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Compliance Q&A: How e-discovery technology enhances business processes

Planet Data Solutions CEO Howard Reissner discusses the e-discovery technology evolution and how it can make records management and other business processes more efficient.

Since the IBM "Watson" computer's strong showing as a "Jeopardy" contestant, several news articles and experts have touted its technology as the latest example of artificial intelligence's potential to make some jobs easier.

One such expert who sees the potential in Watson's artificial intelligence -- especially in the legal field -- is Howard Reissner. An active member of the New York State Bar Association and a former practicing lawyer, Reissner has experience in providing technology and e-discovery services and solutions to the legal industry. Reissner co-founded Planet Data in 2001 and is involved in strategic planning, development and implementation of technology at the Elmsford, N.Y.-based global data management services provider, which is retained by a number of Fortune 500 companies and law firms. recently caught up with Reissner to get his thoughts on the evolution of e-discovery technology and how it can help companies make their records management systems more efficient.

Can you go over some of the background of how e-discovery has evolved recently, and how companies have adapted to its use?
Reissner: The quantity of data creation is increasing at an incredible rate. The request for information in electric format in legal discovery only has about a 15-year history. Prior to that, information was provided by scanning and coding large quantities of paper. During the [electronically stored information] ESI era, technology enhancements have enabled data to be searched not only by keywords and other proximity delimiters, but also by sophisticated mathematically based conceptual searching algorithms. In addition, new modalities of data creation such as IM, texting and social media seem to be introduced almost on a monthly schedule. In addition, the judiciary has become better educated about ESI and has raised the expectations of professional competence. All of this has occurred in a difficult economic environment where corporate legal budgets have been reduced. The natural result has been a new generation of technology development that allows vast quantities of complex data to be stored, accurately processed and searched, and reviewed in a cost-effective manner.

What are some of the industries that can benefit from this new technology? How so?
Reissner: There are a number of industries that are serial litigants (e.g., financial services, health care, pharmaceuticals) and can utilize technology to streamline their records management systems and eliminate information no longer needed. Once there is the commencement of litigation, these organizations can reduce the cost of data identification, collection, processing, searching and review. Specifically, the costs of attorney review is the greatest expense in this matrix. Technology can be used to reduce the data sets needed to be reviewed by attorneys and can be implemented to prevent multiple reviews of the same information. For companies that only have occasional litigation, new technologies can assist in significantly reducing the search for responsive information.

How, specifically, does the new technology assist in reducing data sets needed to be reviewed by attorneys, and reduce the search for responsive information for other industries?
Reissner: The opportunity to reduce the data sets occurs at four key times in the lifecycle of the information after it’s created. They are:
a. After creation technology can be utilized to reduce data storage through records management policies;
b. When a request is made for information responsive to a request software that can be employed to “crawl” the network and locate relevant data;
c. Collected information can be reduced again through de-duplication and searching technologies (e.g., conceptual search) that focus more directly on the responsive data; and
d. Hosting repositories can streamline the process by which documents are reviewed for privilege and responsiveness.

The ability to locate specific types of information in a cost-effective manner, and eliminate from the review process large quantities of nonrelevant data, has several positive results for organizations.

Howard Reissner, CEO, Planet Data Solutions

What can companies do with this information, and how do they use it effectively?
Reissner: The ability to locate specific types of information in a cost-effective manner, and eliminate from the review process large quantities of nonrelevant data, has several positive results for organizations. The organization should develop lines of communication between IT, records management and general counsel. The general counsel should also empower a staff member to identify service providers and technology platforms that can be implemented both internally and by outside counsel.

Why is this communication between these departments important, and how can it be achieved?
It is important because having an effective records management and discovery management plan/team in place are critical factors in achieving an optimum result when a request for information is received. There should be a team leader, and there should be a key point person responsible to the leader in each relevant department of the organization. For example, when a litigation commences there is a legal requirement that the organization implement a “litigation hold” that requires all potentially responsive information to be saved and for any deletion policies to be suspended. It is imperative that this information is disseminated throughout the organization and that each leader makes certain that these requirements are followed. A careful plan that is well implemented will often prevent the types of discovery issues that can cause the organization pain inside the courtroom.

What are some of the potential problems that can arise with the use of this technology?
Reissner: Technology is simply a set of tools. There are numerous variations on technology solutions, but the key to avoiding problems is to have knowledgeable people who can establish workflow protocols and who have sufficient expertise to select the appropriate technology to achieve the desired results.

How can companies overcome these obstacles?
Reissner: By being proactive in the process. Do not wait until a subpoena is served to begin implementing a defensible data management system that will be in a position to respond to any eventual request for information.

What are some of the characteristics of such a defensible data management system that are necessary to make it effective?

Reissner: Both the workflow architecture and software utilized must be able to be validated. A truly defensible system will retain all of the required information and will be able to process and search all of the potentially responsive data. That means that the entire process must be replicable and verified by detailed substantive reports.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, Associate Editor.

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