Time for another thought leader interview on eDiscovery Today! My latest interview was with the founder and CEO of Prism Litigation Technology, an eDiscovery advisory firm that has been in business for over 23 years!
Mandi Ross is the founder and CEO of Prism Litigation Technology, an eDiscovery advisory firm started in 1997. She is a court-appointed ediscovery expert who has led many successful engagements for both corporate legal teams and outside counsel during her 32-year career. Specializing in the deployment of technology-assisted workflows that operationalize proportionality, she has served as a strategic advisor for some of the largest, most complex lawsuits and investigations in the last three decades. Mandi is also a nationally recognized speaker on eDiscovery-related topics and has developed and provided varying levels of continuing education to the legal community.
Mandi, you and Prism have been providing eDiscovery services for over twenty years – even before it was known as “eDiscovery.” How have you seen the industry evolve over the past 2+ decades?
Well, when I started my litigation support firm back in 1992, discovery was much simpler than it is today, primarily because evidence was only paper based. From a standpoint of automation, it was a much easier workflow because it really only involved scanning and OCR of the paper and objective and subjective coding to extract various pieces of information from those documents. The most common type of review back then was linear review, and that was traditionally handled in products such as Summation and Concordance.
As the digital footprint expanded and became more complex, coupled with the exponential explosion of data, tackling eDiscovery became much more challenging, risky, and expensive. As a result, we’ve really evolved over the last two decades to become a sophisticated eDiscovery advisory firm that understands the challenges clients are facing today. We embrace working in the trenches alongside legal teams to try to solve those problems. Ultimately, our goal is to construct the proper balance of expertise, technology, and workflow, from the litigation hold stage all the way through review and production.
Thanks, Mandi. I certainly remember those early days that you talked about. So, prior to the pandemic, what are some of the biggest eDiscovery challenges you’ve seen that have affected organizations?
Well, although the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure re-emphasized proportionality in litigation, the time and energy that’s dedicated to eDiscovery still often overshadows the merits of the case. Ultimately, discovery is traditionally too expensive, time consuming, and overly broad. From our perspective, the rules always intended discovery to be reasonable, while aligning to the claims and defenses; and yet, there’s still a tendency to over-collect and process, which ultimately leads to large volumes of either marginally-relevant or non-relevant content moving downstream to the more expensive stages of discovery, including processing and review. Even though proportionality is a tool that really can be leveraged by litigators, there’s been a practical struggle with developing a framework that leverages and quantifies proportionality in an early manner.
Well, you just mentioned proportionality as one of the key challenges for organizations in eDiscovery today, and I know your firm, Prism Litigation Technology, has developed Evidence Optix®, which is a workflow for proportional discovery assessment. How does it help organizations address today’s eDiscovery proportionality challenges?
Well, that’s a great question, Doug. We were very interested when the rules were amended in 2015; we really thought that was going to change the course of discovery. Historically, Prism had always been a consultancy that was product agnostic. But as a result of an engagement back in 2014, where we were dealing with multiple matters with a large number of custodians around the world and a high volume of data sources that would potentially need to be preserved and collected and moved downstream, we had to come up with a better mousetrap to try to reduce and target our discovery process early.
Ultimately, coming out of those case experiences, we developed Evidence Optix®, which is a technology-enabled workflow that operationalizes proportionality, empowering legal teams to create a defensible, transparent approach to right-size discovery early. This framework can also be leveraged at other key stages throughout the discovery process. At its core, it organizes and ranks custodians to the claims and defenses of a matter, and quantifies the burden and effort of collecting unique, relevant data sources.
The technology is not relying on artificial intelligence to perform this assessment. This is really an attorney-directed, technology-driven workflow that facilitates the analysis. Ultimately, the early attorney-driven assessment not only provides those metrics, but it also calculates real-time cost projections, thus providing critical insight and guidance for legal teams. Finally, it allows them to align their negotiation strategy and discovery budget to the merits of the case, and can aid in substantiating proportionality arguments, if and when judicial intervention is needed.
We’re just getting started! Part Two of my interview with Mandi Ross will be published on Wednesday.
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.