This is the fifth of the 2014 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series. eDiscoveryDaily interviewed several thought leaders after LTNY this year (don’t get us started) and generally asked each of them the following questions:
Today’s thought leader is Alon Israely. Alon is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Business Intelligence Associates, Inc. (BIA) and currently leads the Strategic Partner Program at BIA. Alon has over eighteen years of experience in a variety of advanced computing-related technologies and has consulted with law firms and their clients on a variety of technology issues, including expert witness services related to computer forensics, digital evidence management and data security. Alon is an attorney and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?
Once again, I did not see much differentiation between different exhibitors. There was nothing that stood out to me as being a groundbreaking differentiator. That said, it seemed a lighter show, less people. But, even though it was a lighter number of attendees, the caliber of attendees seemed a bit higher. This is all coming from my gut as I have no real numbers or metrics to back this up, but, the conversations we had at our booth seemed, on average to be a little more substantive than in previous years.
As for trends, there seems to be more discussion about the high-tech trends, such as cloud computing and analytic technologies. Instead of people talking about these technologies generally, it seemed as though people were talking about these technologies more specifically. Not to say that they were differentiated, they were still non-differentiated. But, there were more people talking about cloud technologies and there was a big CLE about it. And, more people were talking specifically about analytics, not just saying “you can do all of this culling”, but showing specific examples, with charts, graphics and other neat elements that indicate searching/analytics results. So, there seemed to be a bit more specificity around technology and, together with that, advanced technology. But, to be honest with you, there was nothing at the show that really blew my mind. Nothing that was groundbreaking, nothing that looked like it would initiate a shift in the industry. If anything, it felt like, other than the few specifics around high-tech, similar to previous years.
I will say that some of the attendees that I talked to, some of the GCs and outside counsel firm attorneys, said they spent more time inside the educational components at LegalTech instead of the exhibit hall. So, as an exhibitor, that doesn’t make me overly happy to see that, but, as a knowledge leader in the industry, I’m very happy to see that. I know that ALM has always tried to do a good job with the educational components. And, I think this year attendees took that part of it more seriously than in the past several years. It seemed that most of the networking that my BIA colleagues and I did was at the educational sessions, not necessarily on the floor. I think that’s a positive indicator for the people who made it to the show.
As for general trends in 2014, I think you will see corporations start to take control of their technology, not only for in-house solutions, but also for the solutions that outside counsel will be providing to them. Today, corporations tend to trust their outside counsel firms as to the review tools and other technologies that they use, but I think that it will be much more of a coordinated effort going forward. The level of maturity for corporations around eDiscovery is being raised. What the means in practical terms is that they will work more closely with their trusted vendors. I don’t believe that corporations are going to bring everything in-house and that vendors will be out of luck, though a lot of other people believe that will happen. I believe that services business for eDiscovery will remain strong for the next decade or longer and the dynamic of obtaining those services will morph into the corporation sitting side-by-side with the law firm making those services decisions.
That trend was evident at the show: you heard it from different vendor booths and the way that they were pitching their products and you heard it from actual in-house attorneys that were attending. I saw at least two cases where the GC and his outside counsel attorney were walking around the show together – hopefully, the GC wasn’t getting charged for that time! You’re starting to see corporations take more control of the reins, but not in the way we always thought where they dictate to the outside counsel what vendors to use. Instead, it’s much more of a collaborative effort and I think you’ll see much more of that over the next several years.
With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?
I see those being incredibly important. The more we can get specificity around what needs to happen early in a case and the more that specificity can be codified, the better off we will all be. If you look at all of the wasted money spent over the last few years, some of that is solved by the new rules, specifically in the area of preservation. We’re in the business of selling preservation software, so I’m excited about the potential changes.
But, if I step out of that personal perspective, the changes still make a lot of sense because, today, you still have a lot of effort being spent by parties figuring out legal hold and preservation issues. Who was put on hold, when were holds put in place, what data was and was not preserved. That usually happens when a problem occurs – you have a peak of expensive lawyering and legal maneuvering with motions practice, etc and typically when it’s already too late. So, some of these new rules which are focused on discussions early in the case with respect to preservation should nip a lot of that in the bud. Now, instead of fighting four months later after discovery closes whether some system was preserved or not, that should get covered early-on with some of the new rules that will hopefully go into effect. So, I’m very excited about the rules changes, not only as a vendor in the space, but also as a legal professional in general. The more efficiency that you can create early in the matter, the more money you can save and the more you can focus on the substantive issues and on the merits of the case.
It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery? Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?
I do wholeheartedly agree. Our industry is funny because the cost of goods sold for eDiscovery solutions and services is higher than for most other industries else because of the fact that we have to educate with almost every sale. There are a lot of resources out there, including efforts by many respected thought leaders and all of the great blogs out there, and many providers have an educational component to their website. So, you’re right that there are a lot of quality resources for attorneys at their fingertips, yet there are still so many attorneys that simply don’t understand it. Most of the small business and solo practitioners market doesn’t understand eDiscovery and many GCs of mid-sized corporations don’t either. And, frankly neither do many “corner office” partners at Amlaw200 firms. They know about it at a high level and understand that it’s important, but they don’t know enough detail. But, the good news is that with the advent of those educational resources and the fact that every eDiscovery provider and vendor teaches as they sell, those legal professionals don’t need to learn that much – even getting four or five feet “underneath the water” instead of thirty feet under would be helpful.
As to why they don’t know more, I don’t know. Maybe attorneys are so used to having experts to rely on and because they feel they know enough about eDiscovery, that they don’t need to know any more detail or process understanding unless a problem arises. I don’t have an explanation as to why, with all of these great resources available, that most legal professionals don’t have more knowledge. Unless it’s just that they have a “technology block” and are still afraid of the technology aspects of that knowledge base. To improve things, I believe that vendors will continue to have to sell in an educational manner, with one half of the sale educating the attorney and the other half focused on closing the deal. And, hopefully more law schools will continue to incorporate eDiscovery into their curriculum. But, I don’t see the issue of more knowledge across a wider audience of legal professionals getting a whole lot better anytime soon.
What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?
BIA continues to be focused on bringing the best technology and workflow that we can to the left side of the EDRM model – such as legal hold, preservation and ECA. Legal hold activities such as notifying and tracking employees, interviewing custodians and creating questionnaires to do so, and suspending practices such as email auto deletion, and collection of ESI is what we’re all about. We’ve been really integrating those areas of the left side of the EDRM into one another. Today, TotalDiscovery employs much more of a circular workflow than it did even a year ago. It used to be much more siloed – you would implement a legal hold and then do a custodian questionnaire and the collection. Now, we’ve integrated those steps a lot more. Hold flows into the questionnaire process, you can seed collections with data from the questionnaires, and so forth. We’re also continuing to serve up as much intelligence on the data as possible. You don’t have to wait until you get further down the right side of the model to understand the type of data you have or how much you have. Obviously, you still need to be able to have a good review tool to perform real hard core research and analysis, but to the extent we can help attorneys more knowledgeable about their data before they get to review, the better it will be for them. That’s our goal. So, a lot of that comes from integrating different parts of the process and not focusing on just one area of the process, but gleaning intel from all of them and summarizing at a high level for the attorney. Also, our enterprise features are really strong and not something we talk about a lot (but we probably should) – stuff like connecting to Active directory, Exchange and other systems – real simple to do as a default configuration.
Also, our flat fee pricing model is a source of pride for us and it’s been very successful. Flat-fee pricing, unlimited use of functionality and overall budget predictability are values we offer and guarantee – which is unique in the market. Also, one of the good things about BIA is that we’re a technology company and we’re always adding features – we’ve now moved to a tighter cycle with a new feature or function added every four to six weeks. Sometimes it’s a small feature, at other times, it’s a large feature we’ve been working on for a while. It keeps it very fresh and we’re able to do so because of the way we’ve built the product with the cloud and web technologies that we use So, BIA continues to focus on what we’re good at – improving the workflow and functionality for the tasks compelled by companies on the left side of the EDRM model, leading up to review.
Thanks, Alon, for participating in the interview!
And to the readers, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic!
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.
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