Interview: Cliff Dutton of Epiq on innovation and disruption in eDiscovery

Cliff Dutton is Chief Innovation Officer at Epiq. I took part in a US panel discussion with him years ago and was glad to catch up with him at Legaltech in New York in February.

The word “innovation” is used to cover a lot of things and, it and its twin term “disruption” warrant explanation. I asked Cliff Dutton what “innovation” means to Epiq.

It means three things, Cliff Dutton says – product innovation, process innovation and business model innovation. Between them new ideas improve the products and services which Epiq brings to its clients, improves the way in which they are delivered, and changes for the better the relationship between Epiq and its market.

The term “disruption” reflects changes to the way business is done, not by destroying the old ways but making them more efficient.

The aim is to get the same outcomes (at least) at more compelling value. For example, process innovation includes the time it takes to deliver a solution to clients. Increased scale means faster processing, and every incremental speed increase improves the service to the lawyers and thence the service which the lawyers deliver to their clients.

I asked if lawyers were receptive to this – on the whole, lawyers like things to be the same this year as they were last year. Do they appreciate having their processes running faster?

Cliff Dutton gave as an example the uptake of Continuous Active Learning which supports, enhances, and speeds up document review. Epiq’s obligation is to be an educational partner to its clients, helping them to understand the benefits which follow from the adoption of processes like Continuous Active Learning.

The end clients are the end clients of both Epiq and the lawyers, and Epiq works with the lawyers to get the best legal outcome at the most compelling value.

I asked Cliff Dutton where Epiq was going with this in 2018. He said that Epiq was investing heavily in data science and in data products initiatives with the aim of extracting more value from underlying data. This goes beyond doing a good job within matters and extends to working across matters.

I suggested that “value” was not always top of the lawyers’ list of priorities – they tended to focus on being defensive and on ensuring compliance with relevant laws and rules. Cliff Dutton sees these priorities as being enhanced and supported by increased speed and efficiency which innovation brings to the task. The clients are unlikely to complain at reduced cost for the same delivery. The focus was on the way legal services can be better delivered with proper design.

To supplement what Cliff Dutton said in the interview, there is an article by him on the Epiq blog called Perspectives on AI and the law. Technology-enabled services, including eDiscovery, continue to grow, and it is worth exploring what artificial intelligence can bring to this.

The article includes the slightly differing definitions given by significant thinkers in the market. We see an emphasis on supplementing rather than replacing human input, and we see a focus on the responsibility for decision-making made in part by automated systems. These things complement each other: looked at from one direction, the speed of technology frees up time for humans to enhance the resulting output; looked at the other way, the human component serves as a check on what the technology is doing.


About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in AI, Discovery, eDisclosure, eDiscovery, Electronic disclosure, Epiq and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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