The world of eDiscovery is at a tipping point. Clients and customers expect their lawyers and law firms to do more than ever, managing and parsing an unprecedented volume of data quickly and effectively. At the same time, they’re demanding lower costs, better-controlled budgets, and transparent billing practices. Law practices that haven’t modernized their workflows are in danger of near-instant obsolescence.
Yet the timing is almost serendipitous: just as those increasing data volumes and intense cost pressures threaten to overwhelm eDiscovery, a solution—modern artificial intelligence or AI—is evolving to meet those challenges.
Developing Technology: The Rise of AI
Gone are the days when our computers simply do what we tell them to do. Today, smart software programs increasingly think for themselves, learn from their experiences, and improve their outputs continuously. AI is already delivering on its promise to save us time and effort in work and at play; while we don’t yet have flying cars or fully functional domestic robots, AI is quietly succeeding in many unrecognized ways. It’s filtering spam out of our email inboxes, helping us choose movies we’ll enjoy, detecting fraudulent credit transactions, and more.
AI is on the rise in the practice of law too, and especially in eDiscovery. We usually think of “big data” as a problem to be managed: How can we possibly crank through processing and reviewing the volume of data that organizations generate today? But AI applications, particularly those using machine learning, turn that perspective on its head. They don’t just tolerate tremendous volumes of data; they actively require those data stores to learn. What would represent information overload for people is necessary for the growth of AI systems.
Business Pressures: The Need for AI
At the same time, legal departments and law firms are no longer being given a pass. Today, they’re being challenged to run as businesses and profit centers rather than cost centers. After all, as one author noted, no one’s clients are sitting around complaining that their lawyers’ rates are too low! Faced with that increasing pressure to predict and control their costs and timelines, lawyers need solutions so they can do more than ever with less.
And that’s where developing AI applications step in.
New Frontiers in AI and eDiscovery
Historically, AI in eDiscovery has been thought of primarily within the review phase. While it’s true that technology-assisted review (TAR) is improving by leaps and bounds, it’s far from the only eDiscovery application of AI. End-to-end eDiscovery solutions are now using AI to streamline collection and processing, winnowing down vast quantities of data into organized, manageable chunks through email threading, batching, and near-deduplication. Concept clustering takes advantage of new developments in natural language processing to help computers recognize concepts regardless of how they’re phrased, grouping data for later review and analysis. And then, of course, improvements in TAR using continuous active learning have revolutionized the way that human review teams receive documents for review.
Another major improvement has been in using AI for early case assessment and litigation analysis. The cheapest form of eDiscovery, after all, is the eDiscovery that you don’t have to do at all! By rapidly compiling and assessing preliminary information and recognizing patterns, organizations are using AI to make better decisions about litigation earlier in the process, saving time and money while reducing the stress associated with low-information decision-making. Businesses are increasingly using metrics as well to analyze their operations and find areas for improvement and savings.
Making the Leap to AI
AI continues to surge forward with new developments and unprecedented capabilities. And it’s just in time, as legal departments, under relentless pressure to maintain budgets, control costs, and run more like a business unit than like a bull in a china shop, are being forced to find new solutions.
When you’re ready to start leveraging technology to improve your eDiscovery, you need to work with partners on the cutting edge. Interested in hearing how you can bring your eDiscovery workflow into the future? Please get in touch—we’re excited to show our clients where AI is taking eDiscovery. Contact us to learn more.