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The Risky Business of Innovating in e-Discovery

Mary Rechtoris

When it comes to technology adoption, it’s no secret that the legal industry is considered a bit slow to jump on the bandwagon. This is not to say that progress hasn’t been made.

For example, my dad, who has been an attorney for more than 30 years, recently learned how to send emojis to our family group chat. Although my other family members and I have moved on to GIFs as our main form of communication, we sent a thumbs-up emoji his way to congratulate him on this milestone. 

While my dad and other legal professionals are working to integrate technology into their daily practices, some parts of the legal sphere still trail behind others. Why is that? I spoke with Jason Richard, senior director of e-discovery services for H5, to answer this question and gain perspective on the challenges and opportunities service providers face when driving innovation in e-discovery.

Lawyers and Technology: Friends or Foes?

“Because of the nature of this niche industry, it is often challenging for companies to get a foothold with new innovations,” Jason said, adding that legal professionals don't always welcome new technology with open arms due to the perceived level of risk associated with these investments.

“When you are working in a risk-averse industry, new technology is not always met with the same enthusiasm as in other sectors,” he noted.

Coupled with this reluctance to take on potential risk, lawyers are often apprehensive about change—or at the very least, not all that jazzed about it. Drawing from his nearly three decades of research, lawyer and psychologist Dr. Larry Richard found that lawyers tend to be highly skeptical of change. For some, change evokes feelings of anxiety that may cause them to view it as a threat. 

To be fair, most people are not thrilled by the prospect of change. I, for one, was not particularly enthused early on a Sunday afternoon when a certain popular fast-food chain discontinued one of my all-time favorite breakfast items. A few years later, I have adapted, and my waistline is all the better for it.

In the world of e-discovery, viewing change as an adversary could have damaging repercussions. There is much at stake in resisting constructive change, as a convoluted and slow e-discovery process can impede a legal team’s ability to move forward on a matter. For vendors like H5 who are looking to innovate, Jason said the struggle can be very real as they often face pushback when championing new solutions. Many companies offer novel products, but not every company offers solutions that resonate with legal professionals who more often want products that are well established and speak to the specific challenges they face.

The Right Solution to the Right Challenge

As their business scaled, H5 realized that the demands for effective cross-functional and team-based collaboration were increasing sharply and there was a lack of appropriate tools on the market to help address their business needs. While some types of information are not relevant to all team members, there is much that could be shared to enhance collaborative workflows. This failure to disseminate important information could lead to a multitude of inefficiencies.

Despite what you may have heard, talk does not come cheap. Poor communication sure doesn’t. A report surveying 400 companies with more than 100,000 employees found each company, on average, loses $62.4 million annually due to poor communication to and among employees. Even for smaller companies, the impact can be great; for companies with 100 employees, losses due to miscommunication can reach an average of $420,000 each year. To H5, it was clear that this was a high-impact challenge that needed a novel solution.

To avoid that kind of fallout, H5 quickly strategized on ways to address this issue and get everyone on the same page.

“We were trying to tackle what we saw as a coordination challenge in the world of e-discovery,” Jason said. “You have a lot of fast-paced deadlines and interdependencies across organizations, so it was crucial to find a way for these teams to coordinate and communicate quickly.”   

H5 created a solution by building an application on top of Relativity: H5 Matter Intelligence. With it, users can post information on a Facebook-like feed and send chat messages to relay information quickly, such as the latest update on a production set. Through schedulable reports and automatic software notification, they could automate the communication of critical budgeting and status information directly to their clients. They also were able to simplify the tracking and reporting of billing information, which dramatically reduces the time of end-of-month invoicing. 

H5 Matter Intelligence

After seeing how the tool improved internal processes, H5 continued innovating on Matter Intelligence to provide their clients with something they did not have with other applications: full visibility.

“We had numerous conversations with our clients and they all said the same thing: ‘We want insights into everything going on with our matters,’” Jason said. “So, Matter Intelligence evolved into a transparency-focused application that empowers our clients to collaborate closely with our team and gives them and our service professionals a shared view of the world.”

In addition to providing transparency into active and historical data, H5 equipped Matter Intelligence with predictive solutions to extrapolate monthly billing projections and even estimate the cost of new matters. With these insights, their clients can confidently make decisions that reduce costs and help them plan for what’s next. 

 “In an industry where time is of the essence and costs can run out of control very quickly, being connected and providing visibility has been crucial,” Jason said. “When there is a shared view of what is happening, everyone can focus on what they do best and not get derailed by surprises.”

Creating a Community of Innovators

Despite the challenges that come into play, many companies are crushing it in the innovation game. Last year, Relativity received 26 submissions for our annual Innovation Awards, which recognizes companies that use Relativity in creative ways. H5 was one such company, winning their team the designation of the “Best Innovation: Solution Provider.” Moving forward, Jason said H5 is excited to continue working with the Relativity community to advocate for new ideas and create technology that propels the industry forward.

“There are many great technology companies in the space, but a lot are siloed and don't have a unified user base,” Jason said. “We’re excited to be part of a marketplace that allows diverse organizations to keep innovating in this field, driving demand for new solutions that will help case teams accelerate their efforts.”

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Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the brand team at Relativity, where she's always collaborating and looking for new ways to develop and socialize stories.

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