eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Why Predictive Coding is a Hot Topic


Yesterday, we considered a recent article about the use of predictive coding in litigation by Judge Andrew Peck, United States magistrate judge for the Southern District of New York. The piece has prompted a lot of discussion in the profession. While most of the analysis centered on how much lawyers can rely on predictive coding technology in litigation, there were some deeper musings as well.

We all know the reasons why predictive coding is considered such a panacea, but it is easy to forget why it is needed and why the legal industry is still grappling with eDiscovery issues after so many years. Jason Baron, Director of Litigation at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, recently won the 2011 Emmett Leahy Award for excellence in records and information management. He took the opportunity to step back and consider why exactly the problem won’t go away. He believes that technology can help solve our problems, if applied intelligently. “We lawyers types remain stuck in a paradigm that too often relies on people and not automated technologies,” he said.

But he also warns that electronically stored data may soon overwhelm the profession. By now, readers of this blog are familiar with the dire and mind-boggling predictions about the volume of discoverable electronic data being created every day. Litigators are obviously concerned that new types of information and growing volumes of data will swamp the courts, but the problem could affect all aspects of modern life. “At the start of the second decade of the 21st century, we need to recognize that the time is now to prevent what I have termed the coming digital dark ages,” Baron said. “The ongoing and exponentially increasing explosion of information means that over the next several decades the world will be seeing records and information growth orders of magnitude greater than anything seen by humankind to date. We all need better ways to search through this information.”

As one of the leaders of the TREC Legal Track, a research experiment into searching large volumes of data more effectively, Baron has an intimate understanding of the challenges ahead, and he has serious concerns. “The paradox of our age is information overload followed by future inability to access anything of important. We cannot let that future happen” he said, talking to a roomful of records management experts and litigators. “We all need to be smarter in preventing this future dystopia.”

eDiscovery blogger Ralph Losey linked to both Judge Peck’s article and Jason’s speech, and expanded on those thoughts. Losey prefers to believe, as he wrote in a post called The Dawn of a Golden Age of Justice, that lawyers will not only survive, but thrive despite the explosion in information. “We must fight fire with fire by harnessing the new (Artificial Intelligence) capacities of computers,” he says. “If we boost our own intelligence and abilities with algorithmic agents we will be able to find the evidence we need in the trillions of documents implicated by even average disputes.”

So, what do you think? Will Artificial Intelligence in the hands of truth-seeking lawyers save us from information overload, or has the glut of electronic information already swamped the world? Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.