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Posts Tagged ‘defensible e-discovery’

Yet Another Victory: Court Rejects Sanctions for eDiscovery “Shortcomings”

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The news surrounding the eDiscovery industry is trending positive for organizations. Instances where companies have been sanctioned for alleged failures to preserve or produce electronically stored information (ESI) seem to be dropping. This is confirmed by various court opinions from 2012, together with reports from key industry players. In addition, the Civil Rules Advisory Committee is close to releasing for public comment draft amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e) that might impact the sanctions equation. If enacted, the proposed changes could reduce the threat of sanctions relating to pre-litigation destruction of ESI.

Against this backdrop, organizations scored another sanctions victory this month as an Albany, New York-based federal court refused to impose sanctions on an enterprise for its so-called eDiscovery “shortcomings.” In Research Foundation of State University of New York v. Nektar Therapeutics, the defendant had sought an adverse inference instruction and monetary sanctions against the research foundation arm of the State University of New York for its alleged “grossly negligent” failure to preserve documents. The defendant argued that such punishment was justified given the foundation’s alleged failures to implement a timely litigation hold, to maintain “relevant backup-tape data” and to “suspend its auto-delete practices.”

The court, however, did not accept the defendant’s sweeping allegations of discovery misconduct. Instead, the court found that the foundation’s preservation efforts passed legal muster. Among other things, the foundation had issued timely hold instructions, preserved relevant backup tapes and acted to prevent the deletion of custodial data. Significantly, the court then explained that it would not get wrapped around the proverbial axel due to some isolated “shortcomings” with the foundation’s preservation efforts:

While there may have been some shortcomings in [the foundation’s] document retention protocol, it was, at most, negligent in its effort to preserve evidence related to this litigation.

Moreover, sanctions were not appropriate since the defendant had not established that relevant evidence had been destroyed. In what ultimately amounted to a “no-harm, no-foul” approach, the court observed that the “spoliation motion fails, then, on the ‘inability [of the defendant] to adduce evidence suggesting the existence, let alone destruction, of relevant documents.’”

The Research Foundation case is important for at least three reasons. First, the court’s reluctance to issue sanctions for mere preservation “shortcomings” is consistent with the general discovery principle that a party’s efforts need not be perfect. Instead of trying to reach a mythical benchmark of infallibility, Research Foundation confirms that a party’s preservation efforts need only satisfy the standards of reasonableness and proportionality.

The second lesson from Research Foundation flows naturally from the first: the misperception that courts acquiesce to knee-jerk sanctions motions. With the judiciary gaining a better understanding of the digital age nuances associated with the preservation and production of ESI, courts are less likely to go along with gotcha sanctions requests. This is particularly the case where sanctions are sought against companies that have an effective information governance plan in place.

This, in turn, gives rise to the third and final take-home from Research Foundation. Given the cooling judicial climate toward sanctions and the efforts being taken by the advisory committee to alleviate preservation burdens, the time is ripe for organizations to implement a defensible deletion strategy. Such a comprehensive approach, which aims to reduce the storage costs and legal risks associated with the retention of ESI, stands to benefit companies that can justify deletion decisions based on reasonable information retention practices. Like the foundation in Research Foundation, organizations that have done so have been successful in avoiding court sanctions while at the same time eliminating ESI that has little or no business value.

 

From A to PC – Running a Defensible Predictive Coding Workflow

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

So far in our ongoing predictive coding blog series, we’ve touched on the “whys” and “whats” of predictive coding, and now I’d like to address the “hows” of using this new technology. Given that predictive coding is groundbreaking technology in the world of eDiscovery, it’s no surprise that a different workflow is required in order to run the review process.

The traditional linear review process utilizes a “brute force” approach of manually reading each document and processing it for responsiveness and privilege. In order to reduce the high cost of this process, many organizations now farm out documents to contract attorneys for review. Often, however, contract attorneys possess less expertise and knowledge of the issues, which means that multiple review passes along with additional checks and balances are often needed in order to ensure review accuracy. This process commonly results in a significant number of documents being reviewed multiple times, which in turn increases the cost of review. When you step away from an “eyes-on review” of every document and use predictive coding to leverage the expertise of more experienced attorneys, you will naturally aim to review as few documents as possible in order to achieve the best possible results.

How do you review the minimum number of documents with predictive coding? For starters, organizations should prepare their case to use predictive coding by performing an early case assessment (ECA) in order to cull down to your review population prior to review. While some may suggest that predictive coding can be run without any ECA up front, you will actually save a significant amount of review time if you put in the effort to cull out the profoundly irrelevant documents in your case. Doing so will prevent a “junk in, junk out” situation where leaving too much junk in the case will result in having to necessarily review a number of junk documents throughout the predictive coding workflow.

Next, segregating documents that are unsuitable for predictive coding is important. Most predictive coding solutions leverage the extracted text content within documents to operate. That means any documents that do not contain extracted text, such as photographs and engineering schematics, should be manually reviewed so they are not overlooked by the predictive coding engine. The same concept applies to any other document that has other reviewable limitations, such as encrypted and password protected files. All of these documents should be reviewed separately as to not miss any relevant documents.

After culling down to your review population, the next step in preparing to use predictive coding is to create a Control Set by drawing a randomly selected statistical sample from the document population. Once the Control Set is manually reviewed, it will serve two main purposes. First, it will allow you to estimate the population yield, otherwise referred to as the percentage of responsive documents contained within the larger population. (The size of the control set may need to be adjusted to insure the yield is properly taken into account). Second, it will serve as your baseline for a true “apples-to-apples” comparison of your prediction accuracy across iterations as you move through the predictive coding workflow. The Control Set will only need to be reviewed once up front to be used for measuring accuracy throughout the workflow.

It is essential that the documents in the Control Set are selected randomly from the entire population. While some believe that taking other sampling approaches give better peace of mind, they actually may result in unnecessary review. For example, other workflows recommend sampling from the documents that are not predicted to be relevant to see if anything was left behind. If you instead create a proper Control Set from the entire population, you can get the necessary precision and recall metrics that are representative of the entire population, which in turn represents the documents that are not predicted to be relevant.

Once the Control Set is created, you can begin training the software to evaluate documents by the review criteria in the case. Selecting the optimal set of documents to train the system (commonly referred to as the training set or seed set) is one of the most important steps in the entire predictive coding workflow as it sets the initial accuracy for the system, and thus it should be chosen carefully. Some suggest creating the initial training set by taking a random sample (much like how the control set is selected) from the population instead of proactively selecting responsive documents. However, the important thing to understand is that any items used for training should accurately represent the responsive items instead. The reason selecting responsive documents for inclusion in the training set is important is related to the fact that most eDiscovery cases generally have low yield – meaning the prevalence of responsive documents contained within the overall document population is low. This means the system will not be able to effectively learn how to identify responsive items if enough responsive documents are not included in the training set.

An effective method for selecting the initial training set is to use a targeted search to locate a small set of documents (typically between 100-1000) that is expected to be about 50% responsive. For example, you may choose to focus on only the key custodians in the case and use a combination of tighter keyword/date range/etc search criteria. You do not have to perform exhaustive searches, but a high quality initial training set will likely minimize the amount of additional training needed to achieve high prediction accuracy.

After the initial training set is selected, it must then be reviewed. It is extremely important that the review decisions made on any training items are as accurate as possible since the systems will be learning from these items, which typically means that the more experienced case attorneys should be used for this review. Once review is finished on all of the training documents, then the system can learn from the tagging decisions in order to be able to predict the responsiveness or non-responsiveness of the remaining documents.

While you can now predict on all of the other documents in the population, it is most important to predict on the Control Set at this time. Not only may this decision be more time effective than applying predictions to all the documents in the case, but you will need predictions on all of the documents in the Control Set in order to assess the accuracy of the predictions. With predictions and tagging decisions on each of the Control Set documents, you will be able to get accurate precision and recall metrics that you can extrapolate to the entire review population.

At this point, the accuracy of the predictions is likely to not be optimal, and thus the iterative process begins. In order to increase the accuracy, you must select additional documents to use for training the system. Much like the initial training set, this additional training set must also be selected carefully. The best documents to use for an additional training set are those that the system would be unable to accurately predict. Rather than choosing these documents manually, the software is often able to mathematically determine this set more effectively than human reviewers. Once these documents are selected, you simply continue the iterative process of training, predicting and testing until your precision and recall are at an acceptable point. Following this workflow will result in a set of documents identified to be responsive by the system along with trustworthy and defensible accuracy metrics.

You cannot simply produce all of these documents at this point, however. The documents must still go through a privileged screen in order to remove any documents that should not be produced, and also go through any other review measures that you usually take on your responsive documents. This does, however, open up the possibility of applying additional rounds of predictive coding on top of this set of responsive documents. For example, after running the privileged screen, you can train on the privileged tag and attempt to identify additional privileged documents in your responsive set that were missed.

The important thing to keep in mind is that predictive coding is meant to strengthen your current review workflows. While we have outlined one possible workflow that utilizes predictive coding, the flexibility of the technology lends itself to be utilized for a multitude of other uses, including prioritizing a linear review. Whatever application you choose, predictive coding is sure to be an effective tool in your future reviews.

APAC eDiscovery Passports: Litigation Basics for the Asia-Pacific Region

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Global economic indicators point to increased trade with and outsourcing to emerging markets around the world, specifically the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Typical U.S. sectors transacting with the East include: manufacturing, business process outsourcing (BPO)/legal process outsourcing (LPO), call centers, and other industries. The Asian Development Bank stated last year that Asia will account for half of all global economic output by 2050 if their collective GDP stays on pace.  The next 10 years will likely bring BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Japan) and The Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) into the forefront of the global economy. Combining this projected economic growth with the data explosion makes knowledge about the APAC legal system a necessity for litigators and international business people alike.

The convergence of the global economy across different privacy and data protection regimes has increased the complexity of addressing electronically stored information (ESI). Money and data in large volumes cross borders daily in order to conduct international business. This is true not only for Asian countries transacting with each other, but increasingly with Europe and the United States. Moreover, because technology continues to decrease the reliance on data in paper format, data will need to be produced and analyzed in the form in which it was created. This is important from a forensic standpoint, as well as an information management perspective.  This technical push is reason alone that organizations will need to shift their processes and technologies to focus more on ESI – not in only in how data is created, but in how those organizations store, search, retrieve, review and produce data.

Discovery Equals eDiscovery

The world of eDiscovery for the purposes of regulation and litigation is no longer a U.S. anomaly. This is not only because organizations may be subject to the federal and state rules of civil procedure governing pre-trial discovery in U.S. civil litigation, but because under existing Asian laws and regulatory schemes, the ability to search and retrieve data may be necessary.

Regardless of whether the process of searching, retrieving, reviewing and producing data (eDiscovery) is called discovery or disclosure or whether these processes occur before trial or during, the reality in litigation, especially for multinational corporations, is that eDiscovery may be required around the world. The best approach is to not only equip your organization with the best technology available for legal defensibility and cost-savings from the litigator’s tool belt, but to know the rules by which one must play.

The Passports

The knowledge level for many lawyers about how to approach a discovery request in APAC jurisdictions is often minimal, but there are resources that provide straightforward answers at no cost to the end-user. For example, Symantec has just released a series of “eDiscovery Passports™” for APAC that focus on discovery in civil litigation, the collision of data privacy laws, questions about the cross-border transfer of data, and the threat of U.S. litigation as businesses globalize.  The Passports are a basic guide that frame key components about a country including the legal system, discovery/disclosure, privacy, international considerations and data protection regulations. The Passports are useful tools to begin the process of exploring what considerations need to be made when litigating in the APAC region.

While the rules governing discovery in common law countries like Australia (UPC) and New Zealand (HCR) may be less comprehensive and require slightly different timing than that of the U.S. and U.K., they do exist under the UPC and HCR.  Countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, that also follow a traditional common law system, contain several procedural nuances that are unique to their jurisdictions.  The Philippines, for example, is a hybrid of both civil and common law legal systems, embodying similarities to California law due to history and proximity.  Below are some examples of cases that evidence trends in Asian jurisdictions that lean toward the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), Sedona Principles and that support the idea that eDiscovery is going global.

  • Hong Kong. In Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings Ltd. v. KPMG (2010), the court held the discovery of relevant documents must apply to both paper and ESI. The court did, however, reject the argument by plaintiffs that overly broad discovery be ordered as this would be ‘tantamount to requiring the defendants to turn over the contents of their filing cabinets for the plaintiffs to rummage through.’ Takeaway: Relevance and proportionality are the key factors in determining discovery orders, not format.
  • Singapore. In Deutsche Bank AG v. Chang Tse Wen (2010), the court acknowledged eDiscovery as particularly useful when the relevant data to be discovered is voluminous.  Because the parties failed to meet and confer in this case, the court ordered parties to take note of the March 2012 Practice Direction which sets out eDiscovery protocols and guidance. Takeaway: Parties must meet and confer to discuss considerations regarding ESI and be prepared to explain why the discovery sought is relevant to the case.
  • U.S. In E.I. du Pont de Nemours v. Kolon Industries (E.D. Va. July 21, 2011), the court held that defendants failed to issue a timely litigation hold.  The resulting eDiscovery sanctions culminated in a $919 million dollar verdict against the defendant South Korean company. While exposure to the FRCP for a company doing business with the U.S. should not be the only factor in determining what eDiscovery processes and technologies are implemented, it is an important consideration in light of sanctions. Takeaway:  Although discovery requirements are not currently as expansive in Asia as they are in the U.S., if conducting business with the U.S., companies may be availed to U.S. law. U.S. law requires legal hold be deployed in when litigation is reasonably anticipated.

Asia eDiscovery Exchange

On June 6-7 at the Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong, industry experts from the legal, corporate and technology industries gathered for the Asia eDiscovery Exchange.  Jeffrey Toh of innoXcell, the organizer of the event in conjunction with the American eDJ Group, says “this is still a very new initiative in Asia, nevertheless, regulators in Asia have taken steps to implement practice directions for electronic evidence.” Exchanges like these indicate the market is ready for comprehensive solutions for proactive information governance, as well as reactive eDiscovery.  The three themes the conference touched on were information governance, eDiscovery and forensics.  Key sessions included “Social Media is surpassing email as a means of communication; What does this mean for data collection and your Information Governance Strategy” with Barry Murphy, co-founder and principal analyst, eDiscovery Journal and Chris Dale, founder, e-Disclosure Information Project, as well as “Proactive Legal Management” (with Rebecca Grant, CEO of iCourts in Australia and Philip Rohlik, Debevoise & Plimpton in Hong Kong).

The Asian market is ripe for new technologies, and the Asia eDiscovery Exchange should yield tremendous insight into the unique drivers for the APAC region and how vendors and lawyers alike are adapting to market with their offerings.  The eDiscovery Passports™ are also timely as they coincide with a marked increase in Asian business and the proposal of new data protection laws in the region.  Because the regional differences are distinct with regard to discovery, resources like this can help litigators in Asia interregionally, as well as lawyers around the world.  Thought leaders in the APAC region have come together to discuss these differences and how technology can best address the unique requirements in each jurisdiction.  The conference has made clear that information governance, archiving and eDiscovery tools are necessary in the region, even if those needs are not necessarily motivated by litigation as in the U.S. 

Kleen Products Predictive Coding Update – Judge Nolan: “I am a believer of principle 6 of Sedona”

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Recent transcripts reveal that 7th Circuit Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan has urged the parties in Kleen Products, LLC, et. al. v. Packaging Corporation of America, et. al. to focus on developing a mutually agreeable keyword search strategy for eDiscovery instead of debating whether other search and review methodologies would yield better results. This is big news for litigators and others in the electronic discovery space because many perceived Kleen Products as potentially putting keyword search technology on trial, compared to newer technology like predictive coding. Considering keyword search technology is still widely used in eDiscovery, a ruling by Judge Nolan requiring defendants to redo part of their production using technology other than keyword searches would sound alarm bells for many litigators.

The controversy surrounding Kleen Products relates both to Plaintiffs’ position, as well as the status of discovery in the case. Plaintiffs initially asked Judge Nolan to order Defendants to redo their previous productions and all future productions using alternative technology.  The request was surprising to many observers because some Defendants had already spent thousands of hours reviewing and producing in excess of one million documents. That number has since surpassed three million documents.  Among other things, Plaintiffs claim that if Defendants had used “Content Based Advanced Analytics” tools (a term they did not define) such as predictive coding technology, then their production would have been more thorough. Notably, Plaintiffs do not appear to point to any instances of specific documents missing from Defendants’ productions.

In response, Defendants countered that their use of keyword search technology and their eDiscovery methodology in general was extremely rigorous and thorough. More specifically, they highlight their use of advanced culling and analysis tools (such as domain filtering and email threading) in addition to keyword search tools.  Plaintiffs also claim they cooperated with Defendants by allowing them to participate in the selection of keywords used to search for relevant documents.  Perhaps going above and beyond the eDiscovery norm, the Defendants even instituted a detailed document sampling approach designed to measure the quality of their document productions.

Following two full days of expert witness testimony regarding the adequacy of Plaintiffs’ initial productions, Judge Nolan finally asked the parties to try and reach compromise on the “Boolean” keyword approach.  She apparently reasoned that having the parties work out a mutually agreeable approach based on what Defendants had already implemented was preferable to scheduling yet another full day of expert testimony — even though additional expert testimony is still an option.

In a nod to the Sedona Principles, she further explained her rationale on March 28, 2012, at the conclusion of the second day of testimony:

“the defendants had done a lot of work, the defendant under Sedona 6 has the right to pick the [eDiscovery] method. Now, we all know, every court in the country has used Boolean search, I mean, this is not like some freak thing that they [Defendants] picked out…”

Judge Nolan’s reliance on the Sedona Best Practices Recommendations & Principles for Addressing Electronic Document Production reveals how she would likely rule if Plaintiffs renew their position that Defendants should have used predictive coding or some other kind of technology in lieu of keyword searches. Sedona Principle 6 states that:

“[r]esponding parties are best situated to evaluate the procedures, methodologies, and technologies appropriate for preserving and producing their own electronically stored information.”

In other words, Judge Nolan confirmed that in her court, opposing parties typically may not dictate what technology solutions their opponents must use without some indication that the technology or process used failed to yield accurate results. Judge Nolan also observed that quality and accuracy are key guideposts regardless of the technology utilized during the eDiscovery process:

“what I was learning from the two days, and this is something no other court in the country has really done too, is how important it is to have quality search. I mean, if we want to use the term “quality” or “accurate,” but we all want this…– how do you verify the work that you have done already, is the way I put it.”

Although Plaintiffs have reserved their right to reintroduce their technology arguments, recent transcripts suggest that Defendants will not be required to use different technology. Plaintiffs continue to meet and confer with individual Defendants to agree on keyword searches, as well as the types of data sources that must be included in the collection. The parties and Judge also appear to agree that they would like to continue making progress with 30(b)(6) depositions and other eDiscovery issues before Judge Nolan retires in a few months, rather than begin a third day of expert hearings regarding technology related issues. This appears to be good news for the Judge and the parties since the eDiscovery issues now seem to be headed in the right direction as a result of mutual cooperation between the parties and some nudging by Judge Nolan.

There is also good news for outside observers in that Judge Nolan has provided some sage guidance to help future litigants before she steps down from the bench. For example, it is clear that Judge Nolan and other judges continue to emphasize the importance of cooperation in today’s complex new world of technology. Parties should be prepared to cooperate and be more transparent during discovery given the judiciary’s increased reliance on the Sedona Cooperation Proclamation. Second, Kleen Products illustrates that keyword search is not dead. Instead, keyword search should be viewed as one of many tools in the Litigator’s Toolbelt™ that can be used with other tools such as email threading, advanced filtering technology, and even predictive coding tools.  Finally, litigators should take note that regardless of the tools they select, they must be prepared to defend their process and use of those tools or risk the scrutiny of judges and opposing parties.

Gartner’s “2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software” Provides a Useful Roadmap for Legal Technologists

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Gartner has just released its 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, which is an annual report that analyzes the state of the electronic discovery industry and provides a detailed vendor-by-vendor evaluation. For many, particularly those in IT circles, Gartner is an unwavering north star used to divine software market leaders, in topics ranging from business intelligence platforms to wireless lan infrastructures. When IT professionals are on the cusp of procuring complex software, they look to analysts like Gartner for quantifiable and objective recommendations – as a way to inform and buttress their own internal decision making processes.

But for some in the legal technology field (particularly attorneys), looking to Gartner for software analysis can seem a bit foreign. Legal practitioners are often more comfortable with the “good ole days” when the only navigation aid in the eDiscovery world was provided by the dynamic duo of George Socha and Tom Gelbmanm, who (beyond creating the EDRM) were pioneers of the first eDiscovery rankings survey. Albeit somewhat short lived, their Annual Electronic Discovery[i] Survey ranked the hundreds of eDiscovery providers and bucketed the top tier players in both software and litigation support categories. The scope of their mission was grand, and they were perhaps ultimately undone by the breadth of their task (stopping the Survey in 2010), particularly as the eDiscovery landscape continued to mature, fragment and evolve.

Gartner, which has perfected the analysis of emerging software markets, appears to have taken on this challenge with an admittedly more narrow (and likely more achievable) focus. Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant (MQ) for the eDiscovery industry last year, and in the 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software report they’ve evaluated the top 21 electronic discovery software vendors. As with all Gartner MQs, their methodology is rigorous; in order to be included, vendors must meet quantitative requirements in market penetration and customer base and are then evaluated upon criteria for completeness of vision and ability to execute.

By eliminating the legion of service providers and law firms, Gartner has made their mission both more achievable and perhaps (to some) less relevant. When talking to certain law firms and litigation support providers, some seem to treat the Gartner initiative (and subsequent Magic Quadrant) like a map from a land they never plan to visit. But, even if they’re not directly procuring eDiscovery software, the Gartner MQ should still be seen by legal technologists as an invaluable tool to navigate the perils of the often confusing and shifting eDiscovery landscape – particularly with the rash of recent M&A activity.

Beyond the quadrant positions[ii], comprehensive analysis and secular market trends, one of the key underpinnings of the Magic Quadrant is that the ultimate position of a given provider is in many ways an aggregate measurement of overall customer satisfaction. Similar in ways to the net promoter concept (which is a tool to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships simply by asking how likely that customer is to recommend a product/service to a colleague), the Gartner MQ can be looked at as the sum total of all customer experiences.[iii] As such, this usage/satisfaction feedback is relevant even for parties that aren’t purchasing or deploying electronic discovery software per se. Outside counsel, partners, litigation support vendors and other interested parties may all end up interacting with a deployed eDiscovery solution (particularly when such solutions have expanded their reach as end-to-end information governance platforms) and they should want their chosen solution to used happily and seamlessly in a given enterprise. There’s no shortage of stories about unhappy outside counsel (for example) that complain about being hamstrung by a slow, first generation eDiscovery solution that ultimately makes their job harder (and riskier).

Next, the Gartner MQ also is a good short-handed way to understand more nuanced topics like time to value and total cost of ownership. While of course related to overall satisfaction, the Magic Quadrant does indirectly address the query about whether the software does what it says it will (delivering on the promise) in the time frame that is claimed (delivering the promise in a reasonable time frame) since these elements are typically subsumed in the satisfaction metric. This kind of detail is disclosed in the numerous interviews that Gartner conducts to go behind the scenes, querying usage and overall satisfaction.

While no navigation aid ensures that a traveler won’t get lost, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software is a useful map of the electronic discovery software world. And, particularly looking at year-over-year trends, the MQ provides a useful way for legal practitioners (beyond the typical IT users) to get a sense of the electronic discovery market landscape as it evolves and matures. After all, staying on top of the eDiscovery industry has a range of benefits beyond just software procurement.

Please register here to access the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software.

About the Magic Quadrant
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.



[i] Note, in the good ole days folks still used two words to describe eDiscovery.

[ii] Gartner has a proprietary matrix that it uses to place the entities into four quadrants: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players.

[iii] Under the Ability to Execute axis Gartner weighs a number of factors including “Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services or programs that enable clients to succeed with the products evaluated. Specifically, this criterion includes implementation experience, and the ways customers receive technical support or account support. It can also include ancillary tools, the existence and quality of customer support programs, availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.”

7th Circuit eDiscovery Pilot Program Tackles Technology Assisted Review With Mock Arguments

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The 7th Circuit eDiscovery Pilot Program’s Mock Argument is the first of its kind and is slated for June 14, 2012.  It is not surprising that the Seventh Circuit’s eDiscovery Pilot Program would be the first to host an event like this on predictive coding, as the program has been a progressive model across the country for eDiscovery protocols since 2009.  The predictive coding event is open to the public (registration required) and showcases the expertise of leading litigators, technologists and experts from all over the United States.  Speakers include: Jason R. Baron, Director of Litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration; Maura R. Grossman, Counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Dr. David Lewis, Technology Expert and co-founder of the TREC Legal Track; Ralph Losey, Partner at Jackson Lewis; Matt Nelson, eDiscovery Counsel at Symantec; Lisa Rosen, President of Rosen Technology ResourcesJeff Sharer, Partner at Sidley Austin; and Tomas Thompson, Senior Associate at DLA Piper.

The eDiscovery 2.0 blog has extensively covered the three recent predictive coding cases currently being litigated, and while real court cases are paramount to the direction of predictive coding, the 7th Circuit program will proactively address a scenario that has not yet been considered by a court.  In Da Silva Moore, the parties agreed to the use of predictive coding, but couldn’t subsequently agree on the protocol.  In Kleen, plaintiffs want defendants to redo their review process using predictive coding even though the production is 99% complete.  And, in Global Aerospace the defendant proactively petitioned to use predictive coding over plaintiff’s objections.  By contrast, in the 7th Circuit’s hypothetical, the mock argument predicts another likely predictive coding scenario; the instance where a defendant has a deployed in-house solution in place and argues against the use of predictive coding before discovery has begun.

Traditionally, courts have been reticent to bless or admonish technology, but rather rule on the reasonableness of an organization’s process and depend on expert testimony for issues beyond that scope.  It is expected that predictive coding will follow suit; however, because so little is understood about how the technology works, interest has been generated in a way the legal technology industry has not seen before, as evidenced by this tactical program.

* * *

The hypothetical dispute is a complex litigation matter pending in a U.S. District Court involving a large public corporation that has been sued by a smaller high-tech competitor for alleged anticompetitive conduct, unfair competition and various business torts.  The plaintiff has filed discovery requests that include documents and communications maintained by the defendant corporation’s vast international sales force.  To expedite discovery and level the playing field in terms of resources and costs, the Plaintiff has requested the use of predictive coding to identify and produce responsive documents.  The defendant, wary of the latest (and untested) eDiscovery technology trends, argues that the organization already has a comprehensive eDiscovery program in place.  The defendant will further argue that the technological investment and defensible processes in-house are more than sufficient for comprehensive discovery, and in fact, were designed in order to implement a repeatable and defensible discovery program.  The methodology of the defendant is estimated to take months and result in the typical massive production set, whereas predictive coding would allegedly make for a shorter discovery period.  Because of the burden, the defendant plans to shift some of these costs to the plaintiff.

Ralph Losey’s role will be as the Magistrate Judge, defense counsel will be Martin T. Tully (partner Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP), with Karl Schieneman (of Review Less/ESI Bytes) as the litigation support manager for the corporation and plaintiff’s counsel will be Sean Byrne (eDiscovery solutions director at Axiom) with Herb Roitblat (of OrcaTec) as plaintiff’s eDiscovery consultant.

As the hottest topic in the eDiscovery world, the promises of predictive coding include: increased search accuracy for relevant documents, decreased cost and time spent for manual review, and possibly greater insight into an organization’s corpus of data allowing for more strategic decision making with regard to early case assessment.  The practical implications of predictive coding use are still to be determined and programs like this one will flesh out some of those issues before they get to the courts, which is good for practitioners and judges alike.  Stay tuned for an analysis of the arguments, as well as a link to the video.

Courts Increasingly Cognizant of eDiscovery Burdens, Reject “Gotcha” Sanctions Demands

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Courts are becoming increasingly cognizant of the eDiscovery burdens that the information explosion has placed on organizations. Indeed, the cases from 2012 are piling up in which courts have rejected demands that sanctions be imposed for seemingly reasonable information retention practices. The recent case of Grabenstein v. Arrow Electronics (D. Colo. April 23, 2012) is another notable instance of this trend.

In Grabenstein, the court refused to sanction a company for eliminating emails pursuant to a good faith document retention policy. The plaintiff had argued that drastic sanctions (evidence, adverse inference and monetary) should be imposed on the company since relevant emails regarding her alleged disability were not retained in violation of both its eDiscovery duties and an EEOC regulatory retention obligation. The court disagreed, finding that sanctions were inappropriate because the emails were not deleted before the duty to preserve was triggered: “Plaintiff has not provided any evidence that Defendant deleted e-mails after the litigation hold was imposed.”

Furthermore, the court declined to issue sanctions of any kind even though it found that the company deleted emails in violation of its EEOC regulatory retention duty. The court adopted this seemingly incongruous position because the emails were overwritten pursuant to a reasonable document retention policy:

“there is no evidence to show that the e-mails were destroyed in other than the normal course of business pursuant to Defendant’s e-mail retention policy or that Defendant intended to withhold unfavorable information from Plaintiff.”

The Grabenstein case reinforces the principle that reasonable information retention and eDiscovery processes can and often do trump sanctions requests. Just like the defendant in Grabenstein, organizations should develop and follow a retention policy that eliminates data stockpiles before litigation is reasonably anticipated. Grabenstein also demonstrates the value of deploying a timely and comprehensive litigation hold process to ensure that relevant electronically stored information (ESI) is retained once a preservation duty is triggered. These principles are consistent with various other recent cases, including a decision last month in which pharmaceutical giant Pfizer defeated a sanctions motion by relying on its “good faith business procedures” to eliminate legacy materials before a duty to preserve arose.

The Grabenstein holding also spotlights the role that proportionality can play in determining the extent of a party’s preservation duties. The Grabenstein court reasoned that sanctions would be inappropriate since plaintiff managed to obtain the destroyed emails from an alternative source. Without expressly mentioning “proportionality,” the court implicitly drew on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C) to reach its “no harm, no foul” approach to plaintiff’s sanctions request. Rule 2626(b)(2)(C)(i) empowers a court to limit discovery when it is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.” Given that plaintiff actually had the emails in question and there was no evidence suggesting other ESI had been destroyed, proportionality standards tipped the scales against the sanctions request.

The Grabenstein holding is good news for organizations looking to reduce their eDiscovery costs and burdens. By refusing to accede to a tenuous sanctions motion and by following principles of proportionality, the court sustained reasonableness over “gotcha” eDiscovery tactics. If courts adhere to the Grabenstein mantra that preservation and production should be reasonable and proportional, organizations truly stand a better chance of seeing their litigation costs and burdens reduced accordingly.

Will Predictive Coding Live Up to the eDiscovery Hype?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The myriad of published material regarding predictive coding technology has almost universally promised reduced costs and lighter burdens for the eDiscovery world. Indeed, until the now famous order was issued in the Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe case “approving” the use of predictive coding, many in the industry had parroted this “lower costs/lighter burdens” mantra like the retired athletes who chanted “tastes great/less filling” during the 1970s Miller Lite commercials. But a funny thing happened on the way to predictive coding satisfying the cost cutting mandate of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1: the same old eDiscovery story of high costs and lengthy delays are plaguing the initial outlay of this technology. The three publicized cases involving predictive coding are particularly instructive on this early, but troubling development.

Predictive Coding Cases

In Moore v. Publicis Groupe, the plaintiffs’ attempt to recuse Judge Peck has diverted the spotlight from the costs and delays associated with use of predictive coding. Indeed, the parties have been wrangling for months over the parameters of using this technology for defendant MSL’s document review. During that time, each side has incurred substantial attorney fees and other costs to address fairly routine review issues. This tardiness figures to continue as the parties now project that MSL’s production will not be complete until September 7, 2012. Even that date seems too sanguine, particularly given Judge Peck’s recent observation about the slow pace of production: “You’re now woefully behind schedule already at the first wave.” Moreover, Judge Peck has suggested on multiple occasions that a special master be appointed to address disagreements over relevance designations. Special masters, production delays, additional briefings and related court hearings all lead to the inescapable conclusion that the parties will be saddled with a huge eDiscovery bill (despite presumptively lower review costs) due to of the use of predictive coding technology.

The Kleen Products v. Packing Corporation case is also plagued by cost and delay issues. As explained in our post on this case last month, the plaintiffs are demanding a “do-over” of the defendants’ document production, insisting that predictive coding technology be used instead of keyword search and other analytical tools. Setting aside plaintiffs’ arguments, the costs the parties have incurred in connection with this motion are quickly mounting. After submitting briefings on the issues, the court has now held two hearings on the matter, including a full day of testimony from the parties’ experts. With another “Discovery Hearing” now on the docket for May 22nd, predictive coding has essentially turned an otherwise routine document production query into an expensive, time consuming sideshow with no end in sight.

Cost and delay issues may very well trouble the parties in the Global Aerospace v. Landow Aviation matter, too. In Global Aerospace, the court acceded to the defendants’ request to use predictive coding technology over the plaintiffs’ objections. Despite allowing the use of such technology, the court provided plaintiffs with the opportunity to challenge the “completeness or the contents of the production or the ongoing use of predictive coding technology.” Such a condition essentially invites plaintiffs to re-litigate their objections through motion practice. Moreover, like the proverbial “exception that swallows the rule,” the order allows for the possibility that the court could withdraw its approval of predictive coding technology. All of which could lead to seemingly endless discovery motions, production “re-dos” and inevitable cost and delay issues.

Better Times Ahead?

At present, the Da Silva Moore, Kleen Products and Global Aerospace cases do not suggest that predictive coding technology will “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Nevertheless, there is room for considerable optimism that predictive coding will ultimately succeed. Technological advances in the industry will provide greater transparency into the black box of predictive coding technology that to date has not existed. Additional advances should also lead to easy-to-use workflow management consoles, which will in turn increase defensibility of the process and satisfy legitimate concerns regarding production results, such as those raised by the plaintiffs in Moore and Global Aerospace.

Technological advances that also increase the accuracy of first generation predictive coding tools should yield greater understanding and acceptance about the role predictive coding can play in eDiscovery. As lawyers learn to trust the reliability of transparent predictive coding, they will appreciate how this tool can be deployed in various scenarios (e.g., prioritization, quality assurance for linear review, full scale production) and in connection with existing eDiscovery technologies. In addition, such understanding will likely facilitate greater cooperation among counsel, a lynchpin for expediting the eDiscovery process. This is evident from the Moore, Kleen Products and Global Aerospace cases, where a lack of cooperation has caused increased costs and delays.

With the promise of transparency and simpler workflows, predictive coding technology should eventually live up to its billing of helping organizations discover their information in an efficient, cost effective and defensible manner.  As for now, the “promise” of first generation predictive coding tools appears to be nothing more than that, leaving organizations looking like the cash-strapped “Monopoly man,” wondering where there litigation dollars have gone.

Look Before You Leap! Avoiding Pitfalls When Moving eDiscovery to the Cloud

Monday, May 7th, 2012

It’s no surprise that the eDiscovery frenzy gripping the American legal system over the past decade has become increasingly expensive.  Particularly costly to organizations is the process of preserving and collecting documents, a fact repeatedly emphasized by the Advisory Committee in its report regarding the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).  These aspects of discovery are often lengthy and can be disruptive to business operations.  Just as troubling, they increase the duration and expense of litigation.

Because these costs and delays affect the courts as well as clients, it comes as no surprise that judges have now heightened their expectation for how organizations store, manage and discover their electronically stored information (ESI).  Gone are the days when enterprises could plead ignorance for not preserving or producing their data in an efficient, cost effective and defensible manner.  Organizations must now follow best practices – both during and before litigation – if they are to safely navigate the stormy seas of eDiscovery.

The importance of deploying such practices applies acutely to those organizations that are exploring “cloud”-based alternatives to traditional methods for preserving and producing electronic information.  Under the right circumstances, the cloud may represent a fantastic opportunity to streamline the eDiscovery process for an organization.  Yet it could also turn into a dangerous liaison if the cloud offering is not properly scrutinized for basic eDiscovery functionality.  Indeed, the City of Los Angeles’s recent decision to partially disengage from its cloud service provider exemplifies this admonition to “look before you leap” to the cloud.  Thus, before selecting a cloud provider for eDiscovery, organizations should be particularly careful to ensure that a provider has the ability both to efficiently retrieve data from the cloud and to issue litigation hold notices.

Effective Data Retrieval Requires Efficient Data Storage

The hype surrounding the cloud has generally focused on the opportunity for cheap and unlimited storage of information.  Storage, however, is only one of many factors to consider in selecting a cloud-based eDiscovery solution.  To be able to meet the heightened expectations of courts and regulatory bodies, organizations must have the actual – not theoretical – ability to retrieve their data in real time.  Otherwise, they may not be able to satisfy eDiscovery requests from courts or regulatory bodies, let alone the day-to-day demands of their operations.

A key step to retrieving company data in a timely manner is to first confirm whether the cloud offering can intelligently organize that information such that organizations can quickly respond to discovery requests and other legal demands.  This includes the capacity to implement and observe company retention protocols.  Just like traditional data archiving software, the cloud must enable automated retention rules and thus limit the retention of information to a designated time period.  This will enable data to be expired once it reaches the end of that period.

The pool of data can be further decreased through single instance storage.  This deduplication technology eliminates redundant data by preserving only a master copy of each document placed into the cloud.  This will reduce the amount of data that needs to be identified, preserved, collected and reviewed as part of any discovery process.  For while unlimited data storage may seem ideal now, reviewing unlimited amounts of data will quickly become a logistical and costly nightmare.

Any viable cloud offering should also have the ability to suspend automated document retention/deletion rules to ensure the adequate preservation of relevant information.  This goes beyond placing a hold on archival data in the cloud.  It requires that an organization have the ability to identify the data sources in the cloud that may contain relevant information and then modify aspects of its retention policies to ensure that cloud-stored data is retained for eDiscovery.  Taking this step will enable an organization to create a defensible document retention strategy and be protected from court sanctions under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e) “safe harbor.”  The decision from Viramontes v. U.S. Bancorp (N.D. Ill. Jan. 27, 2011) is particularly instructive on this issue.

In Viramontes, the defendant bank defeated a sanctions motion because it timely modified aspects of its email retention policy.  The bank implemented a policy that kept emails for 90 days, after which the emails were deleted.  That policy was promptly suspended, however, once litigation was reasonably foreseeable.  Because the bank followed that procedure in good faith, it was protected from sanctions under Rule 37(e).

As the Viramontes case shows, an organization can be prepared for eDiscovery disputes by appropriately suspending aspects of its document retention policies.  By creating and then faithfully observing a policy that requires retention policies be suspended on the occurrence of litigation or other triggering event, an organization can develop a defensible retention procedure. Having such eDiscovery functionality in a cloud provider will likely facilitate an organization’s eDiscovery process and better insulate it from litigation disasters.

The Ability to Issue Litigation Hold Notices

To be effective for eDiscovery purposes, a cloud service provider must also enable an organization to deploy a litigation hold to prevent users from destroying data. Unless the cloud has litigation hold technology, the entire discovery process may very well collapse.  For electronic data to be produced in litigation, it must first be preserved.  And it cannot be preserved if the key players or data source custodians are unaware that such information must be retained.  Indeed, employees and data sources may discard and overwrite electronically stored information if they are oblivious to a preservation duty.

A cloud service provider should therefore enable automated legal hold acknowledgements.  Such technology will allow custodians to be promptly and properly notified of litigation and thereby retain information that might otherwise have been discarded.  Inadequate litigation hold technology leaves organizations vulnerable to data loss and court punishment.

Conclusion

Confirming that a cloud offering can quickly retrieve and efficiently store enterprise data while effectively deploying litigation hold notices will likely address the basic concerns regarding its eDiscovery functionality. Yet these features alone will not make that solution the model of eDiscovery cloud providers. Advanced search capabilities should also be included to reduce the amount of data that must be analyzed and reviewed downstream. In addition, the cloud ought to support load files in compatible formats for export to third party review software. The cloud should additionally provide an organization with a clear audit trail establishing that neither its documents, nor their metadata were modified when transmitted to the cloud.  Without this assurance, an organization may not be able to comply with key regulations or establish the authenticity of its data in court. Finally, ensure that these provisions are memorialized in the service level agreement governing the relationship between the organization and the cloud provider.

District Court Upholds Judge Peck’s Predictive Coding Order Over Plaintiff’s Objection

Monday, April 30th, 2012

In a decision that advances the predictive coding ball one step further, United States District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. upheld Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck’s order in Da Silva Moore, et. al. v. Publicis Groupe, et. al. despite Plaintiff’s multiple objections. Although Judge Carter rejected all of Plaintiff’s arguments in favor of overturning Judge Peck’s predictive coding order, he did not rule on Plaintiff’s motion to recuse Judge Peck from the current proceedings – a matter that is expected to be addressed separately at a later time. Whether or not a successful recusal motion will alter this or any other rulings in the case remains to be seen.

Finding that it was within Judge Peck’s discretion to conclude that the use of predictive coding technology was appropriate “under the circumstances of this particular case,” Judge Carter summarized Plaintiff’s key arguments listed below and rejected each of them in his five-page Opinion and Order issued on April 26, 2012.

  • the predictive coding method contemplated in the ESI protocol lacks generally accepted reliability standards,
  • Judge Peck improperly relied on outside documentary evidence,
  • Defendant MSLGroup’s (“MSL’s”) expert is biased because the use of predictive coding will reap financial benefits for his company,
  • Judge Peck failed to hold an evidentiary hearing and adopted MSL’s version of the ESI protocol on an insufficient record and without proper Rule 702 consideration

Since Judge Peck’s earlier order is “non-dispositive,” Judge Carter identified and applied the “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review in rejecting Plaintiffs’ request to overturn the order. Central to Judge Carter’s reasoning is his assertion that any confusion regarding the ESI protocol is immaterial because the protocol “contains standards for measuring the reliability of the process and the protocol builds in levels of participation by Plaintiffs.” In other words, Judge Carter essentially dismisses Plaintiff’s concerns as premature on the grounds that the current protocol provides a system of checks and balances that protects both parties. To be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean Plaintiffs won’t get a second bite of the apple if problems with MSL’s productions surface.

For now, however, Judge Carter seems to be saying that although Plaintiffs must live with the current order, they are by no means relinquishing their rights to a fair and just discovery process. In fact, the existing protocol allows Plaintiffs to actively participate in and monitor the entire process closely. For example, Judge Carter writes that, “if the predictive coding software is flawed or if Plaintiffs are not receiving the types of documents that should be produced, the parties are allowed to reconsider their methods and raise their concerns with the Magistrate Judge.”

Judge Carter also specifically addresses Plaintiff’s concerns related to statistical sampling techniques which could ultimately prove to be their meatiest argument. A key area of disagreement between the parties is whether or not MSL is reviewing enough documents to insure relevant documents are not completely overlooked even if this complex process is executed flawlessly. Addressing this point Judge Carter states that, “If the method provided in the protocol does not work or if the sample size is indeed too small to properly apply the technology, the Court will not preclude Plaintiffs from receiving relevant information, but to call the method unreliable at this stage is speculative.”

Although most practitioners are focused on seeing whether and how many of these novel predictive coding issues play out, it is important not to overlook two key nuggets of information lining Judge Carter’s Opinion and Order. First, Judge Carter’s statement that “[t]here simply is no review tool that guarantees perfection” serves as an acknowledgement that “reasonableness” is the standard by which discovery should be measured, not “perfection.” Second, Judge Carter’s acknowledgement that manual review with keyword searches may be appropriate in certain situations should serve as a wake-up call for those who think predictive coding technology will replace all predecessor technologies. To the contrary, predictive coding is a promising new tool to add to the litigator’s tool belt, but it is not necessarily a replacement for all other technology tools.

Plaintiffs in Da Silva Moore may not have received the ruling they were hoping for, but Judge Carter’s Opinion and Order makes it clear that the court house door has not been closed. Given the controversy surrounding this case, one can assume that Plaintiffs are likely to voice many of their concerns at a later date as discovery proceeds. In other words, don’t expect all of these issues to fade away without a fight.