Looking back through the history of eDiscovery, technology, data, and the adoption of both have dramatically changed. Paper discovery was overtaken by eDiscovery. Software and technology solutions have followed suit, maturing as the demands have become more complex and diverse.
eDiscovery solutions moved from installed software on local computers to Cloud-Based and SaaS technology platforms. Enormous volumes of data are being hosted on these platforms, which have grown and matured as the data demands have grown and become more complex. The future of eDiscovery will continue to be shaped by technological advances in data analysis, the integration of artificial intelligence, cloud technology enhancements, predictive and analytic modeling, and the continuing complexity and exponential growth in data.
As the solutions become more complex and robust, there will be an increasing emphasis on effective data management and cost-saving methodologies. Utilizing existing technologies while planning future advancements will be necessary for organizations to respond to discovery requirements effectively.
Knowing what will significantly impact the eDiscovery technology environment is vital for organizations. Being aware will help immensely in planning for short-term and long-term success, whether they are early adopters or part of the majority.
Here are nine trends in eDiscovery technology for 2024:
1. SaaS and Cloud-Based Solutions
SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud-based technologies have revolutionized how organizations manage their data. These innovative solutions are now critical in eDiscovery, allowing organizations to handle the massive amounts of data they generate more effectively and efficiently. SaaS and cloud-based solutions have revolutionized eDiscovery technology through lower costs, scalability, and rapid deployment availability for local and global teams.
A recent Gartner report shows that SaaS dominates the cloud service market and accounts for over half of the total software market. This trend is expected to continue to grow throughout 2023 and beyond. The rise of SaaS and cloud-based solutions has allowed organizations to move away from traditional, on-premise IT systems that are cumbersome and expensive to maintain. Organizations can quickly and easily access their data by leveraging these new technologies.
The legal sector adoption of SaaS and Cloud-based technology will grow significantly in 2023. The benefits of scalability, efficiency in data management, and the cost benefits are significant. As a bonus, SaaS technologies automatically provide regular updates and upgrades of features, functionality, speed enhancements, and security.
2. Structured Data vs. Unstructured Data
The majority of data is unstructured and available from virtually any location. This brings a lack of clear organization, and mixed data types stored together present a tremendous challenge regarding data management and security. From MS Office documents, chat conversations and group discussions, recorded video meetings, Google Docs, emails, and text messages, the variety and complexity of storing this data increases as the volumes grow, presenting the real challenge of organizing and preserving all of it.
Structure data is the opposite. It is found in complex programs and relational databases where data is connected and utilized by multiple systems concurrently. It is organized and ordered in a defined structure, providing easier identification, preservation, and management.
The distinction between organized and unstructured material is essential in eDiscovery. A significant trend among organizations has been utilizing structured data wherever possible. The benefits of ease in organization, control, preservation, management, and security are immediately realized by organizations. Searching, identifying, filtering, and sorting structured data is less complicated and reduces human document research, inspection time, and expense.
Regarding eDiscovery, structured data is far less likely to be polluted with irrelevant or unnecessary data and will unlikely be altered during the discovery process. This is crucial when data authenticity is at stake since it ensures the information is accurate and trustworthy.
Organizations will continue to seek out and adopt structured data solutions. The costs, security, and scalability are the primary motivators, and discovery and legal response are an incredible added benefit.
Look for a notable uptick by corporations and public sector organizations to implement more structured data solutions in 2023.
3. Accelerating Complexity of eDiscovery
The days of sorting through piles of paper files are not entirely gone, but it has been substantially eclipsed by electronically stored information (ESI). This shift from paper to digital data has spurred a significant document review, analysis, and evaluation revolution.
Organizations are continually producing more data than ever, and the data type constantly evolves. New platforms, tools, apps, and technologies are spewing out data at an unbelievable rate. Not only is the volume exponentially increasing, the complexity of the data is expanding. Organizing, managing, retrieving, and reviewing this data is a constant challenge in eDiscovery.
The trend of data creation and complexity is not slowing down. In fact, it is accelerating at an alarming rate. With recent releases of new AI technologies, creating new and increasingly complex data is easier than ever.
Organizations will need to address these challenges through appropriate technologies and tools. Technology and tools that address these complex data challenges are becoming more readily available, with price points that make them attainable.
4. AI Adoption in eDiscovery Review
The landscape of data is being transformed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The adoption of its use in data creation is rising and is also becoming necessary in eDiscovery review and analysis. Organizations use AI technology to automate and streamline data production, analysis, creation, and management, resulting in efficient, customizable, and repeatable processes.
AI-powered technologies are assisting businesses in finding patterns, trends, and anomalies in massive data sets. Likewise, eDiscovery review of these data sets requires the same AI-powered technologies. While computer-aided review is not new, it has significantly evolved from the initial search options provided and Technology Assisted Review (TAR) 1.0.
As data volume and complexity increase, eDiscovery review teams are slowly adopting the tools and relying on the technology to create efficiencies in review. AI technologies are also assisting in specific use cases like identifying Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI) and adhering to privacy and data protection laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
AI technology is increasingly being adopted in eDiscovery and is disrupting the eDiscovery review process. The adoption of AI is projected to increase rapidly due to the continuing development of AI technology. In 2023, review teams will not only continue to add new AI review technologies to their toolkit, but those that have resisted adoption will need to begin that process to keep up with their competitors and manage the complexity and volume of data accompanying matters.
5. Increased Use of Predictive Coding
Technology to assist in review, like that expressed in the AI trend, will be imperative for eDiscovery review teams. Predictive coding automates the eDiscovery document review process using machine learning algorithms. Utilizing predictive coding provides rapid and precise identification of pertinent documents using patterns identified from human review. This results in a faster, less expensive process that compliments manual document review.
Organizations are constantly looking for better, faster, and cheaper ways to address every aspect of their business, and eDiscovery review is no exception. The use of predictive coding in eDiscovery has already been realized by those who understand the use and the benefits. As data volumes have grown, traditional review is simply no longer practical. Predictive coding is joining human review with technology in a way that provides confidence and efficiency in review, guaranteeing that relevant and important documents are found and reviewed far more quickly.
In response to the trends mentioned earlier, eDiscovery Technology providers have integrated predictive coding into their review platform, offer an add-on predictive coding tool, or are developing a tool to be offered at some point. This has provided a better point of entry for eDiscovery review teams because it is more readily available,
The adoption of predictive coding will continue to expand as the demands of data mandate. Expect even further improvements and advancements in the technology behind predictive coding.
6. Increased Use of ECA Automation
An often overlooked step in the eDiscovery process is Early Case Assessment (ECA), which enables review teams to properly and rapidly analyze a case’s risks, expenses, and outcomes. The usage of automation in ECA has significantly increased in recent years as businesses explore ways to improve process accuracy and efficiency.
Automated ECA solutions use cutting-edge algorithms and machine learning to examine big data sets to find pertinent facts, trends, and patterns. The resulting smaller, more relevant data collections assist in reducing review time, improving the accuracy of review, and reducing costs associated with review.
Effective ECA usage will provide valuable insight for the parties and counsel involved in a given matter. The results can inform decisions to settle the matter, proceed with the matter, or pursue other legal remedies far earlier than before.
Despite automated ECA’s rising popularity, some legal professionals have hesitated to adopt it for several reasons. The most common is a need for more information regarding the overall value, their current technology provider’s inability to offer an effective solution, or the cost-benefits not being shared with them. However, it is expected that the use of ECA will expand significantly in 2023 in response to cost control efforts by organizations and review teams recognizing their value and purpose.
7. Expanded Collaboration within Organizations
It can be challenging to navigate the volumes of data available within an organization or even a single department. Corporate knowledge is frequently dispersed across numerous office locations, departments, and individuals, primarily consisting of unstructured data. This causes information to become isolated and challenging to access. Collaboration is becoming more and more critical in light of these challenges.
Effective collaboration takes more than just teamwork. It calls for developing a shared vision, expanding awareness into team and team member roles & responsibilities, a commitment to transparency, and a willingness to invest in and deploy technologies to assist in the process.
The movement toward collaboration and transparency will continue to grow in 2023. Organizations with mature collaborative processes will have a distinct advantage over those without. When addressing investigations, litigation, and other required eDiscovery review projects, those who clearly understand their data will be far better prepared and equipped.
8. Economic Uncertainty Drives ROI of Technology
The economic climate is unstable, unpredictable, and volatile. Organizations are under more pressure to control costs and boost the return on investment in every possible area. In the eDiscovery process, organizations scrutinize their legal spending, primarily related to all legal costs.
Adopting new technology and eDiscovery solutions have become very effective for organizations to reduce costs quickly, efficiently, and consistently. Corporations and Government Agencies are taking control of the process earlier by directly engaging with eDiscovery technology providers. This provides the options to perform some of the early tasks in-house, leveraging their internal attorneys for ECA and early review and requiring outside counsel to utilize their selected tools to control costs related to technology. Law Firms are expanding their tools to include better technology or embracing technology for the first time, with similar motivations – reduce costs, better and more efficient review, and better data control – to maintain their advantage against competing firms and provide better legal counsel to their clients.
Economics will continue to drive the adoption of technology. It is crucial during uncertain times. However, the current environment will catalyze a more significant expansion as organizations experience the cost savings, efficiencies, and benefits of embracing technological solutions to address these ongoing challenges.
9. Technology Innovations Will Bring New Challenges
The eDiscovery process has been significantly impacted by technology, which has streamlined workflows, enhanced ECA, reduced costs, and provided improved insights into complex data collections very quickly. A noted decrease in the time, effort, and expense associated with eDiscovery has continued, thanks to automated tools and improved technology. This has resulted in more efficient and effective data collection, processing, assessment, review, and production.
Technology is improving at an increasingly rapid pace. A very recent development that has made headlines and been the topic of many discussions, podcasts, and legal debates is OpenAI’s ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a language-based system, or “chatbot,” enabling users to produce complex tests from simple instructions. This AI will have an incredible impact, both for organizations overall as well as the legal sector.
An “AI Lawyer” was slated to debut on February 22 in a traffic court case. The creator of the “robot lawyer” wants to “democratize legal counsel by making it free for people who can’t afford it.” However, this technology is so new that many attorneys are still skeptical of the technology, and it has not been accepted in courtrooms yet.
These examples of technological advancements deployed this year are just the beginning of a new surge that will happen in 2023. ChatGPT alone will spur more advancements, taking that technology to places that would have been science-fiction a few years ago. Rest assured, these advancements, and others that are just beginning development, will impact eDiscovery this year. New and creative alternatives will surface as the technology develops and matures, substantially enhancing the effectiveness and precision of the eDiscovery process.
The legal sector is moving toward an end-to-end eDiscovery strategy that offers a full complement of tools for managing the entire process. This strategy, which lawyers increasingly adopt, provides more confidence and consistency throughout the process. It also provides excellent cost control and ROI, which can be experienced almost immediately.
As technology advancements continue and the adoption of existing and new tools continues, organizations will be charged with educating themselves about the trends in eDiscovery. Those efforts will enable them to reduce costs, improve their ROI, and gain better data control throughout their organization. Consideration must be given to utilizing AI and data analytics to foster better success by legal teams in managing their eDiscovery processes.
2023 will be an exciting and significant time for organizations to examine, implement, and experience technology to improve data management, analysis, and eDiscovery processes.