Thought Leader Interview with Dean Brown of Ipro, Part Two: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

I recently interviewed Dean Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Ipro Tech.  We covered so much with regard to eDiscovery trends that we couldn’t fit it all in a single blog post.  Part One of my interview was published Wednesday, here is part two.

That example you just mentioned is a great lead into my next question also about the pandemic. How do you feel that the pandemic and increased remote work has impacted the legal and eDiscovery industry overall?

That’s a great question. I think it somewhat varies by segment.  As you know, Ipro works with corporate, government, law firms and legal service providers. I think many of them were in different places in terms of their ability to quickly respond.  As I said, our services team was able to quickly step in, even for customers who were using our software on-premises.  They were able to take that case or matter and put it into the cloud and our services team was able to step in and take over or supplement them with no loss of continuity. 

But, speaking more generally, the whole marketplace is pretty interesting right now. I think all the trial and deposition management services have been dramatically affected. For the law firms and their ability to execute on some of the mechanics around that, the work that’s going on right now with remote depositions using tools like Zoom and even some of the prototypes that are being done with remote trials is fascinating.  And, we participated in a couple of those trials – our TrialDirector 360 product is absolutely perfect for virtual environments. 

On the eDiscovery side, it’s been interesting to watch, partly because of the hybrid I mentioned, but also because of the conversations that have accelerated. So, whether it’s our corporate, government or law firm customers doesn’t really matter.  We’ve had deeper conversations around the general issues of business continuity. Early in the pandemic, the focus was on addressing headcount shortages and “fail over” processes to address them. As the pandemic has progressed, we’ve progressed into deeper discussions about not just COVID, but continuity issues in general. 

Initially, the focus was reactive. But, now from an industry standpoint, the conversations have turned from reactive to proactive and that’s exciting. The right conversations to happen are along the lines of ensuring that businesses, whether they’re law firm or corporate, don’t experience the kind of reactive element that we had three months ago when something happens in the future. These are tough times and the conversations are not easy but our customers and partners will emerge in a much better place, having gone through this. The toll on humans can’t be understated. We have customers who have physically lost people to this pandemic and that’s tragic.  But, I’m proud of the community and how it’s working through this and looking to come out better prepared in the future.

You’ve already touched on business continuity and discussion of processes as trends for corporations. What are some of the other emerging eDiscovery trends you’ve seen for corporations before and since the pandemic?

I would also probably put our government customers in that same conversation.  I think the eDiscovery marketplace has been a slower adopter for technology in general as compared to other marketplaces.  That is accelerating. On the corporate side, to use that example of a small legal operations team that was down a couple of headcount – they went into a hybrid relationship with our services team.  That helped them through that “blip”. But what we’re also seeing with that same customer and with other customers is their adoption of other technology to augment their workflows.  Whether it be Technology Assisted Review (TAR)/Continuous Active Learning (CAL) or other types of technology, they are moving to implement analytics to better cull and assess data, leading to less reliance on the linear review of millions of documents.

Earlier, you mentioned the acquisition and one of the things we’re very excited about is the ability to move analytics capabilities and eDiscovery further forward, making decisions sooner as part of the info governance/compliance conversation.  Or, move your insights around things like investigations much earlier in the process and work with information where it sits. Search in place, understand where PII/PHI/PCI is located and preview the data without having to physically move terabytes of data. During litigation, you now have the ability to be over inclusive during the preservation process to avoid risk in spoliation but only target and collect what’s really pertinent. If you perform analytics earlier, allowing some of the labor reducing those data sets to be done by the machines, then you optimize your legal operations teams and your reviewers and others later in the process. Now they’re focused on a much potentially smaller relevant data set. Law Firms can look at this as an opportunity to work closer with Corporations; some of our corporate customers have embraced this technology to build a tighter relationship with Outside Counsel where they’re involved much earlier in the process.

So, we’ve really seen the customers embrace both the use of analytics and use of technology in general to accelerate parts of their workflows, where in the past, they may have been relying on brute force.  That’s exciting, and as a technologist, I absolutely believe it’s the right thing.  We have a couple of customers who are processing more than a petabyte of information per year and we have customers with 40 million records in some of their cases. We can’t continue with this path; we must innovate and embrace new technology and better information governance. Even with keeping the data in-place, one of our customers has over 1.6 billion documents under index – humans simply can’t scale to that. In some ways, this pandemic has forced organizations to acknowledge that and look for more scalable ways to engage with that data in place.

What about government agencies?  Are there any unique emerging eDiscovery trends you’ve seen for government agencies before and since the pandemic?

I think the government agencies do have some unique challenges. In some cases, their challenge with the explosion of data may be even larger than corporations – especially as you think about things like FOIA and information requests.  I think the actions that government agencies are taking are similar, but with some slightly different applications. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest and concern from our government clients – both Federal and State/Local – around the sheer bombardment of these information requests. Now, that’s only picking up with some of the potential litigation and concerns coming out around COVID and exacerbated by CCPA in California. The information requests along with their security requirements are overwhelming the government agencies.  The only way they can scale up to deal with those is with some of the technologies we were just discussing.

The ability to produce them as well is the other question. It’s not just finding the info – you need to be able to produce it at scale levels that are historically just untenable for humans. So I have great appreciation for the struggles that our government agencies are going through. They are also not immune to staff issues –many of them are operating with reduced staffs and they’ve been historically operating with reduced budgets. So, the question becomes, how do they work smarter, not harder?  In addition, their purchasing cycles make it more difficult for them to adopt technology quickly.  All the government agencies that we’re engaged with are deeply immersed right now and trying to understand these technical accelerators and how they can try to repurpose budget now or think about how to strategically move down these paths, to reduce their reliance on human-centric approaches.

We’re not done yet!  The third and final part of my interview with Dean Brown will be published on Monday.

So, what do you think?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my 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.

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