Chris Dale, a lawyer-turned-eDisclosure-consultant based in the UK, has taken my two-post series from December on search inside the legal organization (see here and here) and applied the thinking specifically to eDiscovery. In his post Why Don’t We Just Use Google for eDiscovery? he suggests that the complexity of using litigation support tools–with concept searching, de-duplication, e-mail threading, clustering and predictive coding–has lawyers asking why not just use Google, or something like Google?
He gets to to the crux of the problem in this notion:
If the primary point is that Google does not purport to give you everything which responds to your keywords (and you would not be grateful if it did) a secondary point lies in things which are fundamental to Google’s model: would you want your eDiscovery search results to be influenced by the number of links which other people have made to a document, even if we were in the habit of cross-linking our e-mail, Word documents etc? Perhaps you really do want only the documents which have their keywords at the top and repeated several times. What if some custodians have paid a fee to have their documents respond first? What about synonyms, typos and aliases?
Dale gives us some examples, and then turns the question on its head:
The first question one asks when approaching eDiscovery / eDisclosure is “What have I got here?”. You would not think of asking Google that question, and its search tools are not made to give you an answer. You need tools more precisely targeted towards the problem.
When it comes right down to it, Google was created for a specific set of purposes. eDiscovery and other litigation support tools have a completely different set of purposes. On the surface they may look similar, but the end results required are very different.
I would also dare suggest that, if litigation support and e-discovery were easy, we would not need the teams of lawyers, law clerks and paralegals to work in this area that we do now. Complexity goes with the territory. We can always attempt to make the work more streamlined and efficient, but it does still take thought and effort. And so it behooves anyone doing this work to learn how the tools work so that you can understand what they are doing, their strengths and weaknesses, and when they are not working.
Hat tip to Robert Richards for sharing Chris Dale’s blog post with me.