Legal – IT backwater no more

I’ve been attending LegalTech here in New York for the past few years, but this year things seemed to be different.Firstly, and most noticeably, every inch of available space at the New York Hilton on 6th Avenue was taken, spread across three floors. The corridors, which in less busy shows simply lead you to rooms, were lined with stands as were the exhibition spaces. It reminded me of the annual SIFMA Technology Management conference, which is a bit of a zoo and in the same location. But unlike the financial services industry, the legal industry and general counsel offices of corporations haven’t traditionally been seen as major buyers of IT, let alone cutting edge stuff.But there’s nothing like regulations to fuel a surge in the market. The changes the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which took effect in December 2006 and mandated that all electronic records were discoverable and that parties needed to be ready within 120 days of the start of a lawsuit to discuss their eDiscovery terms. This made eDiscovery a very hot market in 2007 (and helped Stratify to a nice valuation when it was bought by Iron Mountain in July 2007 for $158m).

But one of the messages I picked up pretty loud and clear is that law firms and legal departments have their eye on a much bigger problem, currently being done largely manually, but ripe for automation: document review. Figures of a $15bn market for document review now and a bill of $40bn by 2011 for overall review expense raised more than a few eyebrows among some prospective customers of document review vendors (many of which are also eDiscovery vendors, a market pegged at about $3bn). Jay Brudz, senior counsel, Legal Technology at GE, put it bluntly, “you know how many freaking lightbulbs we’ve gotta sell to pay for that?,” before making it clear that he had no intention in paying what vendors are asking.

The other point of tension I’m picking up is the one between intelligent archiving and search – the battle of ideas between those that think it’s better to do all the tagging at archive time and do some culling at that point (to avoid storing dupes and garbage) and those that think you should store everything and develop smarter search engines.

It’s clear – admittedly without any empirical evidence to hand – that protagonists in this space, be they general counsel departments, outside law firms or the vendors feel the rate is increasing so fast, their ability to cull the data at archiving time to make it more easily discoverable later can’t keep pace. There’s clearly somethig to that, given how rapidly talk has moved from gigabytes, to terabytes to petabytes to something an IBMer who handles data governance strategy for the company told me his clients call Goog-bytes – a generic term to mean so much data they can’t get their heads around it. After all, at this rate it won’t be that long before we talk of yottabytes in this arena, and what comes after that?

Search and archiving is something we at 451 Group have spent a lot of time on already and that is sure to continue in 2008.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 E-discovery discovery — Too much information on 07.23.08 at 9:31 am

[…] fall. There are certainly no shortage of vendors targeting this market, as anyone attending the LegalTech conference this year would tell […]