On Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a long story on e-discovery. It highlights some of the current issues but also, in my opinion, oversimplifies them. 

Tech Firms Pitch Tools For Sifting Legal Records (22 August 2008) by Justin Scheck opens with a provocative statement: “A growing number of tech companies are riding the rising flood of corporate email and electronic records by pitching software to sift them — and meeting resistance from lawyers who want a piece of the action.”

Implicit in this article is a topic about which I have blogged regularly: the appropriate role of software versus humans in identifying and reviewing documents in discovery. This is a difficult and nuanced issues; see, for example, my posts Computer v Human Search Revisited (22 June 08), Concept Searching in E-Discovery (20 May 08), Lawyers’ Duty to Learn E-Discovery Search Techniques (18 April 08), Improving E-Discovery with Smart [Humans] [Technology] (16 March 08), and The Gold Standard for E-Discovery Document Review (18 March 07).

Another issue implicit in the article is the difference between archiving / preservation tools and collection / processing tools. See, for example, my post Preservation versus Collection in E-Discovery (8 Aug 08), which also discusses e-discovery “convergence.”

Rather than explain the difficult “humans versus computers” review question or the “convergence” issue, the article frames current e-discovery issues, in essence, as lawyers trying to protect their billable hours. This framing oversimplifies the issue but does alert corporate managers – think CFOs and CEOs – who ultimately pay BigLaw bills that perhaps there are more cost-effective ways to approach litigation. So for that reason alone, I was glad to see the WSJ cover the topic.

And the timing of the article is perfect for the many EDD managers who will be in Dallas this coming week for ITLA. It should be good grist for discussion.