Thought Leader Interview Part Three with Sarai Schubert of IPRO: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

I recently interviewed Sarai Schubert, Chief Operations Officer at IPRO. 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 Monday, part two was published Wednesday, here is part three with Sarai Schubert.

In part three with Sarai Schubert, we conclude the interview by discussing AI and machine learning technology, the biggest eDiscovery challenge not being discussed enough and what Sarai and IPRO are working on!

Doug Austin: There has been a lot of talk about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to support legal and eDiscovery workflows, but it seems like a lot of legal professionals are still not embracing the technology. What do you think the barriers are for adoption of AI technologies and how can those be overcome?

Sarai Schubert: This is a frustrating topic for me because I’ve been in this industry for quite a while and machine learning has been widely available even since the introduction of apps like Pandora. It’s interesting to see how other industries adopted the technology very easily and we still haven’t.  A small percentage within our industry has, but many have not. I would put the responsibility on us as the software providers because I think we are one of the reasons why it hasn’t really been adopted. We don’t make it easy.  We talk about precision and recall, and we talk about whether you have the right F1 score and when do you know what decisions to make and how to approach this discussion with opposing counsel, so it doesn’t get questioned later that you’re not disclosing enough. But those concepts are hard for an attorney who’s simply just trying to understand the case in front of him/her and trying to focus on the actual issues of the case. They have plenty to focus on by understanding the type of practice area, the amount of risk involved, which makes it hard to focus on these concepts too. 

So, I put that burden back on my team, and it’s a burden that we take on, because I think it’s not about attorneys not understanding the technology – it’s about us not making the technology easier to adopt. Our product team is constantly looking at ways to make it easier. We need to stop trying to make it a black box. People don’t trust black boxes, so when they don’t know what’s really happening, they continue to do what worked for them on their last case.  Those are the facts. I’ve been at the law firm, I’ve seen it multiple times, and when you have millions of dollars at stake, you don’t necessarily want to start something new. I understand that and I think it’s our own fault. So, I would encourage software companies in this industry to really think about that, because we’re not going to get adoption and we’re not going to help the industry by just talking about it. It needs to come from technology that is super easy for them to just enhance their current workflows, not trying to change them completely.   

We have multiple different capabilities on things like finding sensitive data, topic modeling. and finding similar documents, but we just released a capability on active learning that is very much focused around being in the background, helping a supervising attorney or a litigation support analyst or even a service provider to just be the champion and look at the data as a team continues to follow the workflow they trust and that they’ve known for years.  Culling data, filtering, running keyword terms, etc. – that’s fine. Instead of trying to convince them to change their ways, what if this “thing” was learning in the background, and what if it made recommendations and identified conflicts and brought them to light? And what if you could show them their progress and whether they can meet their deadlines? What if you could start showing them something they can trust without really having to convince them about using some AI models to do it. That’s exciting! 

Our release got a ton of great feedback and it’s exciting to see people using it, and the feedback we got during our beta cycles and in our discovery process was that this is something they could start trusting. It wasn’t about “this feature is pretty easy” or that “I can get to predications faster”, or “I can go directly into those conflicts and see what’s causing that” — No, the feedback theme was “I can start trusting this and I can actually start using it without impacting a workflow change”. With all the information that you’re exposing, it was interesting, but at the same time it validated our beliefs that we’re putting technology in front of them that they can easily use and trust.

Doug Austin: What do you think is the eDiscovery challenge that not enough people in the industry are talking about and how is IPRO helping to address that challenge?

Sarai Schubert: This is a hard question, because there are a ton of things that I could probably list.  I’ve been watching people talk about law firm and service providers dealing with issues like data breaches and using the eDiscovery process to address a data breach. That’s not at all the best workflow for that, but you can’t blame them because those are the solutions that they have in front of them. Even when government entities respond to FOIA or other to public requests through an eDiscovery type of workflow, it’s trying to fit something in that just doesn’t fit. 

IPRO has the capabilities and the solutions to help clients, service providers who are helping clients, and law firms as they’re helping clients. We can help them without having to create a yet another copy of a data set, without having to move the data, without having to expose it and even add more risk which is not necessary and, instead, as the data is sitting in place, understand where the sensitive data is. That can increase their grasp the impact of a data breach by understanding what data was breached and whether any of those documents or data sets were critical. Can I simply and quickly just go through a few searches to respond to a request, like a FOIA request or a third-party subpoena, without having to go through an entire and linear EDRM workflow that just doesn’t fit? That’s only adding time and costs that are unnecessary and I’ve seen this quite a bit and it’s a trend that’s a bit scary. We have solutions for that – these simple tasks don’t have to be that hard.

Doug Austin: What else would you like to tell our audience about what you and IPRO are working on?

Sarai Schubert: IPRO’s on a path to really transforming our well-known but complicated linear process. When you look at eDiscovery and what we’ve known for years, what we’ve learned and how we got so good at it in different areas, we are in a path of transforming that, changing the way we think, doing things more upstream. We are trying to focus our energy on relevance. All of the time that we spend downstream, we want to focus more of that energy upstream. Can you surface the relevance sooner? Can you have an iterative process for doing so? 

We had a client recently perform a collection and they were super thankful that our software saved them a ton of time collecting from 400 plus mailboxes. And it was great that within three weeks, they were able to get through the data and produce it, which is amazing. But, at the same time, collecting 400 mailboxes? How about instead we spend a little bit of time up front, like we talked about with AI? If you spend a little time up front before collecting the data, you will be surprised what kind of results you can see downstream. If you spend a little more time before you start collecting the data and focus on the key areas that you expect will lead to surfacing evidence, then, from there, you can use an iterative process to expand what you’re looking for. If you can continue to assist the data downstream, the effect is going to be humongous. Instead of 10% of my entire corpus of data is relevant, we want to say 80 to 90% of what I actually look at is relevant. To really start getting the story earlier in the process to make key decisions sooner and answer questions like: Can you just get the case dismissed? Can you settle earlier? Can you avoid some of the things that you don’t necessarily want to do in your case, because they’re time consuming and expensive, like certain depositions and witness interviews? We’re trying to get the process more focused upstream.

We’re also on the path to do what goes back to your last question – what are people not talking about? We have people filling different roles in this industry. In-house counsel has too many cases to deal with, so their role traditionally is to gather as much data and hand it over to their outside counsel. Outside counsel is focused on how they respond to a deadline and how they get their lit support staff or service provider involved to start surfacing information right away. You have three different companies trying to solve the same problem. What IPRO is trying to do is bring all those three different teams together where each can continue to perform their roles but collaborate within the same system instead of just grabbing a bunch of data and figuring it out later. Service providers have a ton of technical expertise which can help. Law firms who want to be innovators and want to give more consultative advice to organizations can start doing that now through collaboration. They can start building a deeper relationship with their clients, which the client needs too. Clients can then be more proactive in working with their partners to reduce risk, time and effort needed to meet those deadlines but more importantly focus on building an IG practice. We want to foster that collaboration to help them each fill their roles, but with an upstream approach.

Great. Thanks, Sarai, for appearing on the eDiscovery Today Thought Leader Interview series!

So, what do you think?  Hope you enjoyed part three with Sarai Schubert!  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclosure: IPRO is an Educational Partner and sponsor of eDiscovery Today

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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