As we emerge from a long period of Zoom meetings and remote depositions, hearings, and even trials (all of which primarily involved attorneys working independently), we will soon find out if the technology we used during the pandemic will become a permanent part of our practice.
I started practicing law in the early days of ediscovery, and despite their incredible appearance back then, the first ediscovery platforms were not built to be DIY. Instead, they required a tremendous amount of support just to make them work. This led to the emergence of litigation assistance specialists responsible for ensuring that data received from opposing parties were compatible with the platforms used by their firms, uploading this data to the firm’s platform, and then performing a series of sometimes complex and often indecipherable operations steps for the text, image, and metadata associated with a document to display correctly on screens.
Challenges with the Ediscovery Process
The process was both time-consuming and expensive, and it all had to happen before the first document could be reviewed. This is because when the opposing lawyer data arrived, legal professionals had to send it to the litigation support staff to handle the upload and processing. It may take days, or even a week or more, before they could actually start preparing your case. Additionally, most early document review projects required consultation prior to setting up the review environment, such as identifying search terms and custodians that would be prioritized, not to mention training reviewers on the use of the platform, which was sometimes not the same as the platform used to manage the data.
Suppose legal professionals have gone halfway through the review and realized that the new custodians or terms were larger than initially expected. In that case, it might require a serious retooling, or worse, a complete overhaul. And where was the data kept? It was on the company’s servers and was often only accessible on the local network. If they found out that they needed a document while testifying out of town, they had to take a break, hoping that the person in charge of litigation assistance called them and asked that the document be either faxed or printed. If they’re lucky, this might work. Otherwise, tough. What if this server crashes or is not properly backed up? Again, tough.
My point here is not to complain about how “you kids have it so easy these days,” but to show that because of the way ediscovery platforms worked, lawyers conducting a case often had the least knowledge about the documents that were assembled, the formats in which clients and opposing parties kept their data, and how the review was conducted, all essential to understanding how to approach and judge a case. It was not ideal.
Everlaw: A Modern Ediscovery Solution
Fortunately, things are better now. Most of the major ediscovery platforms are now cloud-based, fast, less expensive, and, more importantly, managed primarily by lawyers themselves. So if you are a DIY lawyer, like most of us were last year, the era of DIY eDiscovery has arrived.
My favorite platform for DIY ediscovery is Everlaw. It is completely cloud-based, which means you only need a browser to use the platform; no installation is required. I can take documents from clients and opposing parties (native, PDF, or preprocessed) and upload them directly from my computer — no middleman and no wait required. Everlaw automatically analyzes uploaded documents, extracts text, gathers required metadata, and prepares documents for review in (almost) real time. So instead of waiting for days or weeks, I can start revising right away.
Perks of Everlaw’s Ediscovery Platform
If I want to add another reviewer, just invite them by email; there is no additional cost per user. Scaling for bigger reviews is instant and at no additional cost. If, as often happens, we find that certain custodians or terms are more important than originally intended, we can change persistent highlights, codes, and revise settings on the fly. Predictive coding models (there may be multiple) are also updated in real time based on feedback from reviewers across the database. The only charges for the service are the hosting charges based on the number of gigabytes uploaded into the platform.
Producing documents is as easy as uploading them; privilege logs can be created automatically, and there is no additional cost for production. Like other cloud-based services, when new features are added, you get them instantly. There is no charge for a new version every few years. It’s also blazingly fast, has an attractive and easy-to-understand user interface, and the security is industry-leading. Basically, if you can figure out how to share a photo on Facebook, you can figure out how to review and produce documents on Everlaw.
Final Thoughts on the Future of Ediscovery
At the heart of these changes is the focus on end-user empowerment, which means that lawyers can be at the center of the ediscovery process — which, in turn, should translate into higher efficiency, lower costs, and better outcomes for clients, which is the whole point of legal technology in the first place. So if you’re looking to change the way you do ediscovery, now it’s as easy as going online and doing it yourself.