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The Ghosts of Discovery Past, Present, and Future

Here at Contact Discovery, we talk a lot about the importance of preparing for the future. That oftentimes involves getting a better understanding of the past. The world of legal technology moves fast, so it’s easy to lose track of just how far we’ve come. However, past challenges can inform how we tackle present and future challenges. In some cases that involve older documents, we find ourselves working the past, present, and future all at once. It is in that spirit that we take this holiday season to reflect on our industry. Specifically, the Ghosts of Discovery Past, Present, and Future.  

The Ghost of Discovery Past = Paper

Before eDiscovery, there was just Discovery, with a nifty little thing called “paper.” Companies kept paper records as far as the eye could see. Tens of thousands of documents scattered across various offices, filing cabinets, and even warehouses. 

If there was litigation on the horizon, lawyers and their associates would have to manually go through these documents and hope they found information they could use to build a case. It required a lot of people, and it was much easier to miss metaphorical smoking guns if reviewers weren’t communicating effectively.  

In the earliest days of eDiscovery, practitioners scanned these documents so reviewers could read them on computer screens. This meant that documents no longer took up as much physical space, and reviewers wouldn’t have to spend as much time on site or reviewing copies upon copies in law firm storage rooms. However, it still paled in comparison to platforms such as Relativity and others that are common in today’s Discovery landscape.  

The Ghost of eDiscovery Present = Mobile Meets Global  

While the past was largely about taking paper documents and converting them to electronic documents, today’s world is different. Now, most of our communication originates electronically. That came with new challenges. How do you find server space to store all those documents? How do you make sure the right people have access and the wrong people don’t? How do you take advantage of technology like email threading and data analytics without letting relevant documents go unnoticed?   

For the most part, legal teams have figured out systems to combat those issues. However, there’s one innovation that’s still tripping up review teams: the mobile phone. While mobile phones have been with us for decades now, mobile chats supplanting email for professional communication is a relatively recent phenomenon.  

Many professionals would’ve scoffed at the idea of texting a teammate about a work assignment even five years ago. Now, it’s quite common for co-workers to talk shop over text as well as exchange more personal messages they would never email. Many businesses also rely on collaboration platforms such Microsoft Teams, which has seen its userbase skyrocket in light of the pandemic.  

This presents new challenges to legal teams. Not only are there technical challenges involved with more messages in a wider array of file formats, there’s also the change in user behavior. Personal and professional messages are more likely to comingle in a text chat than they are in an email thread. This raises privacy concerns and can increase the need for redactions.  

Apps like WhatsApp has also made it easier to communicate across national borders. As more Americans start having more conversations with people abroad, there’s more regulations that lawyers have to tiptoe around to maintain defensibility. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, enacted in 2018, helps protect the privacy of people who have communicated with someone under a legal hold. Even if your business isn’t based in the EU, you need to be mindful of this if anyone stateside was communicating with someone in Europe.  

When shopping around for legal technology partner in the present, look for teams that are GDPR compliant, even if you don’t necessarily do that much business abroad. Remember, as your business scales, your legal needs will as well, and it’s best to be prepared. Also avoid companies that are designing their discovery strategies exclusively around email communication. Some companies such as Contact offer software specifically designed for mobile data review. Even if your current technology doesn’t, at least ensure that your team isn’t neglecting these communications altogether.  

Future = Artificial Intelligence and Decentralization

As technology becomes more and more advanced, sheer man power won’t be the prized commodity it once was. In the past, most businesses relied on big name law firms with recognizable brands. They knew that top attorneys flocked to these reputable firms in droves, so why go through the trouble of investigating other options? That was really the only to get an edge over opposing counsel anyway: good attorneys and lots of them.   

More and more legal technology companies are starting to integrate artificial intelligence that can search and review documents faster than any human could. AI simulates an elite crew of top notch attorneys doing ALL your review, rather than a massive army of attorneys who bring varying levels of talent and experience to the equation. This technology is still in its infancy, but if used to its fullest potential, it will eliminate that need for sheer man power. Suddenly, one attorney will do review that might take 30 attorneys now.  

“The right people with the right technology can adapt quicker than large companies can, and that leads to positive outcomes.”  

– Rich Albright, Contact Discovery CBO

As AI helps make review more user friendly, companies on both the service side and the technology side are helping corporate counsel internalize more of their discovery. In this new frontier, businesses don’t need their law firms to be a one-stop shop, but can instead seek out strategic relationships with more specialized partners. 

“Smaller firms like Contact are winning victories in huge matters that never would’ve gone to a company our size 5-10 years ago,” says Rich Albright, CBO of Contact Discovery. “People are starting to figure out that a team of the right people with the right technology can adapt quicker than large companies can, and that leads to positive outcomes. They’re choosing quality over quantity and it’s paying off.”  

As the legal technology market becomes more decentralized, you can expect to see smaller companies that specialize in different steps of the EDRM or different types of technology to gain market share. This model empowers businesses to only pay for what they can’t internalize and make sure they’re getting the absolute best version of it. The internet also makes it easier than ever for clients to seek these partners out for themselves rather than trusting a larger law firm to make all the tech decisions for them.

What challenges are you facing in the present? Where do you think the future of legal tech is going? Let us know in the comments!  

No Mom, I’m Not a Spy.

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the holidays definitely look a little bit different this year, but certain things never change. For people in litigation technology, one of those eternal challenges is finding a concise way to answer that pesky question:

“What do you do?’

Don’t get us wrong, we love our families. Their hearts are in the right place when they innocently ask “So.. how has work been?” None of them asked us to go into the wonderful world of eDiscovery, a field that blends the jargon of information technology and legal proceedings into an ever-evolving maze of intrigue. Okay, so maybe “ever-evolving maze of intrigue” isn’t the term our families use… but I repeat, we still love them.

Here at Contact, we’re always looking for ways to help people. In that spirit, we polled our own team members to see how they explain their jobs vs. how their families describe their job. Hopefully it’ll give other legal tech professionals some inspiration on how to navigate this conversation. Let us know your tips for explaining your job!

Mike, Associate Director of Project Management

How Mike Describes His Job To His Family:
“I work with law firms and legal departments at corporations helping them manage the discovery phase during litigation and investigations. The best analogy I can think of is when the FBI comes in and starts seizing computers in the movies but less hostile (sometimes). We perform forensic analysis, process data to extract information and convert it to a format that is easy for the attorneys to review the data.”

How Mike Thinks His Family Describes His Job:
“They probably think I’m a transponster”

For reference:
“Originating on a “Friends” episode, Rachel incorrectly names Chandler’s data processing job as a “transponster”. Transponster is now commonly used to describe an office job not clearly defined as one role/responsibility, but a combination of data entry and analysis. This sort of role is difficult for the employee to describe to friends or family, often sounding boring, confusing or both to those outside the office environment.” – Urban Dictionary

Ty, eDiscovery Data Engineer

“I usually say something like ‘I work on the tech side of a litigation support company.’ I think they usually just say my job title. I am unsure.”

Zack, Director of Project Management

How Zack Describes His Job To His Family:
“It usually goes something like: I work in the legal technology world, specifically in eDiscovery which is a subset of the legal industry. In litigations and other types of investigations, there’s a lot of data that can come from all different sources so we’re here to help lawyers and legal teams gather and make sense of the data so they can perform their investigations and produce documents to opposing parties.”

How Zack Thinks His Family Describes His Job:
“Probably something like: computer stuff for lawyers.”

James, Associate Director of Digital Forensics

We help attorneys and clients collect, examine and manage digital information for investigations and legal proceedings. I don’t know how they describe it to other people.”

Anthony, Lead eDiscovery Data Engineer


How Anthony Describes His Job To His Family:
“I’m part of a team that collects people’s data from cell phones, email, computers, etc. and process that data to make everything searchable by the text content of the data and the associated metadata such as dates/author/file location etc.”

How Anthony Thinks His Family Describes His Job:
“My son secretly works for the CIA and hacks into high profile criminal’s computers to bust them.”

Josh, Director of Business Development

“In short terms I tell them we support both law firms and corporations in all forms of digital evidence, such as email, cell phone, servers, and IoT devices.”

Rashida, Project Manager

“I manage projects related to software development, solutions architecture, and software/solutions implementation. They say I work in IT. ”

David, eDiscovery Data Engineer

How David Describes His Job To His Family:
“It depends on how techie they are. I often say things like the digital side of litigation’ or ‘make corporate data reviewable for an attorney’ which makes sense to most people. That, or I tell them I click on things and make things happen!”

How David Thinks His Family Describes His Job:
“They finally learned that eDiscovery is a word after like 8 years, they try that but mostly end of with “he does stuff with computers.”

Scott, Director of eDiscovery Operations

“I say I handle electronic data for court cases. They probably say I’m an IT guy or do CSI stuff.”

Rich, Chief Business Officer

How Rich Describes His Job to His Family:
I oversee sales & marketing for a company that manages the exchange of digital information in corporate lawsuits and government investigations.”

How Rich Thinks His Family Describes His Job
“Rich’s company looks at people’s text messages and emails for dirt.”

Julie, Senior Project Manager

“They tell people I get to see a lot of email and to never use work email for personal stuff.”

Safira, HR & Billing Specialist

“I say I work for an eDiscovery company managing the accounting and HR department. They just say ‘Safira does the bookkeeping and human resources for her company.”

Krista, Senior Director of Business Development

How Krista Describes Her Job to Her Family:
I sell eDiscovery services to law firms and corporations. Basically, when lawyers need to review data for litigation, we take the data, put it in a software platform where they can run searches and find what they are looking for quickly.”

How Krista Thinks Her Family Describes Her Job:
“She sells to lawyers.”

Ashleigh, Director of Business Development

“I say that I sell legal technology and help law firms prepare for litigation. They probably just say ‘something with lawyers.’”

Sam, Senior Project Manager

“I tell them I work in Legal Tech. They tell everyone I’m a paralegal.”

Jamente, Lead Forensic Analyst

“I say I get data off of smartphones and computers that people sometimes don’t want me to. They say I do CSI forensics with computers.”

Scott, Chief Operating Officer

How Scott Describes His Job to His Family:
“So basically when two big companies sue each other we go in and get the dirt and then put it in a format so lawyers can review it.”

How Scott Thinks His Family Describes His Job:
“They don’t, they just say something to do with legal court cases and data. Then they just tell people I work a lot, cause it’s 24×7.”

Shay, Director of Business Development

How Shay Describes Her Job to Her Family:
“I don’t. lol.”

How Shay Thinks Her Family Describes Her Job:
“Well I was a practicing attorney for 15 years before this so I think they likely just say I’m an attorney.”

Anne, Digital Brand Specialist

How Anne Describes Her Job to Her Family:
“We help people sue each other. Let’s say there’s 10s of thousands of emails and texts going back 10 years, we can go through that and tell the legal team ‘okay, here’s the 100 you actually have to pay attention to.'”

How Anne’s Family Describes Her Job:
“So… it’s something with the legal industry? I don’t know but she does the marketing and she writes a lot.”


Contact Welcome’s New Forensics Powerhouse James Whitehead

Contact Discovery Services is ecstatic to announce James Whitehead as new Associate Director of Digital Forensics.

James Whitehead,
Associate Director of Digital Forensics

In his own words, James has done collections “anywhere there’s a hard drive.” In September 2020, James came on board at Contact to help expand the company’s forensics offerings.

“I think the goal is to increase the visibility of our forensic offering by removing communication road blocks and solving our clients’ technical business issues,” said James. “As technologists we strive to build useful partnerships with our end clients that allow them to wield our expertise to solve problems.”

While Contact has always prided ourselves on offering end-to-end discovery services, including forensic collection, preservation, and analysis, the company believes that James’s arrival can take our Forensics department to soaring new heights.

This is particularly true in regards to testimony and depositions. In his 10+ years of experience in forensics, James has taken the stand to verify data and defend a client’s collection process. Now, Contact clients who need that service don’t need to rope in an additional vendor.

“We are very excited to have James lead our digital forensics team,” said Dave DiGiovanni, CEO at Contact. “He’s a phenomenal industry leader that really enhances Contact’s existing capability to deliver world class forensic analysis and testimony.”

James made the jump into forensics in 2009. At the time, he was working in project management for a litigation support vendor, often handling the toughest technical projects of that company.

“We got a large backup tape job and decided to handle it in house,” James said while reminiscing about the early days of his forensics career. “From there, I grew into data collections and then into full fledged forensics.”

Through his career, James has always been fascinated by the industry’s rapid pace of evolution. “The cutting edge of Forensics continues to evolve as technology evolves, creating new challenges we get to solve for our clients,” says James.

It’s precisely that passion for the end client that helps make James such a great fit for Contact, where client-centric innovations are at the center of company culture.

“From our first conversation, James and I immediately clicked,” said Scott Keeble, Director of eDiscovery Operations at Contact. “His attention to detail, attitude towards work, and ideas for innovation were immediately apparent, which enables him to quickly become an integral part of our team.”

When James is NOT using his strong inquisitive sense to find the truth in a circuit board, he loves unwinding by watching racing and learning about cars. More recently, he discovered a love for furniture building. “During COVID, everyone else got baking, I got sanding!” he joked.

Contact has yet to try out the furniture James has built, but is fully confident in his ability to help you build your case.