Trimming Legal Costs and Jobs: A Predictive Coding Unintended Consequence?

July 17, 2012

Predictive coding and eDiscovery are circling the legal communities gossip rings about what it means for the future of legal costs and jobs. The Huffington Post addresses the topic in “ ‘Lawyerbots’ Offer Attorneys Faster, Cheaper Assistants.” The US court system has made new regulations when it comes to eDiscovery technology and how it can be used in court cases. Lawyer, legal professionals, and even the companies licensing various programmatic content processing systems are struggling to understand the upside and downside of the algorithmic approach to coding. One-way eDiscovery and predictive coding will be used is to cut down on the many, many hours of post-processing some electronic documents. This new technology is being referred to as “lawyerbots.”

Lawyerbots cut through the man-hours like an electric knife, saving time and clients money. Many are optimistic about the changes. But some clients are ambivalent:

“But how will clients feel about a computer doing some of the dirty work, instead of a lawyer or paralegal manually digging through documents? Some could be concerned that a computer is more apt to make an error, or overlook crucial information. In a recent study in the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, lawyer labor was tested against lawyerbots with predictive coding software. Researchers found “evidence that such technology-assisted processes, while indeed more efficient, can also yield results superior to those of exhaustive manual review.” In basic terms, the computers had the humans licked.”

Faster and more accurate! It is an awesome combination, but the next question to follow is what about jobs? There are several predictions already out there; the article mentions how Mike Lynch of Autonomy believes the legal community will employ fewer people in the future. Others are embracing the new technology pattern and plan to see changes as the older lawyers retire. Here’s one observation:

“Jonathan Askin, the director of Brooklyn Law School’s Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP)…said, ‘When I look around at my peers, I see 40-year-old lawyers who are still communicating via snail mail and fax machines and telephones and appearing in physical space for negotiations.’ He said he hopes to better merge the legal sector and technology to serve both lawyers and their clients more efficiently.”

We arrive at yet another crossroads: traditional, variable cost ways vs. new, allegedly more easily budgeted approach to content analysis.

As a librarian, I predict, without having to use predictive analytics that eDiscovery will take some legal occupations. Online wrecked havoc in the special library market. However, I am confident that there will still be a need for humans to keep the lawyerbots and maybe the marketers of these systems in check.

After all, software technology is only as smart as humans program it and humans are prone to error.  The lawyerbots will also drive down costs, a blessing in this poor economy, and more people will be apt to bring cases to court, increasing demand for lawyers. In order to get to this point, however, there needs to be an established set of standards on how litigation support software can be programmed, how it can be used, and basic requirements for the processes/code. What’s the outlook? Uncertainty and probably one step forward and one step backwards.

Whitney Grace, July 17, 2012

Sponsored by Polyspot

Predictive Coding Wins Major Case

June 18, 2012

We’ve heard before how data analysis will change how we view and use information, but it will have a huge impact on the legal system. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the following headline, “Pittsburgh Lawyer Wins Landmark Case Involving Use of Predictive Coding In Discovery Process.” Thomas Gricks III, a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, filed to have predictive coding useable in circuit court for ten suits his firm represented. Gricks had more than 2 million documents to sift through and he used predictive coding to characterize the files, so he would only have to review a smaller portion. His strategy worked and has set a precedent for the legal system.

Here’s a prediction for the future:

“Rather than keyword searching of documents, predictive coding uses analytic searching that looks for concepts, said Peter Mansmann, chief executive of Precise Inc., a Downtown-based firm that provides trial consulting, e-discovery and document retention services. ‘It’s kind of new to the legal industry, and though it’s statistically shown to be accurate, people are afraid to use it because they’re not sure if it’s admissible in court,” Mr. Mansmann said. ‘The importance of this case is that now you have a judge who said, ‘Yes. I’m going to accept this as a reasonable approach to handling discovery. It will open the door for this to become a more accepted method. And it’s a huge cost savings. Typically, attorney review is the most expensive part of the process.’ ”

Had Gricks not used predictive coding, he would still have several interns and paralegals sifting through two million documents to find evidence for his clients. He would have had to pay and train those people, but predictive coding takes out man-hours and lowers litigation costs. Content Analyst offers predictive coding technology and solutions as one of the many services it offers their clients. The Content Analyst technology is available for licensing. Worth a look.

Whitney Grace, June 18, 2012

Sponsored by Content Analyst