Alex, I’ll Take Nebulous Marketing Terms for $200: eDiscovery Trends

We’ve all seen them and, as this author points out, you’ve probably come across them so much you don’t even it notice anymore.  They are the nebulous marketing terms that Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSP) and legal tech companies use to describe their products.  But, don’t blame them – they probably don’t even realize they’re doing it.

As reported in Legaltech® News (ALSPs, Tech Providers Call Their Tools ‘Best in Breed.’ It’s Become a Misnomer, written by Rhys Dipshan), “best in breed” and “best in class” designations may be becoming anachronisms in an era where legal technology is often customized, and the tech products ALSPs have in their toolkit is determined as much by clients as the service providers themselves.

But, it’s not anything spooky or nefarious – just perhaps outdated. It’s how ALSPs define their arsenal of legal technology, or how legal tech companies describe their products.

Despite these terms’ omnipresence, they may not be all that convincing. “I’m sitting here as a chief technologist type and I see that… that doesn’t mean a lot to me. I still want to talk to the company and see their demo, talk to others, and get impression of the product reviews,” said Kenneth Jones, chief technologist at Tanenbaum Keale.

So why are these terms still used? For one thing, they’re shrewd marketing phrases. “My honest view is that it is very subjective and it is marketing and it is very difficult to disprove,” said Ram Vasudevan, CEO of QuisLex. He explained that “how you define the class or how you define the breed can be done so narrowly that it will be almost impossible to disprove.”

Vasudevan noted that whether a tool is the “best in class” or not “really depends on what the project requires.” As an example, he pointed to redaction software that works well for finding and redacting specific text like names, but not variable numerical text like Social Security numbers.

Exactly.  In addition to “best in breed” or “best in class”, terms like “ease of use” or “end-to-end” are equally marketing oriented, but just as difficult to prove.  At Legaltech New York earlier this year, Kelly Twigger of ESI Attorneys and eDiscovery Assistant pointed out in a meeting how difficult the term “end-to-end” is to prove and how it can mean different things to different people.  Of course, that term (and the other terms) are just as difficult to disprove, which makes them ideal for marketing purposes.  So much so, that the ALSPs and legal tech companies uttering these terms probably don’t even realize how meaningless these “buzzwords” have become.

BTW, if today’s blog post seems a little disoriented, it’s because the power at our house has been out since about 4pm due to thunderstorms in the Houston area (almost 300,000 customers lost power at one point) and it’s now 10pm at night and we’re staying the night at my mother-in-law’s house.  Thanks, Hilda Lewis, for your love and hospitality!

So, what do you think?  Do you feel that eDiscovery providers are too reliant on “buzzwords” to communicate their messages?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

2 comments

  1. Nice one Doug! Reminds me of how a certain market analyst firm broke up their mystical market diagram to make winners of every client provider. Something like those participation awards we see in kindergarten competitions….

  2. Indeed, Greg! I was just talking with an eDiscovery software provider a few minutes ago who said they weren’t going to use the term “end-to-end” anymore. I wanted to end the call right there on a high note, George Costanza style… 😉

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