Contrary to my assumptions, H5’s very different approach to document review can be made available in the UK on data hosted here. Those with bigger cases should consider adding H5 to their list of possible solutions
I had breakfast with Michael Morneault and Terence Sweeney of H5 whilst I was in New York. The venue, Sarabeth’s Central Park South, which overlooks the bottom end of Central Park, would warrant a review of its own, but that is by the way.
I met Mike at LegalTech last year in a venue too dark to allow me to put a face to the name. I was intrigued by H5’s very different way of handling large amounts of electronic data and we kept in touch over the ensuing year.
Reduced to its simplest, H5 take over the whole process of extracting, refining and reviewing electronic sources of data, leaving the lawyers or corporate clients to focus on strategy, evaluation and assessment of risk or outcome. Put like that, it sounds as if the client is simply outsourcing the grunt work, but H5 are to conventional outsourcing what a Rolls Royce is to a donkey cart.
For one thing, their staff are taken on for their brains and for a wide range of intellectual, commercial and technical skills. H5 does not sell software nor the traditional litigation support tools or services, nor do they act as support to make legal teams more effective. What they do, in their own words, is to “automate the relevancy or responsiveness assessments that the senior litigators would make if they could review all the documents themselves”.
There is, no doubt, a lot of proprietary technology behind this, but the key element is a process which begins by sitting down with the clients to devise what they call a “scoping analysis”. They define with the clients what documents should be identified as responsive or relevant, and then apply their technology-assisted processes to produce the sub-set needed by the senior people. The results can be refined iteratively and then dropped into whatever review tool the client is used to.
H5 claims to be able to reduce the overall cost, time and risk by 50% or more, relative to the time and costs of lawyer review with the aid of conventional technology, and they quote you an all-in fee up-front. The fee results from a cost and time-to-completion “benchmark analysis” that compares the H5 process to the client’s best alternative.
You need to have a lot of documents to warrant throwing this sort of intellectual and technological power at them, but there are some big UK cases which fit the bill, run by people with the experience to judge how the fixed fee measures against the historic costs of past jobs.
The approach seems an attractive one, perhaps because of its emphasis on thought-through process rather than brute technology. It is particularly interesting in the UK as we move away from grape-shot disclosure towards a closer focus on the key issues and on the documents needed to prove the facts which support or undermine them. Anything which may refine the pack at the outset is worth considering, as is the fixed-fee idea.
I have always assumed that all this power depended on having the data in H5’s own facility in the US. I mused as much over breakfast and was told that it is perfectly possible for H5 to bring its processes and its technology to wherever it is needed. A team would come from San Francisco to set the ball rolling, to recruit and train staff and then to work with them, hosting the data wherever was appropriate and secure. So whilst H5 has both investigated and noted its willingness to meet EU data protection requirements, its ability to adopt a UK-situated approach will provide comfort to those hesitant to export data outside the EU.
I suspect that H5 have more than enough to keep them amused back home and have not felt the need to advertise their rather different approach outside the US. If you are interested, have a look at their web site or contact Michael Morneault.