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e-Discovery in Australia: 3 Key Differentiators

Stuart Hall

As we mentioned in our analysis of legal trends in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for e-Discovery Software earlier this week, e-discovery is growing fast all over the globe—and Australia is no exception. In fact, the Asia-Pacific region is one where we’d expect to grow over the next several years.

To support the growing e-discovery community in the region, we’re excited to have boots on the ground in Australia. I joined the kCura team just a few weeks ago, but I know from years of experience in Australia that e-discovery here is its own animal. What makes us so different?

Size and Scale

Australia simply isn’t as litigious as countries like the United States, so our market for e-discovery is quite small by comparison. I've heard estimates suggesting that there are about 200-250 e-discovery professionals in practice in Australia—a number that is easily dwarfed by a single state in the United States, where the overall number of litigation support professionals nationwide was estimated at about 15,000 in 2013.

By contrast, Ernst and Young alone added 150 attorneys to its e-discovery vertical in Mumbai this year to provide LPO services to law firms. So while the litigation support footprint is small, there are a number of positive indicators of the explosive growth our region is beginning to see in this industry—and that’s a trend we expect to continue across Asia-Pac, including Australia, into the next several years.

Lack of Sanctions

The Australian court system is far less adversarial than places like the United States, and parties are simply expected to do a good job during e-discovery. If an issue does arise, it’s most often addressed with supplemental requests for discovery meant to cover whatever’s been missed. As a result, e-discovery sanctions here are quite rare.

blog_melbourne-australia-mapThough this approach varies across Asia-Pac, it creates a unique environment in Australia. As lawyers and corporations here are facing the same data growth as the rest of the world, the risk of consequences in the courtroom for inefficient e-discovery is much smaller—so adoption of new technology is more heavily compelled by cost-effectiveness and aggressive regulator- or court-driven deadlines.

Corporate in the Driver’s Seat

Reaction in the courtroom may not be an issue, but Australian corporations are seeing the same price pressures as the rest of the world. Whereas law firms are largely driving technology adoption in the United States, corporations are doing the pushing in Australia.

As a result, companies here are doing their homework. They’re shopping more for best of breed legal services and support. As they experience price pressure in the market, a cost agenda is driven with law firms, and in turn they have also increased their own legal and technology capabilities. They increasingly want to see innovation from their law firms around text analytics and new pricing models for their projects. Many companies here have offices in the rest of the world and also want to see their workflows efficiently translate for all their locations.

e-Discovery Law and Standards

Overall, the Australian court system naturally echoes the UK’s as compared to the United States. We share the Westminster system of government, so much of the process translates well—though e-discovery is still on a much smaller scale here than it is in Britain. This tends to mean that a lot of the case law in the United States around e-discovery doesn’t really have providence in our market, so we often look to the UK as more reflective of the system we operate in.

Though these standards are fairly universal within our court system in Australia, there remains a broad variance across the rest of Asia-Pac e-discovery. Some locations, such as Hong Kong, are developing laws that closely align to U.S. standards. Others may still lack regulation altogether.

The Conversation Has Just Begun

My role is to nurture and support the e-discovery community in Australia and, more broadly, Asia-Pac. I’m here to ensure that we at kCura sharpen our focus on these regional considerations and continue engaging at the global e-discovery table. We want to foster a community on the ground here and help folks drive their own businesses with this technology.

This will mean engaging with Asia-Pac in a new way, building support structures like user groups to facilitate the conversation and learn more about this group’s needs. In short, we’re excited to support this market for the long haul.

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