I am fond of analogies, as you know, and everything from motorway signs to Roman bridges gets pulled into service to illustrate e-disclosure points. It seems to be catching: Craig Earnshaw of FTI Technology in London came up with another when I was speaking to him a few days ago.
I often make the point that suppliers’ inevitable focus on their bigger cases tends to obscure their willingness and ability to work cost-effectively on smaller matters. They have only one home page on their website and it is not surprising that they use it to promote the higher end of their range.
It is like introducing people to opera, Craig said. You do not encourage newcomers to sit through the Ring Cycle, but introduce them more gently with Puccini.
It is a good parallel, embracing the sophistication, if that is the right word, of Wagner, the endurance needed to absorb it, the scale and the technical appreciation required. Most electronic disclosure cases are not that big or that sophisticated, and do not require of the user that he or she is deeply knowledgeable about the technology. The challenge of getting someone to attend their first opera is akin to the challenge of getting lawyers to undertake their first e-disclosure exercise.
The analogy breaks down in one respect, however. Opera’s greatest enthusiasts would not claim that its appreciation is an essential life skill, whereas a litigation lawyer who does not understand the basics of electronic disclosure cannot expect to survive in a business world in which nearly all documents are electronic. Trying to handle them manually is just not practical, let alone cost-effective. Unlike the opera, you cannot walk out in the interval.
There is nothing patronising about the assertion that the potential users of litigation software find it hard to work out where to begin. Quite a lot of it is deeply technical in nature, and the suppliers face a real difficulty in addressing the (potentially enormous) novice market whilst simultaneously impressing the experts. The websites really need a “Beginners start here” link on their home page which would allow them to address the wider and less skilled audience without derogating from their messages to the expert audience.
Which opera offers the best parallels for the relationship between litigation support suppliers and their prospective clients? I reckon it is Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène, whose opening number has Paris recounting the process by which he chose between Juno, Minerva and Venus (substitute the names of any three suppliers of your choice here). Juno had offered to make him a king; Minerva offered wisdom and skill in war; Venus said that he could have the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. As with so many software purchases, Paris rejected the practical, powerful, sensible options in favour of the pretty one, opting to have it off with Helen of Troy.
What you may not know is that the back-story to this beauty-parade involved a mediation to head off litigation over the ownership of the Apple of Discord, or Golden Apple. All three of the ladies laid claim to it, and Zeus appointed Paris to be the judge. Paris obviously botched it, because a piddling quarrel over a bit of fruit turned into the Trojan War. So much litigation begins this way, of course.