that sampling?  Lawyers – that’s who (working with technologists like me, of course!).  And, some searches will require multiple iterations of sampling and analysis before the search is optimized.

Therefore, while the “armies” of lawyers many not need near as many members of the infantry, they will still need plenty of corporals, sergeants, captains, colonels and generals.  And, for those entry-level reviewing attorneys that no longer have a place on review projects?  Well, we could always use a few more doctors on TV, right?  😉

So, what do you think?  Are you a review attorney that has been impacted by technology – positively or negatively?   Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.