Throw it over the wall Discovery

Both the legal and IT worlds have technical expressions and terms of art which tend to exclude outsiders. Litigation support and e-Disclosure have feet in both these camps and a reasonable share of terms which do not mean much to those not involved.

I came across an assertion in the Information Governance Engagement Area to the effect that “the days of traditional ‘throw it over the wall’ (TIOTW) e-Discovery are numbered”. Not just a catch-phrase, then, but an acronym and a link to a definition – Word Spy says it is a verb – “to pass a project or problem to another person or department without consulting with them or coordinating the transfer in any way.”

Intrigued, I followed the link to the source article, called “Web Services” for E-Discovery” introduced by Aaref Hilaly, CEO of Clearwell Systems. The article is really about the EDRM XML schema and Clearwell’s part in it – it is the XML schema which presages the end of TIOTW disclosure, apparently.

I had assumed that throw it over the wall Discovery is what you did to your opponents – you know, collect all your documents, pull out the privileged ones, and throw the rest over the wall for the other poor sod to wade through. Apparently not – as used here, the expression means the way Disclosure is handled as between the various people on the same side. TIOTW is apparently

“that endearing process whereby an enterprise gathers up a muddle of electronic data in all shapes and sizes, ties it up in a big bundle, rolls it in bubble wrap, and catapults it into the waiting arms of a service provider. They unwrap it, chant some incantations and perform other black magic for a few days (or is it weeks?) and throw a bundle back over the wall to their corporate client. In-house counsel takes a look and promptly realizes that the search terms she thought were sure things were completely off the mark, and that she missed a couple of custodians, and then… well, it’s back over the wall again.”

The meat of the article lies in Aaref Hilaly’s reasons for predicting that the XML schema will spell the end of TIOTW Discovery. He foresees that “litigation risk will decline” as companies become better able to do first-pass review in house (strictly it is not that the litigation risk declines but that it becomes easier to identify the winners and losers earlier). The XML schema will shorten timescales by eliminating the TIOTW between the home team members, and will make the whole process more manageable as data passes seamlessly between everyone involved.

Hilaly is probably right, particularly as the closest he comes to a timeframe is a reference to “in the years to come”. George Socha of the EDRM project was eloquent on the subject in London a couple of weeks ago.

Meanwhile, I spent much of yesterday passing data between various systems using CSV (comma separated values), a simple and efficient common language for transferring data which goes back to the early days of computing and which is used by most systems from simple spreadsheets to major litigation systems. It is free, it works, it is here and now.

The EDRB XML schema is almost certainly the future, probably the near-future. But the throw-it-over-the wall approach to e-Disclosure is a defect of management and processes, not of technology.


About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in eDisclosure, eDiscovery, EDRM, Lit Sup Technical, Litigation Readiness, Litigation Support. Bookmark the permalink.

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