kCura masters e-discovery with text analytics

Lawyers and analysts note a growing interest in text analytics for e-discovery and name software firm kCura a leader in a market that’s changed considerably in the last few years.

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In today’s corporate world, as information sources, especially electronic, have evolved into a kind of Miracle-Gro for communication, electronic discovery, a pretrial step that permits each party in a legal proceeding to request and exchange relevant electronic documents, can be laborious and time-consuming. Add sensitive information to the mix and the process becomes even stickier.

Many law firms are turning to analytics, and text analytics specifically, for help.

“A lot of times, a client will come to a law firm like ours after being hit with a litigation involving a large number of documents,” said Daryl Shetterly, a partner at the Richmond, Va.-based law firm LeClairRyan. “In some cases, we’re talking 200 to 300 people who may have documents pertinent to that matter.”

Since e-discovery amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedures went into effect in 2006, law firms, as well as corporations, have sought out tools and techniques to quickly sift through electronically stored information (ESI), which can add up to tens of thousands, if not tens of millions, of documents.

“Without text analytics, given the huge volume of potentially relevant email, documents and records,” said Seth Grimes, founder of Alta Plana Corp., a consulting firm in Takoma Park, Md., “it would be impossible for a party to reliably, quickly and efficiently respond to required discovery mandates.”

It’s all ‘Relativity’
While law firms continue to use standard search technology for e-discovery, said Debra Logan, vice president in research for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., they're are also taking advantage of text analytics. The process is a little more sophisticated than search, extracting valuable information and coupling documents together through semantics and statistical models, sometimes revealing hard-to-notice relationships or patterns. In the face of large data sets, this is especially useful, Logan said.

“Text analytics becomes a tool in the toolbox,” she said, but adds that it’s rare for a law firm to use text analytics as its only e-discovery tool. “It depends on the particular flavor of investigation you’re doing and where you are in the investigation process,” she said.

LeClairRyan, which has a department of a dozen attorneys devoted to e-discovery, remains “platform agnostic” when it comes down to selecting a legal review tool for a client.

“We want to remain nimble with e-discovery questions,” Shetterly said, adding that the firm also provides e-discovery support for clients it is not otherwise representing. “We’re not married to any specific tool.”

The law firm remains flexible so that it can serve clients who come to the table with their own e-discovery tools or, for clients who don’t, it offers an alternative through its relationship with Planet Data Discovery Management Services. In that case, searches occur outside of the company firewall -- in the cloud -- storing electronic documents with Planet Data and interacting with those documents using kCura’s Relativity.

The practice of working in the cloud is a pretty standard one for law firms, according to Logan.

“It’s very common and comes down to infrastructure costs and expertise,” she said.

Although LeClairRyan hasn’t invested in any one tool in particular, Shetterly said he often reaches for Relativity over review tools from Autonomy, Kroll, Xerox and LexisNexis, to name a few.

“A lot of times, we ask clients why they want to use a particular platform, and the answer is they’ve seen a slick demo,” Shetterly said. “So we often try to cut through that and ask, ‘Is this the best tool for this case?’ When we’re having that conversation, we often have Relativity in the back of our minds as the preferable tool.”

Relativity categorizes documents together by concept, prioritizes documents by query, clusters data by document types and allows batches to be labeled by relevancy and ultimately helps lawyers get to the most important documents first, Shetterly said. The review tool also provides an organized method of sending documents to appropriate parties for review.

“Relativity does it better than most,” he said. “It begins with the end in mind.”

Critical mass, here we come
It’s not just users; analysts have also noted a kind of maturity in kCura’s Relativity compared with other legal review tools on the market.

In May, Logan and fellow Gartner analyst John Bace wrote the firm’s first Magic Quadrant for e-discovery, and in it, kCura earned the top spot.

“kCura got it down to essentials and did a really good job,” Logan said. “It’s good technology, good methodology and good strategy.”

The software company, which has been around since 2001, started off as a consultancy to insurance organizations and financial services when it realized the bigger market of e-discovery and, about 18 months ago, made Relativity generally available.

While kCura may be leading the pack for the moment, Logan and Bace also observe the e-discovery market is “entering a phase of high growth, increasing maturity and inevitable consolidation.” They predict a five-year compound annual growth rate of about 14%, meaning the market will hit $1.5 billion by 2013.

“kCura’s hurdles are competition,” Logan said, adding that the company is small and everyone will be gunning for them. “And they’ll have to live up to their own reputation. They’ve come so far, so fast and they’ve done so well.”

The demand for e-discovery tools, according to Logan and Bace, is due to the continued growth in litigation complicated by organizations implementing additional data sources, including social media, into the enterprise, which could be flagged as relevant during future legal matters.

So, while kCura may have to battle to stay on top, it will also be faced with the same hurdles as any other organization offering legal review tools.

“It’s always going to come down to a search problem and a process problem,” Logan said, which is complicated by massive data sets that can contain extraneous, arcane and just plain dirty data. “They’ll need to develop effective and efficient ways to cull down massive data sets, a more sophisticated way of doing this.”

Hurdles aside, Alta Plana’s Grimes agrees the e-discovery market and text analytics will continue to grow and could eventually become a vital proactive rather than reactive component for organizations.

“I see that market expanding text analytics use beyond indexing and early case assessment to wider use for investigation and also for compliance, that is, for the purpose of keeping companies out of legal trouble,” he said.

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