AMA with Everlaw Founder and CEO, AJ Shankar

Recently, Everlaw’s Founder and CEO, AJ Shankar, sat down for an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) discussion with members of the Everlaw Ediscovery Community, where community members had the chance to ask him questions about the state of the legal industry, navigating rapid change within it, and what the future holds for ediscovery.

Below are highlights from the conversation:

Where do you see the state of ediscovery in the next five years?

AJ: Looking back at the last five years, I can’t predict what’s going to happen! But one thing is looking pretty clear: the inevitable, dominant paradigm is that discovery is going to be in the cloud, for all the reasons other industries have already moved to the cloud: availability, accessibility, scale, security (if done right), faster updates, pay for what you use. Everybody we talk to has a plan for the cloud.

In five years, we’ll have even broader data sources and will need to keep up predominantly with cloud-based software (for expanding computing power to handle increasing data volume). Also, with the rise of remote work, cloud-based software will need to support better and more frequent virtual collaboration.

What are the new and upcoming forms of ESI? Do you have any predictions?

AJ: There’s so much data being produced—I can’t even fathom it. A few forms off the top of my head: Salesforce, Zendesk, Github, Zoom, and Teams. Think of all the cloud tools used every day. There are so many more options now than what used to be stored on a computer.

Also, with the addition of remote work, we’ll continue to see increases in volume in things like video and chat. If you ask yourself where do you spend your time, you will see how many places that type of info resides. It’s a question of keeping up with the range of file types and volume of data.

Criminal defense needs additional tools to capture and summarize information not tied to specific documents. Does Everlaw have plans to develop much-needed tools (perhaps within Storybuilder) to assist criminal defense attorneys?

AJ: Yes! As you know, we have a growing set of clients that use Everlaw for criminal defense. We intend to continue expanding the support we provide beyond document review, including both earlier in (anticipated) litigation—like with our legal holds tool—and later in litigation, with continued improvements to Storybuilder, including Drafts and Depositions. If there are specific tools you want to see Everlaw develop, please feel free to share them in the community!

How do you think the ability to edit text messages will affect collection and review?

AJ: Interesting question! In a way, this mimics live cloud documents (e.g., a link will point to the latest version and may have a history of the changes). This is a common challenge; Google has some ways to support these changes, but ultimately it comes down to how it’s stored and if they have the different versions stored.

These formats they’re represented in are designed for functionality, not discoverability, so this will make review harder, but it’s not all doom and gloom! An overwhelming amount of messages that are sent are not edited, so there is plenty of info you can derive from those messages.

There are a bunch of new tools out there, but I haven’t had a chance to learn how to use many of them. How can I learn more about these newer (and at times more complex) tools so I can use them in my practice?

AJ: In this space, ediscovery vendors must keep up with what’s coming down the pipeline, which means adding more functionality. Your job as a professional in the space is not to be an ediscovery (or Everlaw) master but to effectively and efficiently get things done for your job with the tools available at your disposal.

There are many ways you can uplevel your working knowledge of newer functionality. For example, Everlaw users can read through our notes for each feature release cycle and easily play around with new features on the platform (Everlaw’s features are designed to be discoverable on the platform so you can play around with them & explore). We also run live trainings every quarter that just cover new features.

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What do you see as the most important change coming to Everlaw in the next six months?

AJ: There are so many, including a couple of dozen features in development, but there are a few user-facing features that I’m especially excited for: 

  • Conversation Visualizer. A graphical way to explore conversational data, zoom in on particular date ranges, and look for interesting behavior.
  • Difference Viewer. It allows you to compare multiple different docs simultaneously, like 5-10 similar docs, where you can view them in a unified format.
  • Cloud Connectors. This creates a framework for connecting many new cloud sources to the Everlaw platform. 

And, from a non-product standpoint: Everlaw Summit, our first in-person conference, is set for next month (November 2-4) in San Francisco! We hope you all can attend!

What’s your favorite Pixar movie?

AJ: The Incredibles!

Are you interested in expanding your knowledge of ediscovery while also making meaningful connections with experts in the space? If so, make sure to learn more about the Everlaw Ediscovery Community!