The Round Table w/Avalon

By: J.P. Midgley, President, Avalon Technologies

January 2012

You  can’t pick up a legal publication or check your email without getting bombarded with articles, advertisements, CLE announcements or case law involving new technology in litigation. Everything is “e-discovery this” or “ESI that”… I am hoping to avoid adding to the mass confusion and bombardment in this article by sorting through the major new technologies released in the last few years.

There is too much technology out there to comprehensively write about all of it in a single article.  Instead, we will focus on two types of new technology and dig into each of them enough to explain 1) what all the fuss is about and 2) give you enough knowledge to know what is out there so you’re prepared when the new case comes in and you ask yourself “Is there anything out there that does this…?”

Email Threading

Email threading takes all the emails in your dataset and organizes them into conversations.  The basic premise is, for example: Joe emails Steve, they then reply back and forth to each other twenty times and then, in the middle of that, they forward the messages to a few others who then join in the conversation. This is what is considered an email thread or conversation thread. While the emails may have all been sent over the course of several days (or weeks), conversation threading groups them all together so you can see the entire conversation during your review.  This is a powerful tool for a couple of reasons. First, it groups the conversations together which can allow for a quick “responsive” or “non-responsive” decision on the whole thread.  Secondly, you can see if there are additional custodians to be collected that you might not have thought about before.

Concept Searching

Concept searching has been around for several years but has just recently started to gain some traction.  In litigation, “concept search” refers to the idea that documents are searched on a concept or idea rather than the basic keyword or Boolean search.  For example, if you search for the term “baseball” you may get some hits.  But, if you ran the term “baseball” in a concept search you might get hits on words like home run, single, foul, strike, pitcher outfield, etc.  As much time as the attorneys and paralegals may spend working up what they think is a comprehensive keyword list that they believe will find the relevant documents in a case, it is still unlikely that their searches would find the amount of relevant documents that can be done with a concept search tool in just a fraction of the time.

The  growing amount of data involved in discovery is forcing both council and vendors to quickly adapt with the times. As long as data volume continues to grow, new technology will be developed to better handle the ESI in discovery.

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