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Drinker Biddle & Reath: It's the data, stupid.

H5 congratulates both Bennett Borden and Drinker, Biddle & Reath on Borden’s appointment as chief data scientist (CDS) for the firm. It’s always refreshing to consider a category of employment that has been created rather than displaced by technology.

In a domain that is often rooted in more traditional approaches and methodologies, this appointment demonstrates the kind of forward-thinking that the legal realm should be considering as an ever-growing digital future looms. Recognition that we now inhabit a data world, not a paper one, and thus require requisite data expertise from our legal advisors is a message that shouldn’t be lost on the corporate clients who have been struggling with fallout of the data explosion for years.

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This appointment also highlights the significant paradox that still exists in the world of eDiscovery. The continued reliance on the paper paradigm of managed review—despite the continuing evolution and acceptance of technology-assisted approaches—is both puzzling and potentially detrimental to clients. What most companies are dealing with in litigation is a collection of data, not documents. As Craig Ball once noted, “We need to have a consciousness-raising that much of the information that is most probative, most useful today in discovery never began its life as a document and will never live its life as a document except for the rather extraordinary and wasteful effort we make to try to force that data-round peg in to a document-square hole.”

The truth is that such consciousness-raising probably isn’t required. It can’t have escaped the attention of even the most old school litigator that we’re living in a data world—data is omnipresent and inescapable and everyone knows it. In the legal realm, the refusal to connect very basic dots—that a digital approach should be applied to a digital problem—is severely hobbling as it disables much of the investigatory power and cost-effectiveness that could be leveraged by the application of technology for review and case preparation. And yet linear document review persists, despite the fact that with proper protocol and validation techniques, a well-designed TAR approach has been shown to lead to a better result.

For law firms that aren’t quite ready to bring a chief data scientist on board but acknowledge the digital imperative, the good news is that for eDiscovery at least, services of an in-house CDS aren’t required—they can be hired. Certain service providers that do the TAR work for you rather than providing a tool for you to use are offering precisely that expertise. They have data scientists, computational analysts and linguists on board who leverage professional analytical skills to find what needs to be found, not by reviewing documents one by one, but by using their expertise and an arsenal of technological tools to attack a set of data from every angle. Ask about this expertise specifically if you’re searching for an outsourced TAR partner.

For firms that are still on the fence about using advanced technology to manage the complexities of data in litigation, consider Drinker, Biddle & Reath’s appointment of Bennet Borden a wake-up call.  They’re putting their money on expertise for a digital future and it may well pay for others to do the same.

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