2022 Trends in eDiscovery

Contributed by Ari Mandel, Gulfstream Legal Group’s VP of Discovery Services

There can be no doubt that eDiscovery entered a new age in 2022. So many things changed in 2020, when teams were forced to adopt a remote style working environment. When cloud technology became less of a luxury and more of a necessity, something strange happened: legal practitioners began to experience the very practical benefits of contemporary technology. As a result, the industry’s views and perceptions about newer, creative legal technology have shifted.

For example, 96 percent of legal practitioners anticipate cloud-based eDiscovery will be the standard by 2024, indicating that the legal sector has entered a new era. Machine learning advancements in eDiscovery workflows have already demonstrated their ability to alter eDiscovery, in some cases reducing reviewable data quantities by up to 80%. On top of that, the emergence of new types of discoverable data, such as A/V files, has increased the size of data sets, demanding new ways for efficient, effective evaluation.

What does this all mean for eDiscovery today, then?

Here are a few 2022 trends in eDiscovery that may indicate the future of the legal and eDiscovery sectors.

Discovery of Collaboration App Data

Zoom was brilliant during the pandemic, but it is not exactly helping eDiscovery professionals now. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Slack are examples of cloud communication platforms that produce a growing volume of discoverable data. Managing complex data kinds can frequently have a detrimental effect on traditional review procedures. For instance, the size, cost, and modification required to make A/V files searchable all make them typically huge files. To effectively assess various file types, lengthy (and rambling) discussions must be sorted through using automated transcribing techniques.  Chat, message, and mobile/app data types are also becoming crucial in court cases. Future eDiscovery experts will need to be able to connect discussions that are distributed across various platforms and communication channels and manage more data than ever before.

Most information is unstructured, and it is all over. Word papers, digital photographs, Zoom calls, emails, and texts are all examples of unstructured data. Unstructured data lacks a recognizable framework or specified data model, which makes it challenging for computer programs to store and manage effectively.

Structured data, on the other hand, can be a component of a larger system of interconnected and interacting pieces and is found in relational databases and complicated applications. Like the spotless kitchen pantries you see on home organization shows, structured data is organized and confined with each item carefully categorized and labeled. On the other hand, unstructured data is more akin to a disorganized garage filled to the brim with various odd items that were never given a sensible place to be stored.

This perspective makes it simple to understand why structured data is useful for eDiscovery. Because it is simple to store, find, and analyze, structured data can help companies save a significant amount of time, money, and energy. Law firms and corporate legal departments will need to be able to manage structured data to stay competitive as more corporations migrate to the cloud—systems that are frequently built on structured data models.

“The pandemic brought the rapid adoption of collaboration tools, increasing significantly the number of enterprises who rely on collaboration and chat messaging applications,” said Michael Quartararo, President of ACEDS, in eDiscovery Today. “Now, however, organizations are moving past surviving the upheaval, and governance is becoming more important as organizations seek to understand what tools they have and where the data is.”

When a collection of hard drives was given to an eDiscovery team in the past, reviews frequently started at that point. These drives contained a large amount of unstructured data. The disks included a variety of files, but most of them were unrelated to one another, especially when viewed through a relational database management system (RDBMS). PowerPoint presentations stood out from Word documents, which in turn stood apart from texts, videos, social media posts, and other forms of data.

However, structured data has emerged as a key area of focus for eDiscovery initiatives during the past few years. Names, addresses, credit card numbers, financial information, and other sorts of data that are conveniently kept in an RDBMS are frequently included in structured data, which is typically quantitative in nature.

Looking forward, these data sources once called “special documents” will become your standard data. No longer the “special” request, data from collaborative applications will be as much as the norm as email and traditional eDiscovery unstructured data types. With a slew of cases bringing judicial direction toward the handling of these data sets, technology will innovate to solve the challenge gaps in collection, review, and production.

IT Teams Will Continue to Struggle to Master eDiscovery

For the record, let me express my admiration and gratitude for IT. I have a lot of friends that work in this field, and they are actual experts. The problem, in my opinion, is that IT teams usually undervalue or are unaware of the difficulty in architecting eDiscovery systems and the difficulty in maintaining them. I do not think it is acceptable to expect IT to bring the kind of specialized knowledge and support personnel needed for eDiscovery to the table.

When the IT function in many of the accounts we support realizes that we offer expertise they lack and that we do not intend to replace them, they exhale in relief. To convince IT that we want to collaborate with them rather than against them, we frequently need to persuade them. In many cases, the IT team’s reaction to our presence is the key factor in determining the kind of effect we may have on a client. Then why do we think IT teams will continue to struggle with eDiscovery?

For one, in contrast to departments or functions, eDiscovery is a highly technologically complicated enterprise. Attending conferences, reading articles, studying technical specifications, and gaining knowledge from practical experience in a variety of settings are all necessary to keep current in this field. Most IT professionals lack the necessary time, effort, and concentration to become experts in this field.

Also, eDiscovery frequently calls for very quick reaction times and round-the-clock assistance, sometimes for international operations. Many IT teams are understaffed for this type of support, often required by litigators and other eDiscovery users.

Lastly, in my experience, many IT professionals appear to suffer with a few cultural peculiarities that are specific to this business. Collaborating with attorneys and their staff calls for a specific style and method. These folks frequently have strong personalities and demand the best results in the shortest amount of time. IT professionals can very easily come to feel undervalued and disrespected.

So, what will we see moving forward in eDiscovery? If your IT team is currently responsible for designing and maintaining your eDiscovery environment, I would urge you to consider other options. Next, I advise you to perform a top-down analysis of your eDiscovery operation. Whether you acquire it from Gulfstream Legal Group or from another provider, the knowledge you will get from this exercise will change your views on utilizing IT to manage your eDiscovery.

We Will See More Legacy Solutions Discontinued, at a Higher Frequency

Users of legacy software should be extremely cautious considering recent reports that IPRO is retiring Eclipse SE and Thomas Reuters is discontinuing eDiscovery Point. Due to the emergence of significant cloud-based platforms, certain eDiscovery firms have wisely decided to retire software that will not be functional in 2022. However, it is the end users who must cope with the most important effects of these choices.

Adopters of on-prem solutions typically must budget a sizable amount of money for the management and upkeep of their outdated platforms, and when these solutions are retired, they are left with two options: continue using the solution without additional security or technical support or participate in the search for a new solution. If you are already using an on-premises system, this could be the ideal time to take preventative action.

Increased Use of Cloud-based eDiscovery Solutions

This pattern is not new. Due to the comfort and accessibility of cloud tools, it has been going on for a long time, but it accelerated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But the change is now occurring so quickly that, according to a study done earlier this year by Gartner, cloud services will displace more than half of on-premises IT systems by 2025.

Moving away from on-prem services in the case of eDiscovery software has several advantages:

  • Cost Reduction: Cloud services are more tailored to the demands of each customer and offer pay-as-you-go choices, so you may receive more value for your money.
  • Regular Updates: Cloud software, in contrast to conventional on-premises tools, is continuously enhanced and upgraded without requiring you to boost your spending or purchase a new tool.
  • Scalability: Some eDiscovery tools, such as Logikcull, support an unlimited number of users and are accessible at anytime, anywhere. This makes it simple to scale up or down as necessary, in addition to its simplicity of usage.
  • Speed: Modern cloud-based technology typically runs faster and more smoothly than on-premises software since it is continually being updated.
  • Security: Data stored by on-premises services is kept on local devices, making them more susceptible to hacker attacks if a device is mishandled. In contrast, cloud eDiscovery services encrypt data and safeguard it with the greatest standards of security, enabling the conduct of the full discovery procedure from a single, ultra-secure location.

Given all these factors, it makes sense that eDiscovery will keep moving to the cloud in 2023. With all the world’s major markets, SaaS and cloud solutions are on track to surpass on-premises IT strategies. By 2025, public cloud computing will account for more enterprise IT investment than traditional IT, predicts Gartner. According to Gartner, cloud services will generate $655 billion in revenue by 2023, an increase of $111 billion from 2022.

The transition to the cloud in the legal industry has stalled, as it has with many other technical advancements. But more legal firms are adopting cloud strategies, and those that do are reaping significant rewards from them. According to one member of the Forbes Technology Council, moving to the cloud and SaaS can reduce the costs of legal firms by as much as 60%.

Given the state of the industry, cloud-based solutions, even those that are not only for eDiscovery use cases, have long since attained widespread use. And it is impossible to overstate the advantages of the cloud.

Legal practitioners who do not use cloud-based eDiscovery technology face 37 percent more obstacles during the discovery process than their peers who do, according to a recent 2022 eDiscovery Innovation Report. The cloud offers tremendous mental tranquility. On-prem adopters reported paying more at each stage of the eDiscovery process, according to the same survey. If you are not already using the cloud, perhaps this is the right time to consider making the switch.