ILNews

Attorneys discover predictive coding

Marilyn Odendahl
October 10, 2012
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Indiana Lawyer Focus

In the world of searching for relevant documents in the recesses of email inboxes and hard drives, a new high-tech tool has appeared that, despite causing trepidation among some attorneys, will likely become commonly used during the discovery process to tame the growing volumes of data.

Predictive coding is the coming wave in electronic discovery. The software filters through electronically stored information and separates the responsive documents from the non-responsive ones. Although the process is not completely without human input, it is touted as reducing the amount of time and money involved in an e-discovery process because fewer lawyers are needed to sift through the reams of data.

rebecca biller Biller

This technology is being used or seriously considered in cases in other states, and Indiana attorneys anticipate it will be enlisted here very soon. The present concerns over predictive coding’s reliability may give way to pragmatism since electronic discovery is increasingly becoming part of litigation, and the massive amount of documents now stored on computers has begun to outweigh many law firms’ ability to do reviews by hand.

Indianapolis attorneys Becky Biller and John Papageorge believe predictive coding will appear in litigation in Indiana either this year or next. In fact, Papageorge, partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, said his firm has a client “on the cusp” of using the technology.

As they await the arrival of predictive coding, Biller and Papageorge reflect the differing attitudes toward the software.

Biller, associate at Krieg DeVault LLP and co-chair of the firm’s electronic discovery and data management group, said she is excited to use the technology. In litigation with a high dollar value along with a large number of documents to review, the use of predictive coding will make sense.

john papageorge Papageorge

Papageorge, while not opposed to using the technology, admitted it makes him uneasy because clients, attorneys and judges will be relying on computers to do the work and hoping the algorithms are right.

Even so, it will likely have to be used, he said, because of the “staggering sums of money” that clients will have to pay if traditional methods of discovery are used to review the huge number of documents that are often part of e-discovery. As an example, Papageorge estimated that five to seven lawyers doing discovery all day, every day, for one or two weeks would be able to examine about 10,000 to 12,000 documents which compares to electronically stored information that can easily surpass a million, five million or more documents.

Not hocus pocus

Predictive coding is not about computers making all the decisions and taking jobs from lawyers, said Juliet Hanna and Caragh Landry, executives at Integreon, an international company that provides legal, research and business support to law firms, in-house legal departments and corporations. Rather, it is based on the pre-existing technology of clustering and concept searches to prioritize the documents so the attorney can better review them.

phillip fowler Fowler

“You have to have people involved in this,” Hanna, vice president of legal discovery services, said. “I think sometimes people get really scared because computers are taking over the world. … It’s not succeeding control to a computer. It’s using technology to work better.”

They compared the work of predictive coding to that of a paralegal. Just like a paralegal would take a box of documents into a conference room, separate the pieces of paper into different piles, and place a Post-it note labeling each stack, predictive coding categorizes electronic documents and, thereby, enhances an attorney’s ability to review the responsive information.

Both Papageorge and Phillip Fowler, partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, outlined how predictive coding sorts the documents. Basically, an attorney will examine a seed set of documents and separate the relevant from the non-relevant. Then using this template, the algorithm is adjusted until the software can similarly identify relevant and non-relevant data.

Afterward, the attorney can review all documents that the computer selected as responsive or review a sample of those documents to test for quality – and to guard against privileged information being released – before turning the information over to opposing counsel.

“I see it as an opportunity for us to provide services we need to provide to our clients but at a reduced cost,” Fowler said.

juliet hanna Hanna

He also speculated that predictive coding could have a significant impact on litigation by sending more cases into the courtroom. Currently, clients often decide to settle because both sides get tired of paying the fees that come with protracted discoveries. With this technology’s ability to pare down a large volume of documents into a more manageable size, thus cutting the time and expense of review, more disputes may go to court where they will be judged on their merits.

Disclosing

A much publicized court opinion regarding predictive coding came in February from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck approved the use of predictive coding in Monique Da Silva Moore, et al. v Publicis Groupe & MSL Group, 11 Civ. 1279 (ALC) (AJP), concluding that computer-assisted review is an available tool and should be considered in large data cases where its use might save money.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has already had a case come before him where predictive coding was considered but ultimately not used because many of the electronic documents in the case were PDFs, and the software was not as successful in culling the responsive documents.

Dinsmore shied away from describing himself as “comfortable” with the technology but said he is “open-minded about it.” At this point, he said he could not imagine objecting to predictive coding if both sides agreed to its use.

caragh landry Landry

Landry and Hanna argued that attorneys do not have to disclose when they are employing predictive coding in the e-discovery process. The technology underlying the software has been around for years, and other methods of reviewing documents, like keyword searches, are not often disclosed to either the opposing counsel or to the court.

However, Indiana attorneys advised against keeping predictive coding a secret. Mostly because of the cost of the technology, which runs into six figures, disclosure is prudent to avoid having the other side raise challenges after the expense has been incurred. In addition, getting agreement early may limit objections later.

Biller views the federal courts as the best place for using predictive coding since the meet and confer requirement gives attorneys a forum to discuss and agree on the e-discovery process. Getting prior agreement would enhance the discovery process, she said, and eliminate disputes.

“It would be a real tragedy to invest in predictive coding only to have the other party in court challenge it and say, ‘You can’t use it’ because it is expensive,” Biller said.•

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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