A series of announcements from Autonomy coincide with what I see as the coming developments in the UK and elsewhere, enabling the lawyers to work collaboratively with clients.
As one would expect, Autonomy has come up with a series of announcements in advance of LegalTech. One of them is about the large number of awards – six in all – which they are to be given by Law Technology News on LegalTech’s opening Monday evening.
The others are about three product launches – DSMail , a self-service archiving solution for email management, governance and ediscovery, iManage ConflictsManager, which enables law firms to streamline the management of their conflicts of interest process, and the Autonomy eDiscovery Appliance which combines early case assessment (ECA) and legal hold capabilities.
The one I will actually go and see at LegalTech is the ConflictsManager, partly because I know what is in the Appliance box already (I will come on to that below), but also because I once, many years ago, was in a team of lawyers who had got a day-and-a-half into a meeting on a urgent matter before someone back at the office realised a) where we all were and b) that we should not be there because of a conflict. Those were much simpler days. I spoke to Neil Araujo, CEO of Autonomy iManage, who explained that ConflictManager will conduct an intelligent search of as much of your data as you want using Autonomy’s Meaning Based Computing, and give you a preliminary view (a kind of early assessment as to whether you can take on the case) followed by a fuller report. In cases like my one, where you don’t even have time to say where you are going, that is pretty useful. It is also making use of any data you can access and not just what has been entered into the firm’s contacts database.
The two press releases which caught my eye first, however, are the one about the eDiscovery Appliance and the one about what Autonomy call “Chaining”. You can get undiluted PRs anywhere (in their hundreds this week) and you come here for something more, so I spoke to Nicole Eagan, Chief Marketing Officer at Autonomy, to ask her more about what lies behind the Appliance announcement.
Good marketing people never miss an opportunity to find out more about the jurisdictions they market to, or maybe Nicole is just polite. Either way, she wanted to know what was going on at my end of the street before she would tell me what was happening at hers (c.f. many marketing people who just go into automated drone mode simply reciting their scripts on these occasions). What, she asked, did the UK see as the key trends and developments in the US?
That one is easy this week. Top of the list (as a development but also as an example of a trend) must come Judge Scheindlin’s Opinion in Pension Committee v Bank of America Securities (see Ralph Losey’s article which links to the Opinion). Its potential to increase litigation costs in pursuit of an ideal which owed little to justice seems to have appalled even US commentators. It was filed, as it happened, the day after Lord Justice Jackson’s Final Report on Litigation Costs came out, with all its emphasis on the minimum outlay needed to find justice. It is not so much that they contradict each other, because they come from different angles, but they certainly show that the gulf is widening between the US and UK approaches to what is necessary (and necessity is an important theme in Jackson). The Decision of the following week in AccessData v Alste, reinforcing the idea that US courts can simply ignore EU data protection laws (see US claims Global Power to Access Data despite EU data protection laws) similarly leaves UK lawyers agape. I see both these decisions as potential turning-points – we may look back at last week as the moment that common-sense and the real world rebelled against court-driven attitudes which appeared divorced from both.
As to what is happening in the UK, the combination of the Jackson Report (with its emphasis on education and on case management), the pending Practice Direction and e-Disclosure Questionnaire, and the sudden stirrings of interest in outsourcing and other ways of making the business of law acceptable to clients, all coincide with apparent recovery from recession. I said that I saw opportunities for second-tier firms to ally with providers, to make use of technology partners and outsourcing, and to capitalise on their lower charging rates to take good work away from the bigger firms. My own main theme at the moment, I said, was the fact that lawyers were going to have to work more closely with their clients because the main competition was now the clients themselves.
As it happened, that conclusion was directly relevant to what Nicole Eagan had to say about the new Autonomy eDiscovery Appliance. E-Discovery providers, she said, split their offerings between the law firm and corporate markets and do not necessarily send the same messages to both. Autonomy was seeing the development of mixed models. Instead of the ediscovery task lying in two fixed compartments, the company and the law firm, there was developing the idea of collaborative working. Either the company was buying into some technology which they could allow the law firm to access, perhaps in the cloud, or the law firm was acquiring the technology and the skill to enable them, for example, to drop in an Appliance which, with minimal intrusion into the network infrastructure, would facilitate the legal hold and early case assessment.
This brings the two markets closer together. It also has the effect of binding the company and the supplier together, making it worth their while developing a process applicable both on a case by case basis and for long term assignments. Autonomy is receiving requests from third-party providers to use an Appliance case-by-case. Instead of arriving with the conventional hard drive, they bring Autonomy’s Legal Hold and Early Case Assessment applications in a box to start indexing the data for ECA at once.
The Appliance itself is an ordinary computer which may range from a laptop to a server depending on what is needed. It comes preconfigured and with the applications pre-installed. Nicole reckoned that it would take two days for a lawyer to become competent in the use of the software. They found in particular that the visualisation tools make it very easy for lawyers to understand the concepts.
These two possibilities – the clients able to invite lawyers to work collaboratively and in-place on their data and the lawyers’ able to bring an Appliance in to allow in-place indexing and tagging of the clients data – are part of what Autonomy calls “Chaining” – they “Chain Together Corporate Legal Departments and Law Firms through ‘Discover-in-Place’ Technology” as they put it on a press release to accompany these new tools, either for a particular investigation or case, or for longer term reasons. If, as I had put it, the lawyers’ primary competition is the client itself, this seems as good a way as any to encourage the clients to keep them in the loop as early as possible in the litigation process.