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Is the Tech Revolution Here Already?The eras of stabilization & mobilization were evolutionary, the era of personalization & Big Data is revolutionary.
Big Data is big news in litigation discovery -and predictive coding has arrived as a best practice to deal with the mountain of data. But that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
2013-06-17 03:42:36 PM
Big Data is big news in litigation discovery and predictive coding has arrived as a best practice to deal with the mountain of data. But that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While Big Data looms large in the litigation arena, it is also appearing in the context of internal law firm data documents, email, and other data objects, including voice and video with repositories in one larger firm exceeding 50 million items just for documents and selectively retained email records. How will law firms deal with the increasing growth of law firm internal big data? And how will they do so with the increasing demand for a personal approach in the use of computers and information by lawyers and law firm staff as we enter the era of personalization?
Law firm technology is a fairly recent phenomenon. Even our ancient history only goes back about 20 years if you exclude purely back-office functions and lawyers actively using computers is a late '90s event. Pre- and post-Y2K our efforts were focused on installing IT, getting read, "forcing" people to become comfortable with computers and the mouse, and working hard to keep the IT train from crashing. We were in an era of implementation and stabilization. During this time IT becamed embedded within law firms, often as a necessarly evil.
Around 2005, the quality of IT in law firms and improvements in technologies brought us to the point where worries about email and other systems crashing had mostly disappeared what kept CIOs awake at night was no longer the Blue Screen of Death or server crash phone calls at 2 a.m. Systems had stabilized and we could focus not on is the system "up," but how can technology add value and become a business partner versus a business disrupter. During that same time, lawyers became familiar with computers, and in some cases, comfortable. But we still had a ways to go, especially in defining why a lawyer would want to use a computer beyond simple email. Systems and information were typically silos and cumbersome to access and training was essential.
Soon, technology that had become pervasive in corporations was increasingly available within firms. Lawyers began to work outside the office as client companies became increasingly national and global. Mobile technology was creating an expectation of real-time communications with clients and colleagues. The transition from towers to laptops speeded up, as returning to the office to access computer applications was problematic. We had progressed from an era of stabilization to an era of mobilization.
While we became better at finding requested information, the mobilization era still required us to spend significant amounts of time to classify and locate what we were looking for, using structured systems or tools such as enterprise search. Launching applications such as a document management system, or defining and initiating searches across multiple data stores required atttorneys or staff members to spend valuable time just to find and retrieve what was hopefully what they needed.
We have moved from the era of mobilization the ability of systems to allow individual lawers to access and find generic information to an era where providing information we think you need is no longer acceptible. Good is no longer "good enough." Mobility provided the capability to work from anywhere anytime, but the requirement to access data in a structured way or the need to search for information is no longer good enough.
Lawyer attitudes have changed to "Don't have the system give me lists of data or documents, give me what I want. The system should be intelligent and understand my preferences and what I am working on. Amazon.com and other systems I use in my personal life do this for me now. Why should it be different at work?"
Lawyers expect to easily find the information they want. "Information filtered by practice area or group was good enough in the past, but my expectations are different," is the 2013 mantra. "Give me the information that I want, when I want it, and don't make me spend time looking for it. My time is valuable, to me and to my clients."
What does this mean? We are entering the era of personalization. Like the mobility era, technology is advancing to support expectations. While enterprise search supported access to data, newer technologies including those used primarily today in electronic data discovery can help us in the future as we deal with Big Data within our law firms.
As we evolve in the era of personalization and Big Data, will siloed data stores (such as document management, email, and finance) still exist? Will we care where data resides? In any case, we need an easy way to access information without worrying about where the data resides. Enterprise search requires too much time and effort, and is reactive and not proactive. Just as remote access technology improved during the evolution of mobile connectivity, "search" technology is becoming available to proactively provision users with data they want and need. As we meet the demands of personalization, predictive coding technologies will move into the realm of law firm internal big data predictive computing in a personalized world. Predictive coding software is already beginning to be used in corporations beyond litigation to manage internal corporate big data. And more and more law firms are aready bringing this capability and skill-set in-house.The eras of stabilization and mobilization were evolutionary, the era of personalization and Big Data is revolutionary. Are you ready?
This article first appeared Law Technology News, a Legal affiliate based in New York.
Doug Caddell is an independent law firm technology consultant based in Chicago and Austin, and the former CIO of Foley & Lardner. He is a member of Legal affiliate Law Technology News advisory board. Email him at DougCaddell@yahoo.com.