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Choosing the Right AI Opportunities: A Dialogue from AI Visionaries

Apr 11, 2024

Not all AI is created equal. So…how are we to know which is the good stuff: the tested, the trusted, the homed in? Embracing technology is one thing, but finding the right technology is another. And the meteoritic rise in AI has left a wake of questions: How do you know you’re making the right selections? Where do you start? What questions should we even be asking?

Just as there’s a booming interest in AI, there’s an overall desire to embark on this journey with confidence, fostering innovation without succumbing to uncertainty.

In their 2024 AI Visionaries interview series, Relativity connected with Daniel Diette, James Calvert, and James Sherer, who share that desire for smart and ethical application of AI. In this blog post, they offer their wisdom on how to choose the right AI opportunities for your firm.

Meet the AI Visionaries

Let’s take a moment to get to know these three visionaries—their relevance in the legal realm, their knowledge of AI and its technologies, and their excitement for the future of e-discovery.

As the director of analytics and data privacy at CDS, Daniel Diette is no stranger to thoughtful AI implementation. His team advises clients on defensible and efficient approaches to preservation, collection, search, and analysis of digital evidence in litigation, regulatory matters, and internal investigations.

Diette explains the tension that his clients experience when staying ahead of their data:

“Though the volume of digital information companies hold has exploded over the last decade, their legal obligations to identify and produce relevant evidence have not changed. An expert-level understanding of the technology—both the information sources and the e-discovery software capabilities—is critical for our clients to be able to comply with their legal obligations in a reasonably cost-efficient way.”

James Calvert holds a similar objective in his work. As principal at Troutman Pepper eMerge, he has the freedom to lean into his curiosity, explore a wide array of technology to help improve processes and results for clients, and advocate for those processes and clients.

Calvert attributes eMerge’s head start on AI adoption to their focus on efficiency:

“Over the years, we have been at the leading edge of adoption for new technologies, including many different types of AI, driven by our philosophy of trying to be as efficient as possible in helping our clients and case teams accomplish their goals. We are quick to try out new technologies, adopt them into our workflows, and to develop them ourselves when the market isn’t currently filling a need we’ve identified.”

James Sherer serves as a partner in BakerHostetler’s New York office as a member of the Digital Assets and Data Management team, where he helps clients navigate their potential AI leads. Sherer explains:

“Much of my work presently comes from AI counseling and program development, which in turn implicates the technologies my clients are developing, adopting, contracting for, or partnering with for their commercial or operational requirements. Better understanding AI leads to better client service and output, including asking better questions and working to confront the ‘unknown unknowns.'”

The Strategic Application of AI

Who better to advise on the hows and whys of AI selection and application than the professionals who work in tandem with those processes daily?

For example, when Diette’s corporate clients and their legal teams are confronted with seemingly insurmountable volumes of data and impossibly short timeframes to comply with litigation, regulatory, or internal investigations, they call his team looking for an AI solution to their problem. Diette explains how his team considers collaborating with technology companies that meet a very basic set of criteria:

  • Does the technology solve a problem for our clients or a service they will value, and is the product one that we will competently supply?
  • Is the technology partner better than our existing solution or service with regard to quality, expeditiousness, and cost?
  • Does the partner have processes and resources in place that are capable of supporting our needs for throughput, support, and security?

Asking these kinds of questions greatly increases the chances of landing on a well-made, well-fit tool, and it’s crucial to then maintain this posture of calculated curiosity as you begin to apply that tool. Diette warns, “AI is not a solution in and of itself, but when applied strategically as part of the best possible workflow it can create efficiencies that would not otherwise be possible.”

“AI is not a solution in and of itself, but when applied strategically as part of the best possible workflow it can create efficiencies that would not otherwise be possible.” – Daniel Diette, CDS

In other words, AI is the best version of itself when leveraged with intentionality and purpose.

Sherer chimes in on a similar note, sharing what his team requires of a partner: “I look for a combination of a realist and creative mindset. For the reality—the foundation—I feel most comfortable when my technology partner representatives can explain both the promise and the limitations of the technology.”

At the Center of it All is Trust

If you’ve been around Relativity in the past several months as we’ve released our new suite of AI-powered solutions, Relativity aiR, you know that trust is more than just important to us—it’s our steering wheel. Look at our AI Principles, which overview how we’re approaching all of our AI.

It seems that the pros agree with us. Calvert is straightforward about his thoughts on this: “The most important factor is trust. We need to be able trust that our partners are approaching development in a principled and ethical manner.” He adds that factors like reliability, scalability, and openness to collaboration also hold weight when considering potential partnerships.

“The most important factor is trust. We need to be able trust that our partners are approaching development in a principled and ethical manner.” – James Calvert, Troutman Pepper eMerge

But what does it look like to have trust in systems that are growing and changing so rapidly? When it comes to AI, confidence is born from deep, tested understanding. For Calvert to move forward with an opportunity, he and his team need to trust that the partner knows how the model is built, how it interacts with client data, and how it’ll be protected against any use beyond what’s intended.

Perhaps the value of trust is even heavier when your work is tangled with legalities.

Diette points out that the legal industry doesn’t lend itself to quick and early adoption of new technology.

“Lawyers have a duty to maintain the confidentiality of information received from their clients, and new technologies need to be vetted for security before they are considered for use,” he told us. “Lawyers also have a duty of competence, and in most states this duty includes an understanding of the benefits and risks of relevant technology.”

His point? There’s a lot riding on these professionals; they can’t afford to mix a questionable or unfinished tool into their workflows willy nilly. Both Diette and Calvert urge legal companies interested in leveraging AI to keep high standards when it comes to potential partners and to choose technologies that are trusted, tested, and transparent.

AI in Underserved Areas

When asked what excites them the most about the future of AI, all three of these visionaries made mention of the underserved areas of practice, where opportunity lives, but AI has not yet knocked.

Calvert shares, “What I’m perhaps most excited about at this point are the potential uses and reaches of this tech that we—or at least I—are not even contemplating at this point.”

His five-to-ten-year plan for the future of AI is expectant. He predicts similar types of people—subject matter experts, e-discovery lawyers, technologists—solving the same types of problems as we solve today but armed with a much more powerful toolkit. A toolkit that will participate in the very process of determining how to best use itself. Though, this future can feel far away, Calvert is adamant that participating in incremental changes now will get us there.

Sherer details a similar excitement to traverse these ‘untouched’ areas, voicing: “I’m very excited to see AI applied in a cost-effective way to vast pools of existing data. I believe there are insights hidden within those data sets that have the potential to help with medical advances, operational improvements, and general compliance concerns related to client governance.”

For Sherer, many of the issues that he helps clients wrestle with related to data management may finally have a solution because of intelligently applied AI.

Diette echoes these hopes for AI to serve the underserved. He daydreams of the industry’s low-hanging fruit: multi-issue classification, natural language search, the ability to extract and summarize snippets from long documents such as deposition transcripts. He also notes that the natural language search capabilities we’re seeing from generative AI and software like Relativity aiR for Review could create real quality improvements in legal search.

The Inevitability of AI

It seems the opportunity surrounding AI has hit this generation like a freight train—use cases, and possibilities expanding daily—and legal professionals are one of many professions adjusting to its fast-paced changes.

Diette summarizes it best: “Today, AI skills are an advantage. Tomorrow they will be a necessity.”

Calvert suggests encouraging your organization, your colleagues—heck, even a friend or family member—to try AI out in a non-consequential way and with low expectations.

“The more people interact with AI and become comfortable communicating with it, including discerning the good from the bad, the better our prospects for widespread adoption and development,” he reasons.

This blog was written by Celia O’Brien and originally posted to the Relativity website. Additional hyperlinks to CDS content were added by the CDS Team. 

About the Author

<a href="https://cdslegal.com/team/" target="_blank">CDS Staff</a>

CDS Staff

Our leadership team and advisory consultants, project managers, and technical experts assist clients through all phases of the eDiscovery process.