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Sarah Sawvell, AI Visionary at Honeywell, on the Promise of AI for In-house Legal Teams

Hannah Baxter

The bright future of AI is just beginning, according to Honeywell Global eDiscovery Program Manager Sarah Sawvell. Named as one of our AI Visionaries for 2023, Sarah is passionate about leveraging innovative technology with an eye for short-term case strategy and long-term organizational success and optimization.

Hannah Baxter: Please describe your role in your organization and how technology plays a part in it.

Sarah Sawvell: As a member of Honeywell’s Litigation Center of Excellence (CoE), I am responsible for managing and supporting the e-discovery response for litigation. That includes strategy and roadmap development, provider management, and cost-saving initiatives.

Using technology, innovation, and a thoughtful approach to case strategy are central to successfully managing this function—and, more specifically, driving workflow efficiencies, reducing risk, realizing cost savings across the lifecycle, and solving some of our most complex e-discovery related challenges.

When you’re not working, how do you like to decompress?

When I am not working, you will find me at an Orangetheory Fitness studio near you! After more than twenty years working in a fast-paced, rapidly evolving and changing industry, I have come to appreciate and understand the importance of taking the time for self-care—body, mind, and spirit (even if I only spend a couple of minutes a day on one of these areas).

What aspects or outcomes of AI are you most excited about?

It is exciting to ponder the future and promise of AI and strategic technology innovation decades from now, and how they will develop and evolve over time. In the e-discovery industry specifically, we are still in the very, very early stages of AI adoption, utilization, and leveraging its power to solve operational, workflow, and other legal and e-discovery related challenges. We have a lot ahead of us, and I look forward to seeing this promise become reality over time.

What’s your advice for organizations hesitant to adopt AI?

Start small and with a clear goal or objective in mind. What problem are you trying to solve? How could AI or a related technological innovation help solve that problem? Once you have a defined problem statement and scope, connect with a trusted service or software provider and other subject matter experts in this space; do your own research; test, test again; and, finally, build out and document your processes and procedures. And have fun along the way!

How can AI enthusiasts pursue professional development in this area? How do you encourage peers to understand the importance of continuing education in this area?

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! With access to a global network of AI subject matter experts, it is an exciting time to be in the legal industry. Reach out and talk to someone you have never met—maybe in an entirely different industry or field—and learn about the ways they are using AI. Ask about their most successful and most challenging implementations or projects. You may be surprised by what you learn and how that information can be applied to your industry, program, or project.  

How can technologies like AI help you uncover more value?

Strategic utilization of AI technology innovations can help drive workflow efficiencies, realize cost savings, and solve e-discovery challenges—whether they are case-related or enterprise-wide.

What is one small thing someone could do today to move toward an AI-enabled future?

Corporate legal departments and e-discovery programs should take the time to evaluate goals and objectives and build roadmaps that utilize AI with purpose. It is important to strategically use AI at key stages, where it makes sense, and build workflows and educational initiatives that support what you are trying to accomplish. This thoughtfulness is essential to fully realize and unlock the value and benefits of AI.

Strategic utilization of AI technology innovations can help drive workflow efficiencies, realize cost savings, and solve e-discovery challenges—whether they are case-related or enterprise-wide.

How does AI help your team decrease risk and maximize efficiency?

We utilize AI to maximize efficiencies across the enterprise and our legal department. For the e-discovery program, we use several tools to support our work—including scoping every matter for the use of analytics, AI, and ML from the start. TextIQ at Relativity is an important tool in our e-discovery tool kit, and it continues to enhance the overall quality of our deliverables, reduce risk, and realize significant cost savings during the document review phase of the lifecycle.

In an ideal world, what would you want to see developed in the field of AI to improve how you conduct business?

I would like to see more advanced AI tools developed and utilized to better support the early phases of the e-discovery lifecycle (e.g., identification, preservation, collection). This will lead to greater case management, workflow efficiencies, and corporate legal department utilization.

Hannah Baxter is a strategic partnerships account executive at Relativity.