Notes from Hong Kong: Dinner with Richard Kershaw of FTI Technology

June 25, 2012

This is a continuation of a series of roughly chronological mini-posts following my recent visit to Hong Kong.

I have reported elsewhere that I heard a rumour of a senior appointment at FTI’s Hong Kong office, and deduced that they must have recruited Richard Kershaw.  My assumption proved correct. Richard kindly invited Browning Marean and me out to dinner, giving us en route the opportunity to see FTI’s rather fine offices in The Center.

The Center Hong Kong

The Center, Hong Kong, where FTI Asia-Pacific has its offices. Yes, I know the photograph is sideways, but the resemblance to a rocket seems apt given FTI’s growth in the region.

There was a gleaming Pashley bicycle in reception which could have belonged to a staff member or could have been symbolic – Pashley has successfully married modern technology and old-fashioned values and style, and might well have been chosen deliberately to reflect those qualities in what FTI says on its website is “the largest specialist advisory firm in Asia-Pacific”. Read the rest of this entry »

More on Software-Assisted Review as Applied Discovery and KMPG add Equivio>Relevance

September 27, 2011

Electronic discovery company Applied Discovery and KPMG are amongst those who have recently partnered with Equivio to integrate Equivio>Relevance into their existing eDiscovery applications. These two recent announcements give me an opportunity to return to the subject of software-assisted document review using what is generally known (but see below) as predictive coding. Recent discussions with some lawyers have shown scope for fundamental misunderstandings about what this kind of software does, and a look at the explanations produced by Applied Discovery and KPMG, as well as those of some other players in this space, may help.

My primary objective is clarity for those who come across the names and the terminology but are not necessarily clear as to the functionality being offered or its purpose. There seem to be three aspects which some lawyers find difficult about this kind of software, each of which is worth challenging. These are the following:

  • They think it is being sold as a substitute for human review of the documents which are to be disclosed. That is not its purpose. It provides (amongst other benefits) a means of identifying irrelevant (or less relevant) documents or, to put it the other way round, a way of prioritising documents so that those identified provisionally by the software as the most relevant or most important are brought to the top. The important word here is “provisionally”, with its clear implication that the lawyers get every opportunity to double-check both what has been ranked as important and what has not.
  • It is the subject of debate about judicial acceptability which, again, follows from a misunderstanding both of what it does and of what the courts expect.  You may care to read an article called Judge Peck and Predictive Coding at the Carmel eDiscovery Retreat which reports on what I describe as “one of the clearest statements yet by a judge that the use of new technology like predictive coding is an acceptable way to conduct search”. Judge Peck’s immediate context may have been the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but the principles which he covers apply anywhere, and the UK’s Senior Master Whitaker has said much the same both in conference speeches and in his judgment in Goodale v Ministry of Justice. Master Whitaker has also emphasised repeatedly the first point made above – that none of this software is intended as a substitute for human review of documents to be disclosed; he has heard this reaction as well.
  • There is a paradox inherent in the nature of lawyers. They crave certainty but prefer it expressed in words rather than in numbers (a point which comes up in my recent report about the risk management function of corporate counsel). The statistics-based evidence of an application’s accuracy may underpin a decision to use this type of software, but lawyers still prefer the evidence of their own eyes. In fact, the applications give every opportunity for output to be validated by humans, but (in a second paradox) this may be getting lost in the marketing literature’s emphasis on the science.

The second of these points, judicial acceptability, is adequately covered in my Judge Peck article. In this article, I will focus on the lawyers’ own confidence in these applications as an aid to lawyerly judgement, not a substitute for it. To do that, I will look at the descriptions of what these applications do rather than on the science behind them, supporting the relevant parts of the Applied Discovery and KPMG materials and by extracts from those of other products with similar functionality.

First, however, it is worth saying a few words about terminology, not so much to define the labels as to pick the generic purpose out from the proprietary or product-specific names given to this kind of functionality. They all work slightly differently, and I defeat my object of simplicity if I qualify my deliberately broad descriptions with any attempt to describe the distinguishing features of each of them. Read the rest of this entry »

E-Disclosure law, practice and technology in one educational package

May 13, 2010

The first of the E-disclosure seminars organised jointly by Professor Dominic Regan and me took place yesterday at Ely Place Chambers. Dominic and I were joined by Senior Master Whitaker and by speakers from three technology providers, 7Safe, Legal Inc and FTI Technology to bring together the law, the practice and the technology in one afternoon session.

The expressed rationale for the e-Disclosure Information Project is to bring together all those with an interest in making electronic disclosure efficient and cost-effective. That crossover is important –  knowledge of Part 31 CPR and its practice direction is a good start, and the increasing number of cases involving e-disclosure failures send a strong warning to lawyers. Lord Justice Jackson drew attention to the need for more active case management by judges, and the proposed new practice direction and ESI Questionnaire raise the temperature on that front. Meanwhile, the technology reduces in cost as it increases in capability and, if properly used, maps well to the steps which parties and the court must take together, first to decide on the scope of disclosure and then to achieve it. The case management itself must be proportionate to what is involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Structured data is neither as easy nor as difficult as it sounds

April 26, 2010

Lawyers tend to overlook structured data. If they think of it at all when giving disclosure, it goes into the box marked “too difficult to deal with”. A decision that it is disproportionate to handle it may be right, but “decision” implies that its value has been weighed against cost, which is not the same as just ignoring it. I asked Jim Vint at FTI Technology to give me some examples where structured data was crucial to a case.

In general, lawyers like structure, with its implication of order and of things being in the right place. I do not necessarily mean that they (or “we”, strictly, since I am a lawyer too) prefer that every day is the same from alarm clock to Ovaltine (that is what the civil service is for as a career), but lack of organisation wastes time, and time is money. If you need a library book, your favourite coffee, or a particular iTunes track, then it is helpful to have some degree of pattern and consistency to help you find those of a like kind in a regular place. You expect a library to group its stock by subject and type, and not have law reports, textbooks and periodicals stuffed any old how into random shelves or all over the floor; imagine going into Starbucks and being told that every possible permutation of coffee, chocolate and the rest is in a cup somewhere, but that you must lift each lid to see which is which; you would not appreciate having to scroll down endless lists of iTunes tracks until you find the one you want. We go for the structured stuff every time. Read the rest of this entry »

There is more to FTI Technology than Attenex and Ringtail

February 20, 2010

My self-imposed job description involves flitting between all the players in the electronic disclosure / electronic discovery world, picking up information and ideas from one place and dropping them in another. I talk to judges, lawyers and technology suppliers, read a lot of web-based information and exchange e-mails and tweets with people from every corner of the e-Discovery world – “world” in both the figurative and literal senses. I am interested in the court rules, the practice and the technology and in how they relate to each other.

I keep secrets where I have them – from working with lawyers on behalf of their clients or when I am told of pending technology or marketing initiatives, to say nothing of the gossip which flies around – but, on the whole, my role is to talk and write about what I hear or read. The only filter apart from confidentiality is whether I am interested and think that others will also be interested.

This is a privileged position – I have lots of privileges, but the ability to pick off only the things which interest me outranks the rest. It allows me, magpie-like, to pick out the bright and shiny things and leave the rest on one side.

AttenexOne of the bright and shiny things in the litigation software market is Attenex, whose visual analytics caught my eye some time ago for precisely the reason why they attract lawyers – they make it possible to grasp the overview and to drill down to the detail in a way which is simultaneously efficient and intuitive. Attenex is now owned by FTI Technology, as is the equally iconic Ringtail Legal.Ringtail FTI has now had time to bed these products down into their overall (and very broad) software and services offering and I thought I ought to go and see where they have got to and how the pieces fit together in the process. Craig Earnshaw, managing director of FTI technology in London, invited me in for an afternoon recently to bring me up to date. Read the rest of this entry »

FTI Technology 2009 IDC Survey defines the eDiscovery challenges

January 29, 2010

FTI Technology will be out in force at LegalTech, as you would expect from a  company whose range of products and services cover the full range of eDiscovery problems and solutions.

They commissioned an IDC survey which was published in 2009 and whose findings included the following:

  • Multinational litigation is growing more common. Close to 70% of panelists indicated that their companies are involved in legal matters with multinational requirements.
  • Most large matters take more than two years to resolve. 64% of respondents said their largest matter took over two years to resolve, and 35% indicated that their largest matter lasted for more than five years.
  • Data collection volumes are growing. The proportion of panelists whose average ESI collection per matter was larger than 2.5TB increased 18 points from 19% of panelists in the 2008 study to 37% of panelists in the 2009 study.
  • E-discovery budgets are flat or decreasing. 36% of respondents said their budgets were flat and 42% said their e-discovery budgets were declining.

If none of this is surprising, it is helpful to have it backed by some statistics. Read the rest of this entry »

Gartner, Hong Kong and civil servants inspire reader comments

December 21, 2009

Recent comments from readers cover the Gartner report on the litigation software market, the state of play in Hong Kong, and the bright light which has suddenly been shone on the need for government departments to approach electronic disclosure in the same way as a large law firm or company would approach it.

From time to time a reader drops me a line suggesting that  something I have said is ambiguous or unclear, or that I have left something out. The omissions are often deliberate – not by way of censorship, but because I am anxious both that I should get to the end of writing the post and that you should finish reading it. These signs that people are bothered enough to write in are extremely welcome. I had three last week, and they are all worth passing on. Read the rest of this entry »


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