eDiscovery is a words thing isn’t it? For all the technology used in its processing and analysis, the whole business of giving and receiving discovery depends on an understanding of words and language. A writes e-mails for B to read; search strategies and search technology depend on words, whether simple keywords or sophisticated semantic and linguistic tools; the end-product of a search is a set of documents for someone to read; our laws and court rules are expressed in words, as are the requests, pleadings, affidavits and the rest of the formal components of litigation or investigations; product descriptions, marketing materials and education and training delivery all depend on an audience who can read.
We take this skill for granted. What if you could not read and write? What occupation would you now follow if you could not extract meaning from words on the page or screen? How would you receive instructions, acquire knowledge or inform your opinions?
The business of Nuix is the provision of software for extracting information from words and data, used for discovery in litigation, investigations and similar exercises. I have written before about the Nuix initiative to raise money for a charity called Room to Read through the sales of a version of its eDiscovery and investigation software called Proof Finder. Proof Finder has many of the capabilities of Nuix’s investigation products, with a maximum case size of 15 gigabytes which is more than enough for many cases. The Proof Finder initiative puts all this power into a user’s hands for only $100 a year, and all that money goes to charity.
Nuix has now reached its initial target of $100,000, that is, has sold 1,000 copies of Proof Finder. The latest receipts will fund two libraries in Delhi and 20 education scholarships for girls in India. Earlier Proof Finder sales have helped build schools in Nepal and Sri Lanka, to publish local language school books, and to provide support for 30 girls to complete secondary education. The focus on girls reflects a mission to improve gender equality as well as literacy.
The press release, which you can find here, told me something I did not did not know about Proof Finder – that Bryan University gives a Proof Finder licence to each graduate of its eDiscovery Project Manager Certificate Program as a way to make them familiar with the concepts behind searching for data and to be part of their eDiscovery toolkit after graduation. William F Hamilton, Dean and Chairman of the Department of E-Discovery at Bryan University says it helps students to overcome “dataphobia”.
Here is a thought for law firms and companies. If you provide some of your lawyers with a copy of Proof Finder, they too could use it to overcome their “dataphobia” and to understand something about the data which underlies their eDiscovery/eDisclosure exercises. The Proof Finder website offers self-help support and learning options for users, so the cost should be no more than the $100 which goes to charity. Many firms would happily give $100 to a good cause like Room to Read without receiving anything in return. I can’t think of a better way to give lawyers a hands-on introduction to eDiscovery concepts which could be as fundamental to their skill set as – well, as reading is.