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Julia Love, The Recorder
Julia Love, The Recorder
Marlisse Silver Sweeney, Law Technology News
Monica Bay, Law Technology News
New technologies, like artificial intelligence and document automation, could dramatically alter the landscape of the legal profession.
Jason Boehmig, Tim Hwang, Paul Sawaya, Law Technology News
June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments
When Google set out to build a self-driving car, it first had to map the physical world. In short, Google had to figure out how to make a red light hanging from a pole—or a person crossing the street—into something a computer could understand and act on. To do this, a myriad of analog data points need to be gathered—by radar, GPS, and other sensors—before they can be turned into the digital signals that can be compared and analyzed. It’s this key infrastructure, akin to building a digital map of an analog world, that enables truly revolutionary technology.
In fact, this process has repeated itself countless times in the digital age. Things that were once analog—phone books, bulletin boards, even photos—have undergone a transformation into new digital forms, which are capable of being understood and manipulated by computers. Once data is in a format that a computer is able to understand, the possibilities are endless—books can be copied and distributed in nanoseconds, bulletin boards become places for global commerce, and photos can be copied and edited in ways that were never possible with a purely physical medium.
Law has not escaped this trend. Projects such as LegalXML and Akoma Ntoso have realized the value of having legal documents in machine-readable format and have set forth standards by which lawyers or administrators might markup the documents they produce. This markup is then readable by machines and can be manipulated once it is in the specified format.
The problem thus far in law has not been the lack of purported standards for data entry, but rather that many documents have not made it in to any machine-readable standard at all. The reasons for this are perhaps obvious—formatting data in a machine-readable way takes additional effort and many lawyers simply don’t have time. Additionally, many lawyers are averse to technology to begin with, and even if they do see the benefits on the horizon, it’s hard to move off the starting block where it won’t make a difference in handling the case on their desk at the moment.
We propose that this problem is simply too important to be left up to lawyers alone. Lawyers need to reach out to technologists and get their help in figuring out ways to bring machine-readable documents into every day practice. There are people doing great work in this field already, like the State Decoded and the Madison Projectfrom OpenGov. They are making great progress for legislation and statutes.
It’s time for the legal profession as a whole to catch up.
How can we do better? One way forward might be to implement tools that will make the process for gathering and formatting legal documents automatic. For instance, now that some of these projects are putting legal documents up on the web as text (and we’re even seeing governments like the City of San Francisco join this trend), it might make sense to have a tool that can take the raw text of documents and use the work that others have done as a jumping off point for adding more useful context and formatting automatically.
The Restatement project is an effort to move in that direction (disclosure: the authors all participate). It is a free, open source effort to create a standard—and more importantly, a method for getting documents into that standard—for legal text on the web. It works by taking existing text (even in Microsoft Word document form) and using a parser to extract additional information from the raw text, enabling more functionality.
One example of how Restatement works, in the transactional law context, is Series Seed documents. These have been up on GitHub for quite some time. They are a set of open source financing documents for use by startups in raising seed capital that have been widely adopted for by the startup and venture capital community. By parsing the Series Seed documents with Restatement, additional layers of functionality are unlocked. For instance, instead of merely having access to the documents, the Series Seed documents when passed through this project can be manipulated and filled out online.
In a way, what’s currently missing from the legal technology landscape is the Google StreetView cars that drive around America, sucking in data and pictures from every conceivable point and capturing the physical world in digital form. Everyone seems to agree that the potential for a sea change in the legal profession is enormous. There are a number of technologies, from artificial intelligence, like IBM Watson to new search algorithms for case law, to advanced document automation programs, that could dramatically alter the landscape of the profession itself.
Law firms mentioned: Fenwick & West
David Horrigan, Law Technology News
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is a closely watched barometer of the EDD market. The company is one of many research organizations that track EDD trends, including my employer, 451 Research, Forrester Research, International Data Corp., and others. Gartner launched its Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software in 2011, and has developed Magic Quadrants for other IT markets.
The Magic Quadrant’s four categories are based on what Gartner calls a vendor’s ability to execute and its completeness of vision.
For inclusion in the Magic Quadrant, vendors must license EDD software, software appliances or software-as-a-service for which they own the intellectual property, have at least $20M in annual revenue, cover at least two functions of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model and meet other requirements.
At first glance, a stagnant Magic Quadrant might make one think the EDD market itself was stagnant, but many industry observers don’t see it that way.
“A lack of movement in the Magic Quadrant doesn’t necessarily indicate a downturn in the e-discovery market,” said Barry Murphy, senior vice president at Seattle-based X1 and a former EDD industry analyst at both Forrester and the eDJ Group. “We’ve had some significant new technologies in the market in recent years, and the last 18 months may represent a period where corporate customers are sticking with their current technology and evaluating their options before changing to a new technology—and a new vendor.”
Murphy predicts there may be greater movement among EDD providers in the near future. “Given the cyclical nature of any industry, including the tech sector, you’re always going to have periods where there’s not much change among providers, but I think we will see change in coming years,” Murphy said, adding that, although the EDD industry is entering another period of new EDD technologies, with the legal market’s conservative approach to embracing new technology, change comes more slowly in legal than in other business verticals.
Bobby Balachandran, president and CEO of Beaverton. Ore.-based Exterro (a vendor named a Leader in the Magic Quadrant), agrees a lack of movement in the report doesn’t equal a dormant market. “There has been a considerable consolidation in the e-discovery market, but I expect to see a more movement,” he said.
Although some have predicted the move to corporate information governance will supplant the e-discovery market, Balachandran disagrees. “The demand for e-discovery is growing. Information governance is something that’s in support of e-discovery, not in lieu of e-discovery,” he said.
Some EDD experts have gone a step further, noting the limitations of the Magic Quadrant.
Chris Dale of the U.K.-based eDisclosure Information Project, is skeptical. “I am no great enthusiast for lists, which purport to rank e-discovery software providers, feeling that even Gartner’s sophisticated model does not do justice to the range of factors which contribute—or which ought to contribute—to the decision-making,” said said Dale, a former London-based law firm litigation partner, who is now a consultant to many of the companies in the Magic Quadrant.
Dale says there’s at least one important takeaway. “The fact that the rankings have hardly altered this year does at least confirm one thing: the e-discovery world is holding its breath as predictions of impending cataclysm for some—and a leaping ahead for others—seem to have been deferred for another year.”
David Horrigan is analyst and counsel at 451 Research and a former reporter for LTN and The National Law Journal.
Mark Gerlach, Law Technology News
Sean Doherty, Law Technology News