It used to be quite easy to explain to lawyers what was the role of each player in the discovery process. It was easiest, of course, in the days when the only application was a photocopier. Many lawyers, I think, got stuck at the next stage when litigation support meant scanning paper and setting teams of people to enter information about each document by hand. The only technical expression around then was “coding” which acquired a mystique disproportionate to what was actually involved.
Then came electronic documents. You will still hear the uninformed saying that handling electronic documents is just like dealing with paper. Fortunately, electronic documents bring much of their own coding with them – I say “fortunately” because their volumes increased at a rate which made manual coding of basic identification information an impossibility. Different specialisations grew up – companies became known for their skill at collecting data, for their capacity to store it, or for their ever more sophisticated applications for analysis and review. The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) became the standard definition of the stages through which documents passed, giving rise to the idea that the process flow moved from information management on the left to presentation in court on the right, with other stages between. The goal of most providers was to embrace the stages which lay to left or right (or both) of their starting point.
It confuses the punter – the putative buyer – no end. Those who have lived with the market as it has developed can have no idea what it looks like to someone who comes at it from scratch. The apparent simplicity of the EDRM goes for nothing once they find that market players who appear to specialise in one area have plausible aspirations to others, and that grey areas develop where it is far from clear whether the ancillary expertise – the review capabilities, say, of a data collection specialist – are fully developed products or merely gestures.
The reality, in most cases, is that it doesn’t matter too much which door you go through. If you take to a review application whose provider does not itself undertake collections, then they will know someone who does. If you are impressed by a processing application whose review capability falls short of your requirements, the data can be moved after processing. You can choose someone who offers “end to end” combinations of software and services or choose the providers which suit you for different stages, perhaps with the help of a general purpose litigation support company as project manager.
You can get a flavour of it if you look at EMC’s SourceOne ediscovery – Kazeon web page. Its slightly clunky title reflects the fact that storage giant EMC bought data collection and processing company Kazeon last year, bringing to EMC an area of expertise which it had not previously enjoyed (as well, one guesses, as giving Kazeon development resources which it needed). Although the word “review” appears in the overview tab , the features and benefit tab makes it clear that “review” means early case assessment and first-pass review. EMC- Kazeon does not purport to offer full-blown review capabilities. Its strength and its focus lie over to the left of the EDRM with the Kazeon acquisition moving it towards the centre.
Now look at this press release on the Applied Discovery site. Look first at the Quick Links on the left and you will see that Applied Discovery offers the full range of services and applications from consulting through to review, together with specialist areas beyond the pure EDRM functions. You could conclude from that, and you would be right, that Applied Discovery could take on the whole exercise for you without needing to involve others. Although this was not my primary purpose in bringing you to this page, the Quick Links offer one of the clearest descriptions known to me of the functions and stages which are involved in an ediscovery exercise. Rather too many sites in this market are so busy with airy technocrap (that peculiar combination of esoteric technical terms and empty generic words) that they have no room for basic descriptions of what they actually do. The Applied Discovery site is an exception.
The point of choosing this particular page is that it announces a tie-up between EMC-Kazeon and Applied Discovery. The benefits are obvious: EMC-Kazeon can offer its users somewhere to put their data after the first-past review, whilst Applied Discovery potentially add a new source of users for the review end of its offerings. The buyer will get a seamless transition through all the stages.