Should You Be Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) For eDiscovery?

03 May 2022 by UV eDiscovery AI

Takeaway: Artificial intelligence (AI) is undeniably a powerful force in eDiscovery, but we overlook the fact that it just extends the existing features of regular eDiscovery applications. So, it’s great for larger firms with massive cases but overkill for small and midsize firms – because regular eDiscovery applications have all the essential review tools but at a fraction of the cost.

eDiscovery isn’t primarily about technology. It’s about uncovering a story.

eDiscovery is like detective work. You gather information, interpret it, and pick up valuable clues. But at some point, you have to piece the clues together to uncover the ‘story’ of your case. A story that tells you things like what happened, when and how it happened, who it happened to, and more. So, while eDiscovery does involve a lot of technology (there are whole platforms dedicated to data review), you’ll have to keep coming back to this story of your case. It’s what keeps you on track, telling you which paths to explore and which to ignore.

But recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) tend to overshadow this core focus.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has wowed us with cars that drive themselves, websites that match us to products we need, and software that independently identifies the people in photographs. So, it’s no surprise that AI is wowing us with enhanced eDiscovery document reviews, too. For example:

1. AI can help organize information for us.

AI uses data clustering to help organize our files – similar to sorting them into neatly labeled boxes. Except that your software does all the work automatically and independently, without you having to get involved. It uses file data and metadata to group similar documents into clusters based on keywords – often also singling out important ‘representative’ documents.

2. AI can help us interpret and understand data.

Data clustering becomes even more powerful when human reviewers team up with AI in technology-assisted reviews (TARs). Here, the AI will watch as you process and categorize files – spotting patterns in what you do, and replicating your activity so you can step back and let your software take over. This process is often called predictive coding or machine learning because your software actively learns from you and predicts how you would treat other files in your case. Taking things further, AI can also recognize the context in which keywords are used – for example, interpreting the word ‘party’ differently based on if it’s in the sentence ‘a third party was involved in the litigation’ vs ‘the custodian was at a party on the night in question.’ AI can also thread concepts together – for example, recognizing that an email is likely about financial records if it has the keywords ‘accountant,’ ‘budget,’ and ‘taxes’ in it. All this helps AI act based on our intent rather than only the instructions we give. So, if we searched for ‘fraud,’ our software might also simultaneously look for ‘cheating,’ ‘scam,’ and ‘hoax.’

3. AI can help us with ‘smart’ searches.

AI can be trained to pick out common identifiers (e.g., names, locations, organizations, account numbers, etc.) and treat them differently. So, you’ll be able to search for a credit card number without being flooded with non-credit-card matches that happen to have the same number sequence. Or your software can find all instances (across multiple documents) of a particular name and automatically replace it with a pseudonym. (Note: A simple ‘find and replace’ tool would mix up names with words having those names embedded in them – for example, ‘Mark’ is also in ‘marker’ and ‘unmarked.’ Plus, you wouldn’t be able to make changes across multiple documents and file types.)

So, AI is undoubtedly valuable, but does that mean it’s indispensable? Not quite.

The newness of AI can sometimes distract from valuable tools and features that simpler, more affordable eDiscovery applications already have. Here are a few examples.

1. Regular eDiscovery applications can group data without using AI.

Many eDiscovery applications can automatically group different file types like Word documents, PDFs, PST files (i.e., emails), spreadsheets, and more. So, you can filter documents based on file type, with infographics to show you the ratios of different file types in your case. Similarly, most applications can ‘thread’ the emails in a conversation – effectively grouping them based on the topic being discussed. And they’ll link file families (e.g., an email and its attachments), reducing the chances of you missing key pieces of data.

2. Regular eDiscovery applications have ‘advanced searches’ and ‘tags’ to help us interpret and understand data.

AI is great at deciphering user intent, but ordinary eDiscovery search engines can do simpler versions of this. For example, they’ll use features like stemming (using word roots to find keyword variations), slop searches (allowing for gaps between keywords), and metadata searches (using file metadata to identify search criteria that aren’t in a file’s main content). Plus, eDiscovery applications don’t need AI to help us with basic file grouping. For instance, we can use eDiscovery tags (i.e., virtual ‘sticky notes’) to label similar documents, making it easy to categorize and review files with overlapping themes

3. Regular eDiscovery searches are pretty smart, even without AI.

Ordinary Boolean searches let you give surprisingly specific search commands like, ‘Find any emails Michael Crosby sent Andre Sator, mentioning cryptocurrency – sent before 2015.’ (Learn more about advanced searches.) Also, you’ll be able to find and redact sensitive/privileged information (words, sentences, or even entire pages) using a simple redaction tool.

So, it’s not like eDiscovery without AI is inherently inferior. Rather, it’s a matter of preference, based on your firm’s needs.

AI can certainly help you find and connect seemingly-unrelated pieces of data. And this is especially useful if you’re part of a larger law firm with massive cases and advanced infrastructure. But it can also make your software more expensive and harder to figure out – not ideal for smaller and midsize law firms. So, it’s a question of what exactly your firm needs.

For instance, GoldFynch is an eDiscovery application without AI, but with all the right features for most small and midsize law firms.

GoldFynch is an online eDiscovery service with all the essential eDiscovery review tools you’ll need – but accessible via a simple, user-friendly interface at a fraction of the cost of AI-enhanced software. And this is exactly what most small and midsize law firms are looking for. Plus, GoldFynch has a bunch of other things going for it:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB) without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?