Interview: Susanna Blancke of NightOwl Discovery on foreign language discovery

Susanna Blancke is Associate Director, Litigation and Client Services at NightOwl Discovery. At Relativity Fest in London I talked to her about different types of eDiscovery projects and, in particular, about multilingual eDiscovery.

There is, Susanna Blancke said, no such thing as a standard eDiscovery project. Investigations and litigation (one of which may lead to the other) vary in a number of ways. One of those is whether or not they include documents of various languages.

It is not enough, Susanna Blancke said, merely to have skilled linguists. They also need subject matter expertise – in finance or life science or whatever the case was about – with the language skills on top. The staffing might therefore be completely different between two projects.

I asked Susanna Blancke what is the future of multi-language discovery. The main development, she said, was the development of machine translation which would eventually mean that humans needed only to look at the final output for quality control purposes and not at all the documents in the dataset.

Technology is getting better, but it is not eliminating the role of humans. There are certain things which machine translation will not get – there are examples, especially in Asian languages, where the position of the word in a sentence makes a difference to the meaning.

There are, of course, jurisdictional differences between eDiscovery projects – between the US and elsewhere and between the EU and the rest of the EU. Susanna Blancke sees Europe as having the advantage of capitalising on a decade of serious eDiscovery development in the US resulting in highly-developed review tools. Lawyers in Europe will be able to get in at a very high level. This has obvious advantages for budgets and for review speeds.

One of the differences in the EU is the importance of privacy concerns which have not hitherto been a big feature of US discovery. That may change, partly because of the global ambit of the GDPR, but partly also because US states – California with its California Consumer Privacy Act is the most advanced example – embrace principles similar to those in the GDPR. Susanna Blancke hopes that the worldwide discovery community will learn from each other and that that tools will become available which will rule out data protection concerns.


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
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