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Future Shock: Five Key Takeaways from PIIP 2024 

May 30, 2024

For Part 2 of our PIIP 2024 recap, we asked our own Chris O’Connor, Director of eDiscovery Strategy and William Wallace Belt, Jr., Managing Director, Consulting – both of whom helped architect this year’s program – to offer their key takeaways from the two-day event. We’ve lightly edited and summarized some of their remarks below.  

(To read Part 1 of the PIIP 2024 recap, click here.)

Adapting to the Accelerating Pace of Change 

We’re in innovation mode and have been for the last five years. Probably the largest jump since the mid-90s in terms of moving things into the full ability of computing. 

It’s a very intense change-focused time for everyone, but definitely for eDiscovery. However, the people that traditionally support the discovery ecosystem are not always the greatest proponents of change, i.e., the attorney clientele.  

We consider ourselves advanced technology experts, yet we’re still worried about documents. You can’t take the output and unitize it like we used to. It’s a parent and an attachment and family members instead. It’s Teams channels that can go on for years.  

The data and the technology that produces the data that we use to do our jobs is changing so dramatically that the way we work with it needs to change with it. Document review is going to be the least of our problems. The real conversation is about how generative AI and LLMs impact how we work on our cases.  

Is Generative AI Empowering Attorneys to Embrace Technology? 

This Generative AI rush – the run to the water – is dragging all the technologies we’ve been waiting to utilize on a regular basis right behind it. So, people are willing to say, I’m not ready for this ocean to win with the generative AI thing, but I’m happy to get into the pond. That kind of movement improves performance and many other things when it comes to day-to-day litigation. It’s pushing us. 

“Setting AI to interpret the ocean so we can pull out a pond – that’s still a lot of data to take to trial.” – Chris O’Connor  

AI empowers all those attorneys who have been waiting for the right case for a decade to say, you know what? I don’t need to be waiting anymore. It’s been around long enough. AI is being seen as more necessary if you’re going to retain your career, retain your position, and maybe even rise in that position. That opens the conversation for people to also feel more comfortable about accepting technologies that exist currently. 

When people claim to use AI conservatively, what they mean by that is they’re using it in very specific ways, very specific use cases. Then when they talk about what they’re doing to apply generative AI in their quote specific use case, it’s really aggressive and forward thinking. 

Improving the Legal System with Technology 

Technology is the thing that’s improving the legal system. We’re doing things in courts and looking at evidence today that we just couldn’t track before. 

“The willingness to adopt new technology is a willingness to surrender certain aspects of what you do.” – William Wallace Belt, Jr.  

When people get used to using generative AI, they love it, and they can see exactly how it would work in their cases: “Please list for me the 20 questions that I should ask this witness in my upcoming deposition to think that I have to.” That’ll be the question. It’s not just how will it be used in a case, but how will it be used in the structure of service providers that run the technology as opposed to the attorneys that are trying the cases? 

When the coding is done by a machine, we now have to have a different input discussion, a different understanding of what the matter means. In some ways, it’ll delay the outset of actual document production, but it’s going to narrow the process of producing data, which has become a five-step process.  

There’s no reason it should be five steps. There’s no reason that I should do a first level review and then I look at it for privilege and then I look at it for themes and then I look at it for custodians and then finally look at a produced document. That’s a lot of looking and you know what? You’re not looking at it in a serious way. If you were, you’d make all those other determinations. 

Perfect is aspirational. There is no tool built, a hundred percent that could battle everything.” – Chris O’Connor 

The software is going to have to support it, but they’re not going to do that until the attorneys, the corporations and the providers unified as partners say, this is what we need the machine to do. Build that. 

Productivity vs. the Needs of the Courtroom 

It’s productivity versus the needs of a courtroom. Using technology to increase productivity. Telling a story to the court. The two are diametrically opposed in so many ways. Technology providers want us to think of mobile devices as just simply another laptop, another server, or somewhere else we can get data from. It doesn’t work that way. 

Mobile devices are entirely different than laptops and servers. But the technology that eDiscovery people use to investigate, access, and export data aren’t built to handle data the way that eDiscovery people need to handle it. Our technology isn’t geared to tell a story. 

Judges very quickly get to the point where they’re throwing up their hands and they say, I don’t understand it. I’m not going to begin to understand it. I’m going to look to see what you all agreed to – the ESI protocol. That’s where we are. ESI protocol rules the day. 

Ultimately, when we get full adoption of Generative AI and some other tools, we’re going to see far less productions of data because the discussion at the outset will need to be far more exacting so that protocols can be designed to inform the machine to give you exactly what you’re asking for. 

Tech-forward eDiscovery Consulting Will Be Critical 

The day-to-day hosting and processing numbers are going to come down. The production numbers, the hosting numbers will still say high because people are going to have a rash of data because all these new formats. But the definition of documents, how you do it when it translates between systems, that’s one of the things most uncertain in the future.  

In 20 years, CDS has seen everything. A lot of times, “everything” is unexpected outcomes that technology hands you. – William Wallace Belt, Jr.  

So ultimately fewer documents will be produced, but there will be a giant increase in the need for advising. Consulting becomes far more important as we go forward.  

Putting Insights Into Practice  

As our virtual event winds down, PIIP energy and enthusiasm continues to resonate. We are grateful and humbled to have hosted so many bright stars from the eDiscovery community – and provide a platform to share experiences, identify priorities, and walk away with ideas and insights you can use to drive immediate, real-world results.  

As you navigate the evolving landscape of eDiscovery, we invite you to stay in the know by joining our CDS Insights newsletter, featuring our latest news, product updates, thought-provoking articles, upcoming events and more. To receive the next issue directly your inbox, click here 

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.