DS7.0: Fresh Topics, New Challenges and Solutions

Counsel On Call’s Discovery Symposium 7.0 was recently held in Nashville, Tenn. The annual two-day event was a good balance of relevant large data topics, fun networking between in-house attorney peers, and open dialogue on the issues challenging the legal industry today.

The Symposium’s program is full of experts, but not the typical people one sees at other events. Instead, our speakers are the in-house attorneys who are actually in the trenches for their companies, trying to solve challenges that are ever-changing while learning new technologies and processes – doing it all on a shrinking budget. The Symposium provides our attendees – some are GC’s, others Heads of Litigation or Discovery, and others manage specific parts of the process – some of the intelligence necessary to do all of these things. (See the DS7.0 agenda and panelists here.)

This was the genesis of the Discovery Symposium seven years ago when 35 in-house attorneys first gathered in Nashville in a law firm- and vendor-free environment to discuss the challenges they were encountering. Counsel On Call coordinated the topics and stepped out of the way. Today, the issues of 2009 are not only still present, but are also more complicated. Roles have changed. Brilliant people have changed their respective outlooks. Priorities and strategies have changed. And so has the programming.

We limit the number of Discovery Symposium attendees to 75 because we’ve found that number consistently produces the most open dialogue in the room for each panel. This year did not disappoint in that regard.

From panels on “Getting Maximal Results in Information Governance” to “Broadening the Big Data Model” to “Quantifying Success with Business Intelligence,” the topics were fresh and garnered enthusiastic audience participation. For IG in particular there seems to be a fair amount of frustration with policies that must be written and can’t be enforced consistently, but panelists Jessica Watts (Hewlett-Packard), Mike Lisi (Fidelity Investments) and Scott Veenendall (UnitedHealth) provided very helpful examples of what has worked and what hasn’t at their respective companies that the audience appreciated.

The “Business Intelligence” session was particularly enlightening. Led by two well-known experts in the financial services industry Counsel On Call is proud to partner with on these initiatives, the session began with a simple question: “Why?” Why is it important to track the data you want me to? What is the benefit of providing you access to our data to do it, or to lock down our resources to help you? From there, the panelists provided examples of the data that is most meaningful to them: data that provides the basis for judges to rule on reasonable amounts of discovery, data that wins cases and allows them to budget with precision.

But it was an evergreen topic of interest at Counsel On Call’s Discovery Symposium that garnered the most discussion this year: Technology Assisted Review (TAR). In one form or another, we’ve covered this topic since the first Discovery Symposium, but it’s only now that there is a true critical mass of regular users, as well as an educated group of in-house attorneys who have an understanding of TAR but have not yet deployed it for a variety of reasons.

Led by John Tredennick (Catalyst) and Susan Hammond (Regions Financial), the session began with an overview of what TAR really means, encompassing Continuous Active Learning, predictive coding and even early case assessment-focused platforms. But the two issues that drew the most interest asked: What are the best cases to utilize TAR, and does it really provide the value in-house departments are searching for?

For the former, the general consensus was that TAR could be used on any case, but for those without an overwhelming volume of litigation there was a ROI level after 50,000 documents. This number was reaffirmed in a survey we conducted with our attendees about their use of TAR prior to the symposium.

For the latter, related question, there is still much debate. Many attendees firmly believe that aspects of TAR are continually utilized (and fully utilized on large cases), but with core teams of client-dedicated discovery attorneys who know the technology and consistently get results. That is certainly a principle at Counsel On Call – no matter how much a platform can reduce a data set or how quickly it can identify the responsive documents, it is only as good as the attorneys who train the tool and work within it.

For smaller departments or for those companies that do not have significant litigation portfolios, it is a hard proposition to sell internally. Many of these companies are very dependent on outside counsel and are vulnerable regarding technology decisions. To a person at DS7.0, however, these attorneys said the discussion on this topic was going to help them shape new policies for either anticipated litigation or to be ready with their own process for any potential litigation.

Again, DS7.0 was a great event and the post-event survey scores – an average 4.39 out of 5.0 for the panels – were outstanding. We are already planning next year’s event, which will be held in late April or early May in Nashville. If you are an in-house attorney or manager of the discovery process and are interested in learning more about DS8.0, please visit the Discovery Symposium website and contact us to get on the event distribution list.

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