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Archive for June, 2011

Clearwell Lives On, But It’s Farewell To “Clearwell Systems Inc.”

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Very soon, Clearwell Systems will become part of Symantec and cease to exist as an independent company. This will bring to a close 6 ½ wonderful years, during which Clearwell has grown from the two founders into a profitable, 240-person company. All told, our team has shipped 6 major versions of the Clearwell E-Discovery Platform, signed over 400 customers and 75 partners in 14 different countries, and become widely recognized as leaders in our industry. As a result, Clearwell’s valuation has increased from effectively zero to the $410 million which Symantec is paying our shareholders to acquire the company, making this by far the largest acquisition of an e-discovery software company to date.

For 6 of Clearwell’s 6 ½ years in existence, it has been my privilege to lead the company as its CEO. These have been, by far, the most rewarding, stressful, exhausting, and exhilarating years of my career. So in this, my final blog post, I would like to reflect on how we got here, and take this opportunity to thank some of the many people who made it possible.

***

In my view, there’s no single thing that makes a company successful. Rather, it’s a distinctive mixture of the right idea at the right time, executed the right way, by the right team, which gets the right lucky breaks and is propelled forward ahead of the competition by surging customer demand. That, in summary, is the story of Clearwell.

Right idea at the right time:

In the early days of a company’s life, when there’s no product and no hint of a customer, the only thing that you have is the idea. This is not the specific idea of what the company will do (that comes later); it’s the idea that there’s a huge change, a shift in the tectonic plates, that creates the opportunity to build a substantial new company. Much of this is about timing. Many changes are obvious over a 10-year timeframe, but it’s very hard to gauge which of them will occur in the 2-4 years that investors are willing to fund a startup venture.

The founding team at Clearwell was attracted by two big trends which combined to produce a profound change. One trend was that, by the mid-2000s, almost all communication within an organization had started to flow through email, as opposed to voicemail, memos, or hallway conversations. The other was that storage costs had fallen to the point where it was almost free to store all the email that people were generating. We realized that these two trends in combination had resulted in the creation of a user-generated written record of everything happening within an organization – something which had never existed before. Our hunch was that there had to be some way of unlocking value from this written record, while still respecting privacy.

Executed the right way:

We came to Clearwell with very specific ideas about how to build a world-class software company. These are too numerous and varied to capture here, but I will give you a few examples. In product development, we have always sought to build our enterprise products as if they were consumer products, so we made sure that they are intuitive and easy to use without any training. We designed them with the sales process in mind, by making them very easy to install and evaluate, so that prospects can try them out for free prior to purchase.  When it comes to marketing, we sought to promote a better way of doing e-discovery, rather than just pitch features, by championing the importance of early case assessments (ECA). With respect to pricing, we made the entry-point price as low as possible to encourage adoption, and pegged it to a metric that scales in line with value.  Strategically, we chose processing, analysis, and review as our entry point into the e-discovery market, because that’s where software provides the biggest, most immediate ROI.

In every area of the business, we brought a distinctive approach, all centered around our view of the ideal customer experience – the experience we would want to have, if we were our customers.

Right team:

The standard playbook for recruiting is to hire people who have done it before, ideally in the same domain. We took a different approach, and instead hired primarily based on personal qualities. Some of our team had no prior experience in enterprise software; many (including me) had never worked in e-discovery before coming to Clearwell. But we all share one thing in common: a relentless drive to win in the marketplace by building better products and providing better service than anyone else.

That hunger to win will trump experience every time. It’s the reason why engineers work through the weekend to resolve customer issues without being asked, or why a salesperson will travel 4 days out of every week to call on customers. It’s something that gets built into the company culture and then self-perpetuates. Our team tripled in size in the space of 18 months, and I never cease to be impressed by the fresh ideas and boundless energy coming from the new generations of “first-timers”.

Right lucky breaks:

Every successful company needs the rub of the green, and there have been many occasions when I’ve marveled at our good fortune. But perhaps our biggest break was that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) changed for the first time in 38 years in December 2006, defining rules for the treatment of electronic information in the courts. This accelerated the movement from paper to electronically stored information and coincided perfectly with our entry into the market, drawing us into the electronic discovery domain.

Surging customer demand:

It’s an amazing feeling when you achieve “product/market fit”, as we did at the beginning of 2009. The user community among law firms and litigation support firms embraced our technology for ECA, taking our user base from hundreds to thousands. Enterprises woke up to the money that could be saved by bringing electronic discovery in-house, proactively issuing RFPs and creating new positions specifically responsible for e-discovery. Federal agencies began to adopt e-discovery solutions to sift through the vast quantities of data coming to them as part of their regulatory and investigative duties. Essentially, e-discovery became a core business process, just like finance, sales or HR – it became something that every organization had to do. And just as other departments use applications like salesforce.com (sales), Success Factors (HR), or NetSuite (finance) to manage those business processes, so it was that legal departments realized that they needed an application like Clearwell to manage the e-discovery process.

All of a sudden, the business accelerated, sales took off, and we felt ourselves being pulled in every direction at once. In response, we expanded our platform, moving from 1 product to an integrated platform of 4 products; and, we increased our geographic coverage by building out the sales team across North America and establishing beachheads in Europe and Asia. The Clearwell team worked around the clock to respond to customer demand, while at the same time recruiting and training as we added people at a furious pace. We learned that hyper-growth can be painful, but in a good way.

***

When things go well, the CEO often takes a disproportionate share of the credit. I must confess, it would be nice to think that the company’s success is due to some kind of brilliance or magic touch on my part, but the reality is quite different. This has been a team effort from beginning to end and there is a very long list of people who deserve recognition. It’s impossible to capture them all, but I’m going to do my best, by saying a heart-felt “thank you” to:

  • Venkat Rangan and Charu Rudrakshi who started the company, raised the first round of funding, and set the DNA of the engineering team;
  • Jim Goetz at Sequoia Capital who acted more as co-founder than investor in the company’s first year, and has since been incredibly supportive of the management team;
  • Tom Dyal at Redpoint Ventures for his support and insightful advice on strategy; Bill Coughran at Google for helping us think through how best to scale engineering; John Dillon at EngineYard for teaching me what it means to sell software; and, Scott Dettmer at Gunderson Dettmer for his finesse and deft touch in managing the most delicate negotiations;
  • Andy Byrne, Anup Singh, Kamal Shah, Ryan Snyder, Soumitro Tagore, Trevor Eddy, and Venkat Rangan for creating a truly outstanding management team built on trust and mutual understanding – it is quite remarkable that in 6 years, the company has only ever had 1 VP Business Development, 1 CFO, 1 VP Marketing, 1 VP Sales, and 1 CTO;
  • Amar Laud, Amy Johnson, Andy Kashyap, Aruna Mantripragada, Bill Duffy, Brandon Cook, Cat Lee, Chitrang Shah, Cris Barrett, Dave Fraleigh, David Speicher, Dean Gonsowski, Donna Hui , Doug Kaminski, Ed Hinton, Jason Montgomery, Jason Reeve, Joe Schwartz, Krista Jones, Kurt Leafstrand, Malay Desai, Manish Sampat, Mark Wentworth, Mike Lee, Peter McLaughlin, Sangeeta Relan, Sean Wilcox, Steve Rapp, Subbu Gooty, Teddy Cha, Tom Kennedy, Tom Wells and Umair Hamid for being the leaders who have really defined the company, and without whom we would never have got anything done;
  • Clearwell “Class of 2005” for their super-human efforts in shipping Version 1 and launching the company; Clearwell “Class of 2006, 2007 and 2008” for tirelessly iterating until we cracked the code for a profitable business model; and, Clearwell “Class of 2009, 2010, and 2011” for driving the huge expansion of our operations, both in the US and overseas;
  • John Petruzzi from Constellation Energy, Joe Tawasha from Charles Schwab, Don McLaughlin from Qwest, Pallab Chakraborty at Oracle, Jesse Hartman at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Ron Best at MTO for being bleeding edge customers who took a chance on a fledgling technology;
  • Jeff Fehrman from Onsite; Greg Mazares, Keith Lieberman and the infamous Taylor brothers at Encore; and Paul Tombleson at KPMG UK – for being the first service providers to embrace Clearwell’s technology;
  • Debra Logan and John Bace at Gartner; Barry Murphy and Greg Buckles at eDiscovery Journal; Brian Babineau and Katey Wood at ESG; Brian Hill at Forrester; Chris Dale of the eDisclosure Information Project; George Socha and Tom Gelbmann; Nick Patience at 451Group; and Vivian Tero at IDC – for doing so much to help define e-discovery software as a space and make it intelligible to end-customers;
  • Deepak Mohan and Brian Dye at Symantec for sponsoring an acquisition that will massively accelerate the adoption of Clearwell’s technology; and,
  • Finally, Enrique Salem and the entire Symantec M&A and Integration Teams for giving us such a warm welcome into the Symantec family.

***

It has been a remarkable journey. I feel proud, and humbled, to have been a part of it.

Staying on Target in Electronic Discovery

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Clearwell just announced major enhancements to our Identification and Collection Module that together usher in a new generation of targeted collection capabilities for e-discovery. Why are we excited about this? Because it promises to provide our customers with a dramatic increase in their ability to perform quick and efficient collections across the enterprise with a small fraction of the cost and effort traditionally required.

Before Clearwell, vendors could only rely on building their own indexes when attempting to collect content by keyword from unstructured document sources. They did this in one of two ways.

The first method was to build one-off indexes with each collection, indexing content and then discarding the index after collection is complete. This minimized the amount of infrastructure required to maintain the index, but was painfully slow and wasteful of computing and network resources. These sorts of solutions came from vendors who originally focused on the forensic investigation side of the world, whose tools had been designed around small-scale collection from individual devices and hard drives. Unfortunately, they simply don’t scale to meet the demands of today’s large enterprises with their ever-increasing data volumes.

The second method was to attempt to create an uber-index of all of the information in an enterprise and keep it continually updated so that it would be ready at a moment’s notice for your collection needs. This approach proved to be incredibly challenging to implement, required a huge amount of infrastructure to maintain, and, worst of all, didn’t really work: creating the uber-index, as it turns out, was uber-difficult.

In talking with hundreds of customers over the last couple of years, we realized that there was a better “third way,” which combined the lightweight nature of the first method with the comprehensiveness of the second. How? By leveraging the indexes that enterprises already have in place. From comprehensive, robust archiving solutions like Symantec Enterprise Vault to the fully-searchable indexes found on Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange, and file servers, the way of finding the information you need quickly for e-discovery is, by and large, already out there. It’s simply a matter of building an e-discovery platform sophisticated enough to leverage those indexes and, when necessary, be intelligent enough to build its own when not available from another source. That’s exactly what we’ve done with Clearwell’s targeted keyword collection feature.

One of the most exciting things about this approach is that, while it works great for today’s enterprise information infrastructure, it is perhaps even more powerful in tomorrow’s. As your company’s information stores gradually shift toward the cloud, leveraging the indexes in the cloud becomes essential to being able to access the information that lives there in a fast and efficient manner. It’s simply not feasible to be able to use the “one-off” or “uber-index” approaches when data is living in a cloud infrastructure, since data access rates are often slower because they are occurring over a wider-area network.  Last year, Clearwell was the first e-discovery platform to support direct access of cloud Exchange and SharePoint environments, and now with keyword collection we have made another great stride forward in achieving our customer’s vision for next generation e-discovery. And there’s still more to come as we accelerate our product development by integrating with Symantec’s world-class information management team. Stay tuned!

McDermott Sued Over Alleged Electronic Discovery Gaffes

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The electronic discovery world is buzzing about the malpractice case filed again Amlaw 100 firm McDermott Will & Emery.  There are a few good summaries here and here, but the gist of the complaint is that McDermott failed to properly supervise the electronic discovery efforts for their client J-M Manufacturing (J-M) in response to a qui-tam investigation.  According to a lawsuit filed by J-M in a California state court, McDermott inadvertently produced 3,900 privileged documents that were handed over to the federal government (and subsequently to a 3rd party).

In terms of the nitty-gritty, the complaint alleges that McDermott used electronic discovery vendor Stratify (formerly part of Iron Mountain, now absorbed into Autonomy) to process and host the data.  Then, McDermott apparently retained a bevy of contract attorneys to review collected ESI from the 160 custodians, ultimately producing 250,000 documents that were presumably relevant, but not privileged.  The complaint contains the following particulars:

“12. Defendants owed PLAINTIFF a duty to render legal services competently. Defendants breached that duty by, inter alia, producing privileged documents to parties adverse to JME in litigation without obtaining its informed consent, failing to supervise attorneys and vendors MWE contracted with to perform the review and production of documents, and charging JME fees and costs for performance of such work that was not properly performed, or not performed at all.”

Surprisingly, this entire discussion is about a mere complaint filed against a large firm, who assuredly will wage numerous procedural challenges.   Thus, it’s questionable whether this case even sees the light of day.  So, why is it showing up on the radar of so many experts and pundits?  First of all, as Ralph Losey notes:

“This malpractice suit is an important and widely talked about event because it represents the first time, to my knowledge, that a law firm has been sued for e-discovery malpractice. We have all been waiting for this to happen. It was inevitable.”

But, novelty alone doesn’t usually make headlines, unless where there’s also smoke there’s probably fire.  Given the rise in electronic discovery sanctions against counsel, it has long been a fait accompli that a corporate client who experienced spoliation sanctions or an inadvertent production would start pointing fingers at other participants in the process, including the law firm that directed the e-discovery effort or the service provider who hosted the review process.  A recent Duke article noted that “[c]onsistent with the overall increase in sanction cases,…counsel sanctions for e-discovery have steadily increased since 2004.”  The article identified various levels of misconduct as the basis for counsel sanctions — “four cases involved negligence, seven cases involved gross negligence, nine cases involved reckless disregard, and ten cases involved intentional conduct or bad faith.”  Significantly, the article also noted that sanctions can be based on the “counsel’s personal execution of discovery tasks or on the counsel’s role in coordinating and overseeing the client’s discovery.”  That latter element seems to be the case with the claims against McDermott, and coupled with an inadvertent production (the third rail of electronic discovery) it doesn’t seem too shocking that a malpractice action would get filed.

This lawsuit does serve as a cautionary tale for those firms that continue to do things the old fashioned (i.e., 1.0) way.  While not an exhaustive list, this means some or all of the following: employing custodian self collections, using blind key word searches, failing to do sufficient data sampling (at the search and production phases), opting to not utilize early case assessment approaches, lack of search strategy and iteration, failing to optimize the review process, etc.  Surprisingly, old school approaches to electronic discovery are staggeringly common.  In fact, I’ve recently talked to some well traveled practitioners who’ve actually felt like their firms have gone backwards in recent years as prices for basic, block and tackling e-discovery services have plummeted.

If nothing else, we know that attorneys are hyper vigilant about their malpractice insurance.  And, it’s not too hard to see how premiums may go up with increasing e-discovery claims, successful or not.  So, while it’s unclear what will happen to McDermott, if it can happen to an Amlaw 28 firm (with roughly 1,000 lawyers) it can probably happen to any firm who’s not being as diligent as they should.

As a final note of supreme irony, McDermott will likely have to conduct electronic discovery as they defend their electronic discovery malpractice claims.  I wonder if they’ll use Stratify and outside contract attorneys.  I’d guess not.

Apple, Code Name K48 and E-Discovery

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

According to a complaint filed by the U.S. government, the FBI secretly recorded an employee at one of Apple’s suppliers passing confidential information about the soon to be released Apple iPad in an October, 2009 telephone conversation.  The recording, along with other evidence, led to the arrest of the employee and others on charges on of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud on December 16, 2010 as part of a major insider-trading investigation.  In the conversation, a director for Flextronics named Walter Shimoon is heard saying:

“they [Apple] have a code name for something new … It’s … It’s totally … It’s a new category altogether… It doesn’t have a camera, what I figured out. So I speculated that it’s probably a reader. … Something like that. Um, let me tell you, it’s a very secretive program … It’s called K, K48. That’s the internal name. So, you can get, at Apple you can get fired for saying K48.”

Four months later, the first Apple iPad, code named K48, was unveiled to the public.    To read more about the case background, read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office on December 16, 2010.

The case is interesting from an eDiscovery standpoint because it highlights challenges related to finding critical evidence as part of an investigation or lawsuit when people are intentionally using code words to hide information.  Finding or overlooking important documents that have been disguised can make or break your case, so determining whether or not key players are using code words is an important part of a thorough investigation.  Equally important to the investigation is segregating relevant and irrelevant documents quickly before key evidence is lost or destroyed without being required to conduct a painstaking page by page review of each document.

How Does Technology Help?

The good news is that even though technology innovation has resulted in massive data growth requiring the review and analysis of more documentary evidence during lawsuits and investigations, advances in eDiscovery technology have also made sifting through this information faster and easier.  In other words, technology can help solve the data growth problem technology created.

One of the newest advances is the use of “transparent concept search” technology to find important electronic files in lieu of basic “keyword” or “traditional” concept searching technology.  In many situations investigators or lawyers simply aren’t aware code words are being used to hide activity, so critical evidence is often overlooked.  For example, in the present case assume the investigator is unaware that “K48” is the internal code name used for the first iPad.  A simple keyword search for the term “iPad” may not retrieve critical documents about the “iPad” because the code name K48 is being used to disguise the product name.  If this is the only search methodology used, information could easily be overlooked during the investigation due to the limitations of simple keyword search technology.

On the other hand, running the same search using a traditional concept searching tool is likely to retrieve documents containing the word “iPad” as well as other conceptually related documents.  The problem is that the user has no ability to control the breadth of the search using traditional concept searching technology.  That means even though a traditional concept search for the term “iPad” is likely to include documents containing the term “K48” and “iPad,” it is also likely to retrieve a large number of irrelevant documents containing terms like “iPod, iTouch and iTunes that may appear to be conceptually related to the search term “iPad.”  The problem may seem trivial initially, but when investigators are required to read hundreds or thousands of irrelevant documents about the iPod, iTouch or iTunes in an effort to find relevant documents about the iPad, the time and cost of the investigation can skyrocket.

Next Generation Transparent Concept Search Technology

To solve this problem, next generation transparent concept search technology takes traditional concept searching a step further by empowering investigators to reap the advantages of traditional concept searching while actually reducing instead of increasing e-discovery expenses.  The secret is that transparent concept searching technology significantly reduces the time and expense resulting from over-inclusive document retrieval by allowing users to eliminate documents containing concepts that are not relevant to the intended search.  This is accomplished by providing a transparent view of concepts related to a search so that users can actually visualize and select (or deselect) the range of concepts to be included in a search before the search is executed.

For example, using transparent concept search technology to search for the term “iPad” would reveal conceptually related terms like “K48” just like traditional concept searching.  However, a transparent concept search would also provide a list of all concepts related to the keyword “iPad” prior to the search such as “K48, iPod, iTouch, Shimoon, iTunes, etc.  Prior to executing the search, the user could de-select irrelevant concepts and limit the search to “iPad”, “Shimoon”, “internal” and “K48” to make sure only the most relevant documents are retrieved. (See Figure 1).  In addition to decreasing the cost associated with segregating relevant and irrelevant documents, the transparent approach to concept searching results in strategic advantages for investigators and legal teams because the most relevant evidence is found quickly so cases can be assessed faster, with more accuracy, and before evidence disappears.

Figure 1: Transparent concept search reveals all concepts related to the keyword “iPad” so users can not only identify key documents they may have otherwise overlooked, but they can also select which concepts (“internal” “K48” “Shimoon”) to include in the search so only the most relevant documents are retrieved.

Conclusion

Not knowing what to search for as part of eDiscovery or investigations is often the biggest organizational challenge that basic keyword and traditional concept search technology has not been able to solve.  Next generation transparent concept search technology overcomes the inherent limitations of basic keyword and traditional concept searching technology by empowering users to uncover, assess, and review evidence faster and with more accuracy, thereby giving litigators or investigators new strategic advantages on every case.

E-Discovery Goes Mainstream

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

These days, being mentioned on a late-night talk show is pretty much a stamp of “going mainstream”. This is true of celebrities (notably the One-Man Band that is Charlie Sheen), public figures (Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who piloted the US Airways plane to a safe landing on the Hudson River), and even infomercial goods (who isn’t familiar by now with the Snuggie?)

In the e-discovery world, we realized just how mainstream this industry is becoming when we made mention on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. With guest star Fareed Zakaria, fresh off the release of his new book, on set to discuss the American economy and the impact of technology on corporations, audiences were treated to this nugget:

Zakaria:   Machines can do things that people used to. There’s now computer programs that can do stuff that lawyers used to be able to do – discovery and things like that. May not be such a bad thing…

Stewart:   What can lawyers do that computers can’t do?

Lawyer jokes are never in short supply, and leave it to Jon Stewart not to miss a timely jab when one can be thrown. But we took notice because, of all the examples Zakaria could have used for technology’s impact on businesses everywhere — he chose to highlight the role of e-discovery software.

This was far from the first “mainstream” move for the e-discovery industry. In March, The New York Times published a featured – and top-emailed – article on advances in electronic discovery software. In May, leading analyst firm Gartner published the Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, its first Magic Quadrant on the electronic discovery industry. And then in June, there it was: electronic discovery, right alongside CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and all Jon Stewart’s comedic antics on The Daily Show. Taken together, it’s clear that e-discovery is a hot topic on the minds of business folks and, increasingly, mainstream audiences. We’re eager to see where it comes up next – and secretly hoping the SNL sketch team is taking note.

Patents and Innovation in Electronic Discovery

Monday, June 13th, 2011

In the world of technology we live in, a huge amount of benefit is created when people apply certain well-known techniques to solve problems and create value to the broader community. Such techniques are often the result of painstakingly long and laborious research, driven primarily by academic institutions with private industry either funding such research directly or by co-opting them in their own work. When the industry as a whole recognizes a certain methodology, it gains popular usage.

In information retrieval, searching and retrieving relevant content from unstructured text has been a vexing problem, and we’ve had decades of the brightest minds applying their collective intelligence and the rigors of peer review to validate and establish the most effective way to solve a retrieval problem. And, research forums such as TREC, SIGIR and other information retrieval conferences establish a venue for advancing the state of the art. So, when Recommind announced that they have been issued a patent on Predictive Coding, I took notice, especially since it touches a nerve with those who believe research should be openly shared.

The patent lists six claims that describe a workflow whereby humans review and code a document and the coding decisions applied to the document sample are projected or applied to the larger collection of documents. Anyone who has even the slightest exposure to information retrieval research will recognize this as a very common interactive relevance feedback mechanism. Relevance feedback as a way to perform information retrieval has been studied for well over forty years, with a paper as early as 1968 by Rocchio J.J., titled Relevance Feedback in Information Retrieval. It falls under a category of methods broadly known as machine learning.

Any supervised machine learning system involves creating a training sample and using that sample to project into a larger population. The fact that one could claim patentable ideas on something that is so widely known and used is puzzling.  Any workflow that employs machine learning would include the steps of creating an initial control set, coding that by human review, and applying the learned tags to a larger population.  In fact, the Wiki article Learning to rank describes precisely the workflow that is claimed in the patent and as part of our participation in the TREC Legal Track 2009, Clearwell submitted a paper with iterative sampling based evaluation and automatic expansion of initial query.  In that paper, we describe exactly the workflow postulated by the six claims of the patent.

In terms of other prior art that would potentially invalidate the patent, the list is long. Let’s start with Text Classification. Text Classification using Support Vector Machines (SVM) was first published by Thorsten Joachims in 1998, in the Proceedings of Sixteenth International Conference on Machine Learning, as well as his book Learning to Classify Text Using Support Vector Machines: Methods, Theory and Algorithms, published by The Springer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science.  Now a well-recognized Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, that work is widely cited as a seminal work on the area of machine learning and text classification. Interestingly, this work was cited by the Patent Examiner as prior art, but the inventors missed listing it. Nevertheless, that work and further work by several academics such as Leopold and Kindermann has already established the use of Support Vector Machines as a useful technique for machine learning. To claim the novelty of its use in automatically coding documents is, in my opinion, a hollow claim.

Another technology mentioned in passing is Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). This is proposed as a retrieval technique by Deerwester, S., Dumais, S.T., Furnas, G.W.,Landauer, T.K., Harshman R. in their paper, Indexing by Latent Semantic Analysis, in Journal of the ASIS, 41(6):391-407, 1990. The use of LSI for semantic analysis, concept searching and text classification is also very widespread, and once again, it seems ridiculous to claim that it is something novel or innovative.

Next, let’s examine the use of sampling to validate the initial control set. Use of sampling for validation of a control set of documents is in fact such a widely known technique that most e-discovery productions employ sampling. In fact, the Sedona Commentary on Achieving Quality and the EDRM Search Guide recommend use of sampling to validate automated searches. Furthermore, several E-discovery opinions such as Judge Grimm’s opinion in Victor Stanley [Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc. , 2008 WL 2221841 (D. Md., May 29, 2008)]  suggests that any technique that reduces the universe of documents produced must employ sampling to validate automated searches.

In short, we think the claims issued in the patent and the associated workflow are so commonly used that the workflow is neither novel nor non-obvious to a trained practitioner, and there is enough prior art on each of the individual technologies to warrant a re-examination and eventual invalidation of the patent. In any event, it is fairly easy for anyone to pick up existing prior art and devise a similar workflow that achieves the same or better outcome, and attempt to enforce the patent will likely be challenged.

But there is an even bigger issue at stake here beyond the status of Recommind’s patent: namely, shouldn’t the e-discovery vendor community continue to work, as it has for years, toward what is in the best interest of the legal community and, more broadly, the justice system? Recommind’s thinly veiled threats about requiring industry participants to license their technology are an affront to those who have invested years developing the technology and practicing the approach in real-world e-discovery cases. Spend a few minutes trolling (no pun intended) around on archive.org and you’ll see that early predictive coding companies like H5 were practicing machine learning and predictive workflows in e-discovery over two years before Recommind announced their first version of Axcelerate.

Wouldn’t a better outcome be for corporations and law firms to benefit from the innovation that comes from free competition in the marketplace, while still honoring the sort of novel, non-obvious innovation that warrants patent protection? Legitimate patents that actually encourage and protect investments by an organization are fine, but process patents that attempt to patent a workflow are bad for business. With such an approach, the full promise of automated document review (which, as any truly honest vendor should admit, still has much more room to grow and develop) can be fully realized in a way that both provides vendors with the fair and just economic rewards they deserve while helping the legal system become radically more efficient.

Gartner Publishes First Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Last month, Gartner published the 2011 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, its first ever Magic Quadrant (MQ) on the electronic discovery industry.

We believe the Gartner MQ signals e-discovery’s arrival as a major category of enterprise software, and creates a single, definitive “buyers’ guide” to help companies choose between the various solutions.  As the report points out, “The reason e-discovery is now a pressing issue for most companies is clear: ESI in all its many forms dominates legal proceedings because modern business is mostly conducted using electronic communications and electronic records. Regulators require this ESI to be archived for proof of compliance.”[1]

The authors of the report, Debra Logan and John Bace, are two of the industry’s leading lights. The report reflects their deep understanding of the domain and includes several keen insights into emerging trends and market dynamics.

Most software buyers are familiar with Gartner Magic Quadrants and the rigorous methodology behind them. In order to be included in the MQ, vendors must meet quantitative requirements in market penetration and customer base and are then evaluated upon certain criteria for completeness of vision and ability to execute. In the Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, Gartner states that, “Ease of use, intuitive user interfaces, attorney-focused workflow, advanced but transparent semantic analysis features, native file format review, and foreign language support are all considered desirable features from the end user’s point of view.”[2] According to the report, “A vendor’s ability and willingness to perform proofs of concept (POCs) is also important, and many references told us that, with certain vendors, “try before you buy” arrangements or POCs were so successful that they did not even open their tendering process to competitive bidding.”[3]

In total, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software report analyzes 24 different e-discovery software vendors, and is meant to help CIOs, general counsel, IT professionals, lawyers, compliance staff and legal service providersunderstand the dynamics and landscape of the e-discovery software market. Combined with its analysis of the factors driving the growth of e-discovery and its vendor-by-vendor evaluation, we believe this makes the report a must-read for anyone involved in selecting an e-discovery solution.

For a limited time, please register here to download a complimentary copy of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software.

About the Magic Quadrant
The Magic Quadrant is copyrighted 2011 by Gartner, Inc. and is reused with permission. The Magic Quadrant is a graphical representation of a marketplace at and for a specific time period. It depicts Gartner’s analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace, as defined by Gartner. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in the Magic Quadrant, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors placed in the “Leaders” quadrant. The Magic Quadrant is intended solely as a research tool, and is not meant to be a specific guide to action. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.


[1] Gartner, Inc. “Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software”, by Debra Logan, John Bace, May 13, 2011, page 5.

[2] Gartner, Inc. “Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software”, by Debra Logan, John Bace, May 13, 2011, page 8.

[3] Gartner, Inc. “Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software”, by Debra Logan, John Bace, May 13, 2011, page 9.

“Look Right” – How E-Discovery Helps Solve the UK Bribery Act

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I’ve just returned from a trip across the pond where I spoke at IQPC’s Information Retention and eDisclosure Management conference, which was well attended by both local practitioners and experts from the States.  In addition to numerous discussions comparing and contrasting the US e-discovery and UK e-disclosure practices, there was also a ton of time spent focusing on regulatory compliance.  In particular, the Bribery Act 2010 was a hot topic, not surprisingly given its looming implementation date of July 1.

It occurred to me that both with the Bribery Act and its kissing cousin, the FCPA, the UK and US are strikingly similar in many ways.  We both speak the same language (sort of), but there are any number of things that are just different enough that Americans must take pause.  As an easy example, crossing the street in London can be a perilous journey given our tendency to “look left.”  Fortunately our friends abroad don’t want their lorries dented up by hapless yanks so they kindly paint numerous “look right” signs on street corners throughout their fair city.

As e-discovery and e-disclosure continue to mature in their respective lands, the sense is that the difference will rapidly become obscured, especially in light of how well the countries seem to be collaborating around best practices and civil procedure standards.  During the judges’ panel at the IQPC event, noted e-discovery legends (Judges Grimm, Peck and Facciola) roundly complimented the UK’s disclosure process, often describing how much the US can learn from our allies.

Similarly, it’s interesting to see how the Bribery Act has “gone to school” on the FCPA.  For the past decade or so the UK has been criticized for its Laissez-faire attitude towards commercial bribery, particularly with a glaring gap in applicable legislation (like the FCPA). And, while a wee bit late to the party, the UK finally enacted its anti-bribery statute (on April 8, 2010), curiously dubbed the “Bribery Act 2010,” which in many way leapfrogs the 34 year old FCPA.  While ostensibly similar, the Act differs from the FCPA in a number of ways, many of which broaden applicability. For example, unlike the FCPA, the Act covers bribes to both the public and private sector and does not make an exception (like the FCPA) for facilitation payments (small payments given to public officials to speed up a routine service).  Similarly, the Act applies to all organizations that do business in the UK, even if they’re not based there, and even if the bribery occurs in another country.

The Bribery Act was originally scheduled to become effective in October of last year but, after numerous delays and outcries from the business community, the Ministry of Justice recently issued its “Bribery Act 2010: Guidance” and announced that the Act will finally take effect on July 1, 2011. This guidance has been eagerly awaited by anxious enterprises given the extremely broad potential of the Act.In concert with the recently promulgated prosecutorial guidelines, the guidance document gives some insight into how UK prosecutors (as enforced by the Serious Fraud Office) will initially decide who to pursue and then how the Act will be applied.  Fortunately, the promulgated guidance documents suggest that the Act is “directed at making life difficult for the mavericks responsible for corruption, not unduly burdening the vast majority of decent, law-abiding firms.”

To this end, the Guidance states that “[i]t is a full defence for an organisation to prove that despite a particular case of bribery it nevertheless had adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from bribing.”  It is these “adequate procedures” that provide a safe harbour of sorts and therefore should be perused quite carefully by impacted organisations to ensure that their compliance programs are up to muster.  The following six “guiding principles” are designed not to be prescriptive or “one-size-fits-all,” but rather to suggest a “risk-based” and proportionate approach to managing bribery risks.

  1. “Proportionate procedures: A commercial organisation’s procedures to prevent bribery by persons associated with it are proportionate to the bribery risks it faces and to the nature, scale and complexity of the commercial organisation’s activities. They are also clear, practical, accessible, effectively implemented and enforced.
  2. Top-level commitment:  The top-level management of a commercial organisation (be it a board of directors, the owners or any other equivalent body or person) are committed to preventing bribery by persons associated with it. They foster a culture within the organisation in which bribery is never acceptable.
  3. Risk assessment: The commercial organisation assesses the nature and extent of its exposure to potential external and internal risks of bribery on its behalf by persons associated with it. The assessment is periodic, informed and documented.
  4. Due diligence: The commercial organisation applies due diligence procedures, taking a proportionate and risk based approach, in respect of persons who perform or will perform services for or on behalf of the organisation, in order to mitigate identified bribery risks.
  5. Communication (including training): The commercial organisation seeks to ensure that its bribery prevention policies and procedures are embedded and understood throughout the organisation through internal and external communication, including training, that is proportionate to the risks it faces.
  6. Monitoring and review: The commercial organisation monitors and reviews procedures designed to prevent bribery by persons associated with it and makes improvements where necessary.”

Organisations looking for clarity should certainly start with an analysis of how well their existing anti-bribery procedures (many likely designed with the FCPA in mind) map to the six principles.  The hope of many is that the Bribery Act won’t inherently require a complete reboot for entities trying to comply.  Instead, a more measured and reasonable goal should be to have complaint entities examine the Act to see if any augmentation is necessary.  Fortunately, the Guidance principles are peppered with terms like “proportionate”, “risk-based” and “practical” that should give solace to the entities that had significant indigestion when the Act was first released.

Traditional e-discovery solutions may very well be called into duty to help augment an organisation’s “adequate procedures” particularly regarding the “risk assessment” and “due diligence” principles.  These two principles specifically call out procedures that proactively facilitate:

  • Identification of the internal and external information sources that will enable risk to be assessed and reviewed.
  • Accurate and appropriate documentation of the risk assessment and its conclusions.
  • Conducting direct interrogative enquiries, indirect investigations, or general research on proposed associated persons.
  • Appraisal and continued monitoring of recruited or engaged “associated” persons may also be required, proportionate to the identified risks.

Re-purposing of e-discovery tools in this compliance context makes sense given how things have played out here in the States with the FCPA and provides yet another way to rationalize bringing solutions in-house.  In this scenario the advanced analytical components will likely come more into play than will the downstream review and production elements.  This expansion of traditional e-discovery concepts, procedures and applications is logical and coincides with a leftwards movement on the EDRM spectrum.  It’s also aligned with rapidly expanding notions of IMRM and information governance.  I postulate that soon it will be too limiting to just talk about pure “e-discovery”tools since it inherently leaves out the rest of the compliance story.  In addition to looking “right” we’ll also need to look “left” (on the EDRM) to take into account use cases like the Bribery Act.