How to use data for litigation, investigations and disputes

By Christine Hasiotis, UnitedLex

In today's dynamic legal environment, a lawyer's digital aptitude has become a key lever of success. Furthermore, with this reality, the traditional role of trusted advisor is expanding. No longer are lawyers responsible for sifting through only a few boxes of paper documents to develop the facts of their case. In any litigation, dispute, or investigation, the goal is to piece together the puzzle of the story in the most favourable or defensible light.

Lawyers need to tell the complete story to prove or win a case. In most instances, this is impossible to do without data. The lawyer's challenge is the same wherever they are based. Notably, optimising electronically stored information is not only a US-centric “eDiscovery” problem but a modern lawyer's key to their competitive advantage. As the volume and complexity of data have grown, the tools and skills for managing the data to find evidence for a case require new techniques with the expertise of a technologist, data scientist, and lawyer.

Data is everywhere. Whether the client is a multinational corporation, a local company, or an individual, nearly every action taken leaves a digital trail. The trail includes not only unstructured data but also structured data. In the past 20 years, legal professionals have primarily focused on unstructured data. Specifically, the focus has been on how unstructured data is created, stored, collected, searched, analysed, repurposed, preserved, and protected. Unstructured data, which is human- generated content, has no pre-defined format or organisation. Therefore, it is more diffcult to analyse. The data sources typically include but are not limited to emails, chat, text messages, loose files, and office documents in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. As technology accelerates, so do the sources for unstructured data. Today such data also includes web content and data on collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. We can only expect a greater variety tomorrow.

unstructured data

In today's digital landscape, the door has been opened to what is referred to as structured data. By 2025, the experts predict that 20% of data will be structured. Structured data sources generally reside in finance, accounting, enterprise resource planning, trading, sales, and human resources applications. Historically, structured data is highly centralised. In addition, it resides in formats not standardised across industries. With a pre-defined format, it is easy to search structured data and identify patterns, sometimes using descriptive metadata. In other cases, relying on the IT steward is helpful to interpret the data. However, the most significant challenge with this data source is preservation and extraction.

Now that we understand the mission for today's legal professionals, it might be helpful to demonstrate the impact on decision-making with a couple of case studies. First, in an employee misconduct case, a company's Ethics and Compliance Offce initiated an internal investigation into employees suspected of obtaining and distributing controlled substances. Leveraging an AI-enabled process for analysing the data, the lawyer discovered a pattern of conduct by the main subject fabricating and falsifying the emails of other employees regarding the soliciting of controlled substances in order to conceal the main subject's consumption. In a second example involving a fraud dispute, a financial services corporate law department launched an internal investigation to gather information and identify the scope regarding a third-party Ponzi scheme.

By performing an in-depth search term and timeline analysis, the lawyers categorised 13 groups of custodians and created a tailored date range and search terms map to aid the lawyer's evidence review. In both examples, leveraging the data by applying technology saved the lawyers a significant amount of time, enabling them to formulate a strategy more quickly and provide their clients with faster insights than using more traditional manual efforts.

As the case studies above demonstrate, the need to simultaneously increase speed while reducing complexity and cost for managing data is compelling lawyers to integrate advanced technologies and collaborate with legal service providers. Factors that influence cost are ineffcient manual workflows, antiquated data culling techniques, lost time to uncover valuable insights, and attorney review speed. New ways of working are changing many practice areas and are not limited to only the AM Law firm community. To capitalise on the value of the data available, the modern lawyer sitting anywhere in the world should understand how best to apply technology with intelligent processes to accelerate their effectiveness. Practical and effective ways that reduce cost and drive value for a complete and accurate story are pieces of the puzzle for legal optimisation.


 

Christine Hasiotis

Christine Hasiotis

Senior Vice President & Deputy
General Counsel | Litigation Support and eDiscovery Services
GGI Global Sponsor
UnitedLex
M: +1 978 412 7599
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W: digital.unitedlex.com/ggi-alliance
 


Published: GGI Insider, No. 117, January 2022 l Photo: ipuwadol - stock.adobe.com

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