OutIndex, makers of low-cost software which imports and processes mail files and electronic documents, invited some top US e-Disclosure experts to speak at their Legal Technology Summit yesterday. English judges are showing increasing interest in using their CPR powers to order the use of technology to cut down Disclosure costs. The software supplies the means, and the judicial pressure gives the motive, to think again about e-Disclosure.
Define what you want from litigation software. I don’t mean the all-singing-all-dancing systems for your star cases, I mean something which allows you to hack quickly – and routinely – into your clients’ Outlook and Lotus Notes mail files and their folders of documents for a first-pass review.
You would expect it to be reliable, scalable and to give you the option of eyeing all the key fields. You would need to do some tagging and filtering straight off but also to get the data out in a verifiable form if you wanted to move it to a grander home. You would want to know it had some happy established users (preferably someone you had heard of) but was from a developer who was still keen to improve it. You would need UK support, of course, and a price you could decide on now, because now is the moment when have the requirement.
Dream on, you would think. OK, let’s dream some more. How about downloading it from the web NOW and getting straight on with it? Try ringing up the developer and suggesting a change and (if he agreed with you) getting it back in a couple of hours or days? Is KPMG good enough as a user to follow? Is Lambeth close enough for you? How does £250 per year sound? It all sounds too good to be true, really.
The Millennium Bridge and St Pauls from Tate Modern
I was put onto OutIndex by Mark Dingle of Simmons & Simmons, who suggested I had a look at it after he saw a demo. I’ve done a fair amount of work for Simmons & Simmons over the years but Mark and I also discuss litigation support matters arising from his work with LiST (the Litigation Support Technology Group) or from articles of mine, or about applications we have come across. I have learned to follow up his suggestions.
Within an hour I had converted my first .PST and sent a message to Nii Larnyoh, the OutIndex CEO and Founder, with a suggestion for an improvement. Within an hour after that, I had back a new version with the suggestion incorporated. Within a couple of days, we had some more refinements and within ten days I had referred to OutIndex in a demonstration as having the potential to help crack the problem I have been writing about this year – how to encourage new users to adopt technology for litigation.
I will come back to that separately. What interested me was that there were some pretty big users listed on the OutIndex web site. Furthermore, their Legal Technology Summit, which took place yesterday on the top floor of Tate Modern, chaired by Vicki Karim of OutIndex, attracted speakers like George Rudoy, Global Head of Practice Support at Shearman and Sterling, and Dan Regard, a managing director and practice leader for electronic discovery at LECG. These are big names to turn out for an apparently small software company.
What was said by these speakers and a third, Jason Velasco of Velasco Consulting, warrants a separate post in due course, if not more than one. The topics were by no means just a promotion for OutIndex – that was implicit rather than the main theme.
Jason Velasco, Dan Regard, Vicki Karim and George Rudoy
What was encouraging from a UK perspective was that these US e-Disclosure experts did not just talk about millions of documents, esoteric sources or (as one gets so often from US experts) the assumption that every attorney and every judge has technology in the veins. Sure, we were told of a new measure of paper documents, an Empire State Building or ESB (which I calculate to equate to 7.57575758 Nelson’s Columns in UK terminology), and learnt about what you can get out of the hard drive in a microwave oven.
Most of it, though, was sober stuff about the US practice directly relevant to things I am concerned with at the moment – the value (or not) of metadata, clients’ IT departments plucked blinking into the daylight to give evidence about document sources, the difference between “should ” and “shall” in court rules about co-operation, the limited training given to judges who were expected to make rulings, and the pros and cons of handling e-discovery in house. The last line in my notes reads “taking a commercially reasonable approach”, which is a pretty good summary of what was said throughout.
As well as hearing the speakers there was the bonus of a guided tour of some of the exhibits. I couldn’t help relating some of them to the day’s subject-matter – Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box looked like those packing-cases you get back from a scanning bureau; Roy Lichtenstein’s Wham looked like the moment when you send your opponent the killer document just unearthed from the mail files; the Cubist George Braque’s deconstructed still life Bottle and Fishes was reminiscent of the feeling you have when a ring-binder has fallen and scattered 800 pages randomly on the floor.
I also met Nii Larnyoh. Somebody said of him that if a prospect were to say “No thanks”, he would just smile and see himself out – a pleasant contrast with the normal run of software vendors and one which ought to win him business in the UK where the pushiness of a vendor often pushes the subject right off the table.
In case you were wondering, OutIndex fits exactly the description given in my first three paragraphs in this post. It costs £250 per year and you can get a viewer, OutIndex eReviewXpress for £100 per seat.
Why am I interested? Well, if you choose to outsource the work, I would be happy to do it for you and return the resulting data in any format you want – whether that is for eReviewXpress, in a hyperlinked Excel spreadsheet, or as a load file for any other litigation system. Alternatively, I would be happy to help you devise procedures for using it yourself.
I have a wider interest, however. Low-cost tools like OutIndex have the capacity to democratise the use of e-Disclosure in British courts just at a time when judges are beginning to flex their muscles at Case Management Conferences. The speakers at the OutIndex Summit painted a picture in which, squeezed by high volumes and by the new FRCP Discovery rules, the lawyers have had to find new ways to cut through the documents cost-effectively.
The components missing in the UK have been, at one end, the informed application of the Practice Direction to Part 31 of the CPR and, at the other, applications which allow solicitors to review documents quickly. Some will see this as an opportunity; others will find the ground cut from under them by judges who challenge their reluctance with an increasingly wide knowledge of what is available and what is possible. Judges will not be endorsing particular products, of course. It is is enough that they should be aware that cost-effective solutions like this exist.