Last year, I led off the year with a post declaring that the age of eDiscovery automation is upon us (even with an exclamation point for emphasis!).  Was that the case?

Well, in the past year (or so), we’ve seen an even more broad acceptance of Technology Assisted Review (TAR) with the first UK case law to approve the use of TAR.  Sure, there is still some dispute about the technology and acceptance of TAR (and sometimes how it is presented), and the machine learning technology at the core of TAR may be at the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”, but it’s clear that TAR is here to stay, even as the technology and approaches around it evolve.

With regard to SaaS automation technology, we’ve seen significant investment by venture capital firms in providers like Logikcull and Everlaw and we’ve also seen “big boys” like kCura, Ipro and Thomson Reuters make significant SaaS and automation announcements.  Not to mention the emergence of other SaaS automation providers like CloudNine (you knew I’d mention us in there somewhere, right?).  With the continued evolution of TAR technology (and acceptance of that technology) and the emergence of SaaS automation alternatives, it’s clear that automation is already changing the eDiscovery landscape in a big way.  And, that doesn’t even consider the growing impact of automated data discovery prior to litigation, which is another trend that I think you’ll see have a significant impact on the market in the coming years.  So, I was right.  ;o)

However, for automation technology to really have an impact, the users of that technology need to really understand that technology and its benefits and we’ve discussed numerous times on this blog how attorneys are lacking in their understanding of technology.  This thought has been reinforced by many of the thought leaders we’ve interviewed over the years who have discussed how disappointed they are with the rate of adoption of technology by the legal industry.  In particular, Craig Ball likened it to the melting of the glaciers, then observed that, because of global warming, the glaciers might be melting faster than attorney adoption of technology.  Will lawyers ever “get” the technology?

Maybe they’re finally being forced to do so.

In 2012, the American Bar Association formally approved a change to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 to clarify that attorneys not only have a duty to be competent in practice of law, but also in technology with Comment 8 to the rule which reads: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” {emphasis added}

Then, in 2015, California adopted Formal Opinion 2015-193, which stated that “[a]ttorney competence related to litigation generally requires, among other things, and at a minimum, a basic understanding of, and facility with, issues relating to e-discovery”, noting that an attorney lacking the required e-discovery competence must either learn it, consult with someone who knows it or decline the client representation.

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