By: Jeff Dreiling, Co-Founder
This month, Complete Legal celebrates our 6th anniversary. We realize many companies stop celebrating yearly anniversaries after the first few, but we find it important to celebrate the annual milestone for several reasons (the most obvious one being we still have jobs!). We use our anniversary as a time to reflect on our successes and our failures, as a time to evaluate and ensure we are providing value to our employees, our customers, and to ourselves.
We are amazed when we look back at how the litigation technology space has changed (and in many ways how it hasn’t changed) over the past six years. Let’s take a look at those changes and how they impact us all.
Legal Tech Changes
Change 1: The Widespread Adoption of Cloud Computing
The largest disruption we’ve seen over the past six years has been the advent and widespread adoption of the Cloud. Gone are the days where our clients were sure to ask if any of their data would be in the cloud so they could tell us that’s not allowed.
Six years ago, we started our business with a physical server in our office. Over the years we have added to and updated our internal resources, but not nearly at the pace that we have added to and updated our virtual resources. Much of the data that we collect for our clients is now coming from a cloud-based source. Many of the softwares we use to investigate, normalize and review data is now cloud-based as well. This means that in six short years we have gone from carrying around briefcases filled with cords, wires, and hard drives to collect data to now sitting at a laptop and executing computer code for the data to be shared directly from the original cloud source and moved directly into a Relativity or ESI Analyst database.
Change 2: Increased Volume
Unfortunately, to go along with this ease of collection there is a trade-off for this increased efficiency: increased volume.
Although the cost and headache associated with data collections have decreased in the past six years, the sheer amount of data and the sources where data resides, have exploded. We now have to consider data from sources other than email, “My Documents”, and an internal file share. Now there’s:
- Mobile devices
- And many, many more
Until recently, there were few options, and not many good ones, when trying to compare data from all of these different sources in a single database. This created an awkward transition period in which we are aware of a seemingly infinite number of potential data sources. Awkward because oftentimes we are forced to justify why these new data sources are relevant or not relevant without much caselaw to lead the way. Today, the role of eDiscovery expert is one of eduction versus persuasion.
Where Legal Tech Has Fallen Short
Issue 1: Lack of Innovation
As an industry, innovations in the review space have been largely unimpressive.
Sure, Relativity continues to innovate and dominate the space, just as they did six years ago. They too are exclusively focused on their cloud-based solution, Relativity One. In fact, you can no longer buy a stand alone (on-premise) version of Relativity.
CloudNine has redesigned their interface and remains completely cloud-based. There are plenty of other competitors in that review database space doing similar things, providers like Disco, Logikull and I-Connect. Most review tools have integrated data processing/normalization into their platforms which has lowered the overall cost of eDiscovery, but most of them still struggle to present traditional data with the new data sources in a useful and user-friendly way.
The lack of significant functionality innovation within these databases has several causes. The most glaring is that Relativity has such a large percentage of the market share. That’s not always a bad thing and certainly not their fault. I had a conversation with a friend last week about this very topic. He is one of the smartest humans I know and formerly worked exclusively in the eDiscovery industry. His take on why we have a lack of innovation is the most simple and obvious one I have heard:
“Jeff, it’s not that there aren’t companies out there doing new and interesting things. It’s that attorneys all over the country know how to use Relativity. Even if someone comes along with a better widget at a cheaper price, its often not worth the pain to that attorney or that firm to learn a new platform. Relativity has so much market share it’s hard to innovate in the review space, unless they are the ones doing it or at least participating in it.”
That’s not to say there aren’t dozens of new and interesting softwares available on the market. There are, and we just recently partnered with one, ESI Analyst. It does show that the barrier to access is high and oftentimes good technology that saves time and money has a hard time cutting through the marketing noise to gain heavy adoption.
Personally, I think the tide has shifted and the explosion in data sources, coupled with the difficulty in normalizing the data from all of these sources, means we are entering a new era where innovation will once again be rewarded in legal technology.
Issue 2: Timing, Timing, Timing
The biggest lesson we’ve learned about technology over the past six years is it often comes down to timing. We have been in several client meetings and heard, “I wish I would have met you six months ago. We’re in the middle of a huge mess and it’s too late to make a change, but this would have been perfect.” We hear that more often than not, actually.
Almost as frequently, a client will bring a difficult data problem to us and we have to invent a solution or find a middleware that can hopefully ease their burden. In both scenarios, the timing is just a bit off.
Looking Forward: The Power of a Pure Digital Discovery Process
The Pandemic we are currently facing has actually helped the legal technology industry. With our clients forced to work remotely, they have started looking at their databases and their cases differently.
We have enjoyed helping new clients discover the power of a pure digital discovery process and have loved the curiosity it has spawned.
More people in the legal industry are better utilizing their software since March and they are finding out what they like and don’t like about it. We believe this will open the door for innovative solutions that can make all of our days easier.