What Music Production Can Teach Us About Legal Technology

This past weekend, I binged the AppleTV+ series Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson. There are six episodes, and each one focuses on a different aspect of music production.

One of the recurring themes of each episode is how new technology changed music. The LinnDrum shaped pop; the 808 shaped hip hop; the distortion pedal shaped heavy medal; autotune shaped dance music.

Nearly every episode poses the question… does technology make music more human or less human? One man’s exciting innovation is another man’s existential threat. Time and time again, the answer was the same: it’s not up to technology to make or break music. It’s how musicians choose to use it. That is why I thought this series about music production would make excellent fodder for a discussion about legal technology.

A lot of legal tech is designed to achieve the same goals as different kinds of music tech. Some of it is meant to automate repetitive tasks, like a drum machine. Some of it is meant to reduce human error, like autotune; digital forensics tools expand the types of data we can collect for an investigation, the same way a synthesizer expanded the kinds of sounds that musicians have at their disposal. eDiscovery platforms can help you sift through existing data to build a case, similar to how sampling software lets producers turn bits and pieces of old records into new tracks. Some tech is more like Apple’s Garage Band program: its primary purpose is to make the job just plain easier, so that less specialized professionals can do work that once required highly technical, specially trained experts. 

All of this technology opens up a whole new world for legal teams. It’s not only a world that allows them to do business as usual in less time for less money; It’s a world where we get to redefine “business as usual” altogether, similar to how so many machines have revolutionized music.

One of the most interesting things about Watch the Sound is how the show features interviews with engineers who designed groundbreaking music technology. Usually, these engineers had no real agenda to change how music sounds. Instead, they just wanted to make it quicker and easier for people to make music that fit traditional norms of “good.” The sounds that are now considered calling cards for different types of tech– from Prince’s use of drum machines to T-Pain’s use of autotune– didn’t exist yet. It took those other visionaries getting ahold of the tech for real innovation to happen.

Roger Linn recorded acoustic drums and programmed them into his drum machines.

For example, Roger Linn designed the Linn-LM1, a favorite drum machine of Prince, and later the LinnDrum, which was used across the ‘80s pop landscape in songs such as “Maniac” by Michael Sembello and “Take On Me” by a-ha. Linn was the first person to record acoustic drums and program them into a drum machine. He made his machines this way because he felt other options on the market were too synthetic-sounding.

Yet… one of the most iconic beats ever made with one of Linn’s machines is on “When Doves Cry.” Prince achieved this sound by purposefully programming the drums to be out of tune. The beat is so iconic largely because it doesn’t sound like a human drummer.

Prince’s music is remembered today in part because he didn’t just use the drum machine as a cheap shortcut to bypass human drumming. He saw drum machines as an exciting new frontier of sounds that were previously unknown to human ears.

The best eDiscovery project managers approach their jobs in a similar fashion. They’re able to not only get through discovery more efficiently, but repurpose technology for other types of work. A lot of tech that was initially designed to help clients through complex litigation is now being used for other big data conundrums that require reviewing lots of data and sorting it into different buckets. Cyber breach review and data remediation come to mind, but I’m sure that list of alternative purposes will continue to grow as the world continues to create more and more data.

Particularly skilled eDiscovery professionals push the limits of existing technology. Prince didn’t wait for Roger Linn to pre-program the drum setting he wanted; he took a machine and did something new and unexpected with it. We’re seeing this in legal tech as well, particularly with highly customizable programs such as Relativity. At Contact, our team developed Vu™ to help less-experienced Relativity users access the wealth of analytics data that already lives within the platform.

Of course with innovation often comes push back. Throughout the history of music, whenever new technology expanded the library of sounds that musicians could put on a record, there was inevitably someone complaining about how the new technology was “cheating” or “not real music.” Potential for progress often comes hand in hand with potential for regression.

Indeed, Watch the Sound also rightly points out how some aspects of music can only be done by humans. An episode about autotune mentions how sometimes the most emotive vocals aren’t 100% on pitch 100% of the time, and autotune can do more harm than good.

At one point, Mark Ronson plays a raw Lady Gaga vocal and says “there is no plugin in the world that can make you do this.”

At every turn, music producers have to make choices about when and how to use technology, and when to let human musicians do what only humans can. Does distorting a vocal drain it of all the emotion and humanity… or does it capture the angst and confusion that a song is trying to capture?

This is how legal teams need to work. Not only are their certain types of thinking that only humans can do… I’d wager there’s certain types of thinking only attorneys can do. No matter how advanced technology gets, there also needs to be someone at the helm making smart decisions about what work has to be done by an attorney, and what’s best left to technology.

That person needs to not only know that technology can help, but how it can help. It’s similar to how a skilled music producer doesn’t just have technology; they know what kinds of microphones and studio spaces give them the recordings they want; they know what other kinds of sounds can come from different instruments or other machines; they know how to mix it all together into a final song that works. They know when less is more, and when more is more. The best ones can harness technology in unexpected ways and make something like “When Doves Cry.”

The future of legal tech belongs to people who look at it the way Prince looked at drum machines: not to be a cheap imitation of humans, but to redefine our notions of what’s possible.

Why Mobile Data eDiscovery Is Different Than Email eDiscovery

It’s 2021, which means it’s highly unlikely that this is the first blog post you’ve read saying you need a mobile data eDiscovery plan. Most of us get that by now.

However, you can’t always take the same technology and approaches you’re currently using for email and superimpose them on mobile data. It just doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, it can be hard to wrap your head around just how different texting and email really are until you’re neck deep in a project.

Today, we wanted to walk through some of the main things you need to account for while collecting, processing, and reviewing mobile data. By understanding the differences between these channels, you can not only ensure that you’re including mobile data in your eDiscovery strategy, but that you’re doing it right.

“Texting” is actually 3 different things that LOOK like 1 thing.

Generally speaking, emails are emails. After the initial collection, it doesn’t really matter much if those emails came from Macs or PCs, or if the company ran their emails through Microsoft 365 or Google Drive. Emails can be imported into a review platform, and reviewers don’t really have to care that much about where they initially came from.

What a layperson thinks of as “texting” is actually a combination of as many as three different types of communications: SMS, MMS, or iChat. We act like they’re the same thing because generally, our phones make them look like one thing. I don’t have a separate app for sending SMS messages vs. MMS messages. My phone doesn’t yell at me when I reach the character limit for an SMS, it just automatically converts it without me having to think about it.

During data processing, these messages that seem identical on the front end often get sorted out into different buckets on the back end. That means that if custodians were iChatting, lost wifi, and then switched to SMS, that single conversation may get ripped apart and reviewers have to piece it back together.

When you’re identifying potential sources of data, it’s important not to just ask about “texts.” If possible, try to figure out how texts break down into SMS, MMS, and iChat. The best mobile data eDiscovery technology can thread these messages together, and depending on how many phones you’re collecting, it might be worth that investment. At the very least, making sure you know how texts break down into SMS, MMS, and iChats helps you better assess how long review should take.

Mobile Communication Has No “Subject Line” 

Most work emails have a subject line; generally, emails in that same conversation also have that subject line. Sure, sometimes conversations naturally flow away from that initial subject, but at least it’s a valuable starting point that helps discovery teams understand what messages belong together, and which ones might be duplicates; this is the basis of how review platforms utilize email threading.

Not only does texting lack a “subject line,” it’s also a place where users simply don’t even try to sort their conversations out into multiple threads the same way. Earlier today, I frantically texted my mother about a jacket I left at her house, and within minutes she was asking me to text her a recipe for banana cake.

Those two conversations coexisted in the same thread, with messages right on top of each other. That’s just how a lot of us text. I pity any review team that would have to go through my phone and find messages relevant to their case with so many less relevant messages randomly scattered across my conversations. (On the bright side, they might get a nice banana cake recipe out of it!)

Threading messages into conversations is one of the most important things that any good review platform does for reviewers; it’s even more important when users aren’t naturally “threading” their conversations together by default.

Mobile Communication Usually Requires More Redactions

On a related note, professional communication is more likely to co-mingle with personal communication in text messages compared to email. That’s especially true in companies where employees still use their personal device for company business. With email, we tend to have a dedicated work account apart from our personal email account. Users understand that there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in their work emails. That’s not always true in mobile, particularly at companies that don’t issue company-owned phones or have clear Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies.

What if that thread where two work friends texted about trade secrets also mentioned things like doctors’ appointments or included pictures of their kids? Legal teams need to be able to redact irrelevant personal information in order to protect custodians’ privacy. That irrelevant personal information rarely shows up in emails, so redacting isn’t a concern to quite the same extent.

Some review platforms support redactions more easily than others. A cumbersome redaction process might not be the end of the world when you’re primarily dealing with emails, but it can seriously hinder progress when there’s a lot of mobile communication and redactions are needed more often.


When there’s a lot of mobile data in your eDiscovery project, it’s important to consider how technology and user behavior shapes this data. This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the reasons why texting and email are different, but we hope it’s enough to get your wheels turning. What kinds of stumbling blocks have are tripping up your mobile data investigations? Reach out today and let us know!

Curious to know more about how Contact Discovery attacks mobile data investigations? Check out MobileRev™!

Contact Discovery’s MobileRev™ solution turns text messages into near-native images for review

What Do You Do When eDiscovery Tech Support Isn’t Enough?

There’s a pressing legal matter at hand. Deadlines are fast approaching. The last thing you want is to be stuck waiting on a response from tech support. Unfortunately, this is becoming an all-to common issue with eDiscovery platforms.  

Too often, software companies overstate the simplicity of their products. While it may be perfectly true that an end user finds a program intuitive and easy to use, that doesn’t necessarily equate to easy maintenance behind the scenes. When legal teams are too quick to buy these allegedly silver bullet solutions without anticipating that extra maintenance, it can lead to friction that slows down discovery.

Naturally, legal teams look to their tech support at whatever company made the software. Oftentimes, support staff is doing the best they can, but they can only do so much. If a software company is pouring money into sales and marketing efforts, but not scaling IT support at a fast enough pace to accommodate those extra users, it usually leads to frustration all around. As more and more venture capital flows into eDiscovery from people who don’t actually have any real experience in discovery, that industry-wide growing pain is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

eDiscovery vendors have an important role to play here. By bridging the gap between end users and software companies, service providers can help alleviate some of the strain on tech support, making it more helpful to those who do need it. Meanwhile, legal teams can increase the functionality of their existing software, solving their problems for (usually) far less money than investing in new software.

But why isn’t this program as easy to use as the salesperson said it would be?

Different people mean different things when they say “easy.” A lot of the latest eDiscovery solutions are far more intuitive than ever before, which is great! That tends to be what most companies will focus on in their sales and marketing efforts.

However, ease of use doesn’t automatically translate to ease of maintenance.

For example, my brother and I own two different cars, specifically a 2007 Honda Accord (me)  and a special edition Toyota 86 (my brother). My brother’s car handles really well. He can make tight turns at high speeds in a way I can’t. He can accelerate faster. The driving experience is all-around better in his car than mine (presuming you can drive a stick shift of course).

There’s a flip side to this. My brother has to put premium gas in his car; mine takes unleaded. It’s easier for me to find mechanics who keep the parts my car needs in stock. If my brother has an issue, it’s more likely that his mechanic would have to special order the part he needs, thus keeping his car in the shop longer. So while the “user experience” in his car is better, my car is easier and cheaper to maintain. Sometimes ease of use and ease of maintenance coexist, sometimes they don’t. It’s just important to recognize that they’re not the same thing, and one does not necessitate the other.

eDiscovery is an ever-changing field, which means many software programs require regular updates. The more intricate the software is, the more intricate those updates are likely to be, and they can take a while to install. How do you get them done while still making sure a discovery environment is ready to go when reviewers need it? In some cases, the Contact team will run patches at midnight, if that’s what it takes to avoid disruptions to our clients’ regular workflows. By providing crucial, ongoing support to a discovery environment, service providers can step in and offer ease of maintenance to compliment the software’s ease of use.

Why would I need an eDiscovery vendor if I can do most discovery in-house?

We’ve found that technical maintenance of eDiscovery environments can still be a common stumbling block, even for organizations that are fairly capable of handling most other aspects of discovery. That makes sense if you think about it. Plenty of people can drive a car, but don’t know how to change their own oil.

One of the misconceptions such organizations have about “service providers” is that you only need them if you plan on significant outsourcing. A firm that has their own software license and qualified project managers doesn’t need to spend money on costly vendors unless there’s an abnormally large sum of data at hand.

However, retaining a vendor to manage a discovery environment can be far less expensive than paying a vendor to actually do your discovery work for you. It’s similar to how owning your own car still requires you to pay for gas and upkeep, but you’re not going to spend as much as you would if you took a taxi every time you had to go somewhere.

Most lawyers already know that paying for litigation costs far more than the hours it would take to review contracts and close loopholes before they’re exploited; discovery software maintenance works the same way. It’s more economical to stay on top of updates and patches than it is to put out fires as they happen.

“Tech support can be great for solving one particular problem in the here and now,” says Zack Schanz, Director of Project Management at Contact Discovery Services. “It’s not really built to maintain your environment and prevent problems before they happen. They also don’t have the same knowledge of a client’s environment that we do because we’re in that environment every day.”

“You get a lot of brains for the price of one,” says Scott Keeble, Director of eDiscovery Operations at Contact Discovery. “We have more regular communication between our team members compared to an average tech support line, where maybe Joe is handling this ticket but has no direct communication with Jane who handled your last ticket, just a brief summary in the report. We’re able to quickly reach out to each other and say ‘hey, what did you do last time?’ and get to solutions quicker.”

“Can’t I just have my regular IT team take care of this for me?”

Well, it depends. Yes, technically any IT department could learn to manage an advanced eDiscovery software environment. However, they’re also managing other IT functions too. Your company’s email system; the billing and accounting software; the contract management platform; any other databases your organization needs to function properly; the underlying hosting and internet that all those other things rely on to work.

All of those things need routine updates; All of those things can be potential sources of data breaches if you’re not on top of maintenance. All of those things can become slow and dysfunctional if they’re not supported by the right infrastructure. A good IT team can juggle all those programs and keep technology running smoothly for everyone else.

However, there’s a misconception among non-IT people that once you “work in IT” it’s easy to simply add more programs to your plate. The truth is IT is just like any other job: the longer your list of responsibilities gets, the harder it can be to do all of them well.

We recommend consulting your IT department before any major commitment to a new discovery platform (or any software solution for that matter). They’ll know what they can and can’t handle, what resources they might need for implementation, and they’ll be able to better predict how steep the learning curve will be.

If your internal IT people are already spread pretty thin, a vendor can help. A team of dedicated discovery professionals that are focused on your review software frees up your regular IT department to stay on top of all their other responsibilities. Plus, they can apply their discovery experience with other clients to your technology in a way more generalized IT personnel can’t.

Still Have Questions About How Service Providers Can Keep Your Discovery Programs Up and Running? We’re all ears.

6 Document Review Metrics Every Lawyer Should Know

Document review can oftentimes be one of the most cumbersome parts of discovery. Separating the relevant from the irrelevant in a timely manner not only requires humans with specialized legal expertise, but someone at the helm who can keep track of it all. Whether you’re managing review internally or paying for outside managed review services, there are certain numbers regarding a matter’s progress that the attorney in charge should know at any given time.

1. How many documents do I have?

Yes, this seems pretty obvious but it’s still worth mentioning. The total number of documents in discovery is the metric that all other metrics are measured by. Oftentimes, countless other decisions stem from this number. How much will discovery cost? Should I settle because discovery is too expensive? How many reviewers need to be on this project to meet our deadline? There’s plenty of other variables that come into such equations, but there’s virtually no decision where the total number of documents isn’t part of that equation.

2. How many dupes do I have?

As important as the total number of documents is, it can’t be the only number you look at. That’s largely because it can sometimes be misleading thanks to dupes and near dupes.

A near-dupe dashboard within Contact Discovery’s Vu™ solution

Imagine we collect the phones belonging to both Jack and Jill. If Jack and Jill ever had correspondence with each other, then it’s likely those same threads exist on both devices. It’s a waste of resources to make reviewers read that twice.

Luckily, most eDiscovery platforms have gotten pretty good at recognizing dupes. In some cases, de-duping can make your pile of documents significantly smaller than what you initially thought. Since so many other strategic decisions will hinge on how costly review could be, you need to know this dupe number to have an accurate read on the scope of review.

3. What kinds of documents do I have?

Long gone are the days where discovery strategies were limited to emails and their attachments. Well at least, long gone are the days when good discovery strategies were limited to emails and their attachments.

Nowadays, “documents” can take the form of emails, text messages, Slack threads, and more. Those different communication channels can each pose different review challenges that hinder review progress if you’re unprepared.

For example, reviewing text messages can involve spreadsheets where iChat, SMS, and MMS are broken into different pages, and any attached images are another page. Reviewing communication this way without mobile-specific solutions to help can be significantly more time-consuming than reviewing the exact same conversation in email form.

Now, imagine 60% of your documents that need reviewing are text messages, but you’ve budgeted your time and money as though they were emails. This will cause major problems downstream when review progress isn’t happening at the pace you expected, and perhaps you need to hire a lot of extra reviewers at the last minute to meet your deadline. Your client is mad because the case is costing more than they initially thought. This could’ve been prevented if you’d known what kinds of data you had at the onset and how long it generally takes to review different data types.

4. How many documents are in other languages?

Documents in foreign languages are another curveball that can trip up large review projects. It’s hard enough to find attorneys with the right legal experience to be helpful to your case, but finding that attorney who’s also fluent in another language often proves even more difficult. Any precious time you spend tracking down qualified reviewers is time you could’ve spent reviewing documents.

Maybe non-English documents only make up a tiny portion of your total data, in which case you only need 1-2 reviewers who speak that other language, and the rest of your review team can review the English documents as usual. In other cases, you might need a team composed almost entirely of bilingual attorneys.

It’s also highly dependent on what languages you need your team to know. Reviewers fluent in Spanish are probably going to be easier to find than reviewers fluent in Bulgarian. Either way, the sooner you figure out that you have documents in other languages, the better you can plan for that added challenge and manage your client’s expectations.

5. How many documents still need to be reviewed?

This is another one that might seem obvious, but it’s not necessarily important for the reasons you might think. “Can I get through X documents by my deadline?” is a pressing question on any lawyer’s mind, but an equally important question is “do I have enough information to make good decisions about what to do next?”

The Master Summary screen within Contact Discovery’s Vu™ solution

Ultimately, the reason we do discovery in the first place is so that lawyers and their clients can reach a positive outcome. What lawyers consider “positive” can vary widely depending on the truth that lies in those discovery documents. Sometimes there’s enough exonerating evidence to win a trial; other times, there’s enough incriminating data that a “positive outcome” is a favorable settlement.

If your team has only gotten through 10% of their documents, it’s probably not wise to make any major decision regarding the case. You just don’t have enough information yet to make a good decision, and you don’t want to close yourself off to other potential strategies that might become evident later.

If you’ve gotten through 80% of the documents, you still don’t have ALL the information, but you might have enough to be a little more strategic about how you approach that last 20%. What other information would be helpful to the case? Can you make educated guesses about which documents might hold that information?

Knowing how many documents still need to be reviewed is a lot bigger than just “Am I on track to meet a deadline?” It’s a number that tells you whether it makes more sense to start building a specific case strategy, or more sense to hang tight and wait for more information before you commit to a strategy.

6. How fast are reviewers getting through documents?

Most lawyers already want to know how many documents are still in review. What not as many lawyers worry about is the pace of specific reviewers. 

It’s important to know the current pace of progress, but it’s also important to know if you should just accept that pace or if other changes could accelerate things. Knowing how many documents one reviewer is getting through on a given day is a massive help for gauging whether or not progress could be happening faster.

There’s all sorts of reasons why Reviewer A might get through 20 documents a day, and Reviewer B might get through 10 documents a day. Maybe one reviewer is dealing with longer documents or that time-consuming mobile data we mentioned above. In that case, there might not be much to change that, your data is what it is.

Maybe Reviewer A is more familiar with the review platform you’re using, and an hour or two of extra training for Reviewer B would have them reviewing their docs just as quickly. Maybe you’ll see that reviewers are doing the best they can, but they’re still not working at a fast enough pace to meet your deadline and you’ll need to expand the review team to make it. It’s hard to glean these kinds of insights if all your vendor is giving you is one collective “documents left to review” number.

—-

Knowing the numbers behind document review affects your ability to make good decisions quickly. Contact Discovery’s solution, Vu™, is designed to put these metrics back in the hands of the attorneys who need them most. You can schedule a demo to learn more.