It is very good to welcome FTI Technology as a sponsor of the e-Disclosure Information Project. FTI Technology is a segment of FTI Consulting, Inc., a global business advisory firm, and brings immense resources to bear on the acquisitions and the software development needed to produce a world-class platform for disclosure / discovery.
As usual, I see no point in copy-typing or edit-pasting the perfectly good prose of a well-written press release, and refer you to FTI’s announcement of 27 January 2009 which sets out succinctly what FTI have done with their two flagship electronic discovery acquisitions Attenex and Ringtail Legal. Put shortly, they have integrated the advanced analysis, clustering, rapid review and graphical visualisation strengths of Attenex and the review, redaction and production capabilities of Ringtail.
In layman’s terms (since, as I say, you can read the formal descriptions for yourself) Attenex ploughs through large (very large if that is what you have) data collections, and helps identify material you either want to discard or to review, serving it up in batches. The clustering and visualisation tools allow quick overviews in a form which allows the reviewer to drill down to document level if necessary and to make decisions which both carry through into the detailed review stage and inform decisions about subsequent batches of documents. Ringtail Legal allows you move straight on to the detailed review without having to move the data between applications.
Attenex and Ringtail were both well-known in the UK market for their respective functions prior to the acquisitions. FTI’s new web site, launched at LegalTech this year, shows an election to major on the integration, with an emphasis on the whole process rather than on the components. That does not mean that you have to take all or nothing – it remains a valid option to use Attenex for the heavy processing work but pass the data to a different application for review, or to process the data elsewhere and review it in Ringtail.
This is an important point to make as the supplier market consolidates. For many of the potential users, the availability of an integrated process is a big plus. Others prefer a free choice of review platform – because they own licences elsewhere, or have committed resources to training, or just prefer something else.
Much of FTI’s own consulting and processing work in the UK recently has been in connection with regulatory work rather than litigation. This has not, I think, been the result of any election to that effect on their part, just the way the work has come in. The flow of regulatory work is unlikely to diminish post-Lehman, but it seems likely that FTI’s share of litigation work could increase now that the integration of Attenex with Ringtail is more or less complete – I put it that way because there were technology links between the two companies and their products before the Attenex acquisition and this remains an ongoing process.
Organisations of this size do not have to prove anything about their ability to handle vast volumes – FTI is one of a handful of companies who can take on anything – but it is harder to get their message to new clients whose demands are smaller in terms of volumes. There is an assumption that the use of tools like Attenex must be prohibitively expensive. I put this to Vipin Duggal of Attenex when he first showed me the visualisation tools of Attenex Patterns last year. His answer (quite apart from the evident power of what he showed me) was really the same as something I say often – firstly that you do not know what the costs are if you rely on assumption instead of actually asking, and secondly that the cost of the processing stage must be judged by reference to what is saved elsewhere in the case. If the processing stage hacks down the volumes in a way that the lawyers are happy with, then the subsequent costs in both lawyer time and application charges will go down.
FTI Technology works with some well-known names in the UK market. Its list of Attenex Service Partners includes Ernst & Young; the contact there is Sanjay Bhandari, who appears in these pages from time to time. Legal Inc is amongst the Ringtail Hosting Partners; I got to know Lisa Burton, who is shown as the Ringtail contact at Legal Inc, when they were the joint sponsors of the Law Society seminars which I presented. They are also newly-joined sponsors of the e-Disclosure Information Project.
I come across Craig Earnshaw, FTI Consulting’s UK Managing Director, at most of the conferences I go to, and I have known FTI’s Terry Dickinson since he bought out what became Ringtail supplier G3 in 1998 – Terry claims that he decided on a career in litigation support on the strength of a software demo which I gave at Allen & Overy in 1993 which, if nothing else, shows our staying power in an industry which had barely begun then.
I mention all these people because the bigger an organisation is, the harder it is for potential customers to connect with it or, at least, the harder they expect it to be. Despite its size, and despite its emphasis on the seamless integration of its component parts, FTI remains approachable, directly or through its partners. It also gives good demos – I had my first one over the phone by a webinar, so you do not even have to leave your office to see what is on offer.
The addition of FTI Technology as a sponsor brings another dimension which is of particular interest to me – and if what follows seems familiar it is because coincidence brings two posts with Australian connections up for publication on the same morning. Ringtail was first developed in Australia, and FTI has a strong business there in part as a result of this. I spoke at a conference in Sydney last year and have my own connections there, not least with Jo Sherman who was the major force in bringing forward Federal Court Practice Note 17 on the use of technology in the management of discovery and the conduct of litigation. I am a member of Master Whitaker’s drafting group which is pursuing parallel aims in the UK. Those involved in rule-drafting are one of the forces which bind together the jurisdictions which require disclosure of documents; the shared problems are another such force; the third is a handful of suppliers with strong representation everywhere. FTI is one of those world-wide suppliers and the one with the strongest Australian presence. I hope to be able to work with FTI to build on that.