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Data Visualizations Drive Better Results in eDiscovery

May 27, 2021

Document reviews are challenged with time and cost constraints in the face of massive document collections, ever-changing data formats, and complex communication threads. Applying collaborative analytics helps to drive smarter workflows, more efficient classification and better QC so ediscovery projects stay on time and on budget.

CDS knowledge leaders Chris O’Connor, Cory Logan, Michael Milicevic, Esq. and Sue-Deelia Tang recently discussed the impact of data visualizations on litigation and investigations on our webinar Seeing is Believing: Why Visualization Matters in eDiscovery.

Read on for Part I of a three-part blog series on how data visualizations equip eDiscovery practitioners to take control of a data explosion. To watch the entire recorded webinar, click here.

Why does data visualization matter? What do we gain from it?

Chris O’Connor:
Let’s talk about data visualization. Visualization is an opportunity to understand the big picture when it comes to huge datasets. As investigators and litigators, we’ve all come to know these stacks of paper, gigabytes of information as the fulcrum from which we need to work our job. Getting through this information is a formidable challenge on a regular basis. How do we codify this information? How do we make sure that the codification process is unified across reviewers? How do we understand the content in a reasonable amount of time? We’ve talked about analytics in the past but leveraging data visualizations is a powerful way to manage huge datasets.

And the data sets don’t actually always have to be large. You can use this on small data sets also, but being able to take a high-level view and drill down into the information that you know is relevant at the outset of a matter or an investigation can provide a new level of confidence.

There’s an art to this, for sure.  What does our brain need to be able to ingest enormous amounts of information?  The graphics are not just meant to be pretty; the colors and layouts impact the way our brains ingest and process information. Visualizations accelerate the brain’s processing time. If you’re going through info, document by document, you’re seeing the content from a single piece of paper or a series of papers. But if you’re looking at data visualizations, you’re going to get that at scale.

These are the things we want to get into today. So let’s start with you, Cory. How does the cloud impact our ability with visualization and what else is it providing?

Seeing the big data picture requires real-time scalability, and cloud provides scalability on demand.

Cory Logan:
I think there are a few different things that we can focus on today, the first one being purposeful innovation. Whether you’re a technologist or practicing law, the ease of use on a platform has always been front and center regardless of the software they’re using. Relativity in the legal space is the standard, and we can get into Relativity and the ROI a bit later. But ultimately the cloud provides innovators the ability to be more purposeful, more specific with the innovation of their own design and integration, something that on the server side has been a bit of a climb for a number of years.

Innovation was restricted to local hardware resources without the ability to design a future-focused product that could scale, especially on demand. Today’s tech landscape requires real-time scalability, and without a cloud infrastructure regardless of which cloud provider you’re working with, it just isn’t possible. And the reality is that is what is needed in today’s market.

Chris O’Connor:
So, being able to get things right away, that’s an aspect that impacts us too. When it comes to visualization, I think you touched on something there, the resources required at the server level present a challenge to being able to do this at a larger scale, right? So if you have 10 million records and you have even just a single series of dashboards with maybe five or six widgets running, the time to crank that through, as people are also working in the system presents a challenge. If money was no object, we could theoretically build a data center-sized server setup, but if that’s not the case, then cloud is the advantage we have. It’s scalability on demand, extra management, extra memory, things that we need resource wise to be able to shoot information back so that as you need things, people are able to access them.

Cory Logan:
Yeah, absolutely. Unless all of us had Watson at our disposal, cloud is probably the next best thing at this point. And not to say it’s not possible with local hardware and non-cloud based systems. It is. But the reality is that we needed our answers yesterday and that’s not changing. The pace is only getting faster. And again, that scalability on cloud and being able to get answers on demand is absolutely paramount. No one is able to wait for the important data points. The on-demand scalability through these cloud installations absolutely eliminates or in the worst-case scenario drastically reduces the time that attorneys, technologists and whoever take to find that needle in the haystack.

Visualizations improve reviewer performance across the board.

Chris O’Connor:
Let’s touch on that. Have you seen that improved performance? Have we been able to say that being in the cloud changed the reality for the review team and the case team?

Cory Logan:
Absolutely. It’s having the ability to open Relativity, look at a dashboard and have data points appear immediately, as opposed to having to filter, search and run these really complex Boolean searches. You can still do all that, but you won’t have to. And especially if you’re sitting in a courtroom and you need to have a conversation in front of a judge or opposing counsel, you can be on the computer with someone having a conversation and say, “I need this,” click a button or two, and you’ll have it. You’re no longer running these method searches anymore

Chris O’Connor:
Exactly. Visualizations can also be leveraged as a presentation tool, so you can show courtrooms whether or not you’re live or not. In the old days, we took that film and we put it down on the Elmo and we broadcast it up on a picture screen, but now courts are remote and they want to see the same information virtually. Being able to share with a judge even at the outset of a matter, you want to be able to broadcast that up and say, “This is what we can see. And this is the impact of those terms. This is why we feel they should pay for half.” So, you talked a little bit about the interface. What are the speed benefits we’re seeing right now?

Cory Logan:
I guess I’ll kick that answer off by saying, for those of us that have been in the industry long enough and have utilized Relativity for a number of years, think about the grays and the oranges five, six, seven, eight years ago. And now you’re looking at an array of colors. Ultimately, you’re talking about an enhanced user experience, fewer clicks to get to the data points. There’s talk of having colorblind conscious colors. Taking that into consideration is huge. I think that’s definitely a trend that needs to be continued. And then it’s about a familiar interface, so for those who aren’t used to Relativity, but are used to some other legal tech platform, moving from platform to platform shouldn’t require the user to learn a whole new thing over and over again. Just in terms of what’s important and aligning expectations, the behaviors and patterns that we have on tech platforms, and creating meaningful engagement, has always been important, especially from the provider side. And the cloud really just continues to ease that transition.

The timeline for cloud adoption has accelerated, and will continue to in the coming years.

Cory Logan:
I always go back to the example of four or five years ago, we were always talking to individuals, not just at CDS, but in general in the legal tech industry about utilizing near dupe and email threading and people were so hesitant and now that’s just standard. And I think a similar analogy can be made about transitioning from server to cloud. Cloud over the last three or four years has seen a huge adoption rate. I think we’re going to continue to see that and the innovation that’s tied to it will continue to grow as well.

Chris O’Connor:
So here’s a question from the audience, “Is CDS beginning to recommend Relativity for all large workspaces given the performance issues being discussed?” Well, it’s not a performance issue. You can still, if you want to take a linear approach. You can utilize server without any problems. You can still utilize some of the things that Cory was just speaking about, near duping and analytics and those tools in the server tool belt. The benefit of cloud is the ability to go from one million to 10 million records in a week, and go from 25 to 250 reviewers. The cloud can take that easily. Servers are not always set up the same way. So, this isn’t a reflection of CDS’s opinion on infrastructure, it’s a reflection on infrastructure in general. The cloud is set up to be scalable.

Cory Logan:
I think you hit the nail on the head. The only thing I would really add to that is there’s not a one size fits all solution for each customer, right? Depending on the case, the needs of the case team, you need the right size. And server may be the best solution for that, maybe it’s cloud, maybe it’s RelOne. I do think at least on our end, we’ve seen a huge adoption rate in RelOne recently, and that’s not just because RelOne one can do it, but that’s also because the internal workings of corporations have changed a bit. Their mindset has shifted where they’re saying, “Okay, we can do cloud.” I think that the adoption rate has accelerated because of COVID-19. So, I do think the timeline for cloud adoption as a whole has accelerated, and we’ll continue to see that in the next few years.

Visuals make data easily understandable to users with varying levels of technical expertise.

Chris O’Connor:
Mike, how have the roles of visualization in investigations and litigation changed? As we’ve touched on the things that Cory just laid out for us, what are some new things that we’re learning as we leverage cloud? How can they provide us with information that linear view cannot?

Mike Milicevic:
Thanks, Chris. I think that’s a great question. It’s much faster than standard linear review. The challenge for legal professionals in any discovery matter is to parse through mountains of electronically stored information to gain insight and to build a narrative that supports the legal arguments of their case. The value in leveraging visualizations is to display data in ways that are more easily accessible to users with varying levels of technical expertise.

We can empower all legal professionals through data visualizations to see things like key concepts and communication that works at a high level that might better inform, organize, and expedite their legal strategy early on. I think ultimately, Chris, we may get to the same result through a linear review of every document if time and resources and costs were not a factor. But I’ve yet to come across a matter where time and budget were not a major concern. And I’m sure that my colleagues on this panel and probably most legal professionals would agree with that.

Chris O’Connor:
So you touched on something there. I think the benefit of speed is obvious. It’s the speed to information that has value and you don’t have to be the person in the tool every day to understand it.

Mike Milicevic:
You mentioned speed. I think that’s certainly a big advantage, it’s worth mentioning again. If you don’t need to physically review every document in a dataset, and you can instead categorize documents, visualize big picture concepts to organize and evaluate documents sets, that’s a huge advantage.

It also levels the eDiscovery playing field. I think we touched on this. So, we frequently use the term attorney technologists to describe our professional services staff, because many are licensed attorneys and are also certified Relativity administrators, experts and masters. Now, some of our large Fortune 500 clients also employ what we would consider attorney technologists who are experienced and certified in using discovery platforms, but that’s certainly not the rule.

Read Part 2 of the blog series: How can data visualizations supercharge eDiscovery management and practice?

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.