Man and Machine

The key to ultimate legal efficiency is using specialist lawyers in tandem with sophisticated technology, says Daniel Kavan, head of evidence consultancy and managed review at Kroll Ontrack, working with clients across the United Kingdom and Europe


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In-house legal teams are under increasing pressure to add value to their businesses and reduce costs. According to Unbundling a Market, a recent report by Allen & Overy, legal work is being broken down into smaller parts, which are then delegated to different parties with niche expertise. This “disaggregation” brings choice and flexibility to the buyers of legal services, and opens up opportunities for providers of specialist services such as contract management and document review.

At Kroll Ontrack, we have experienced this unbundling first-hand in our e-discovery business. We expanded our managed review service at the beginning of this year by launching a new review facility in central London. Within the first five weeks, we have been inundated with requests from our clients and have had more than 40 reviewers engaged in reviewing documents on a variety of matters.

With the rise in cross-border litigation and investigations, many of the cases we work on now involve multiple languages, and this is where our managed review service has excelled. Our professionally qualified lawyers are expert document reviewers adept at using the latest review technology and many have foreign language skills, which are becoming increasingly necessary.

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By carrying out first-pass relevance, privilege and even privacy reviews – the activities that are usually the most expensive part of any litigation or investigation – they are able to support legal teams, allowing lawyers to focus on unlocking key information and building their case strategies earlier, irrespective of the language of the evidence.

The processes of e-discovery and document review can now be carried out by real specialists, and this is done more cost effectively as professional document review experts are less expensive than lawyers employed by law firms to carry out a range of functions, including advisory and strategic work, as well as document review. Savvy lawyers do not see this as a risk to their business. Rather, it’s an opportunity for lawyers to provide value-added matter management to their clients, calling the shots at the helm and ensuring that providers’ output is of the requisite high standard.

E-discovery and document review can now be carried out by real specialists, and this is done more cost effectively as professional document review experts are less expensive than lawyers employed by law firms

Working as part of a composite legal team – traditional law-firm lawyers in tandem with document review lawyers- requires a tightly controlled structure and sophisticated workflow. In order to get the most efficient result from both the reviewers and technology, it helps for the reviewers to be managed by consultants who know the technology being used intimately. Automated workflows and predictive coding technology applied in the right way usually lead to faster and more accurate results from outsourced review teams.

It may be surprising that a technology company with sophisticated predictive coding technology is turning to people power as a method of tackling large volumes of documents and costs in e-discovery exercises. Why wouldn’t we simply deploy artificial intelligence on all of our cases and not bother with human reviewers at all?

The key is using both together, effectively. Our clients are in fact using predictive coding on most matters. However, so far in the UK, this has mainly been as an added quality check and/or to prioritise relevant documents to the front of the queue for human review, but not to automatically select or eliminate them for disclosure within formal litigation. It won’t be long until a judge in this jurisdiction approves full use of such technology to carry out disclosure, creating the ultimate legal efficiency.