The following article is written by Barry Murphy as co-Founder & Principal Analyst of the eDiscovery Journal.

The last two Cowen Group (TCG) Leadership Breakfasts (in New York and Washington, DC) established that TAR is a disruptive force that can benefit corporate legal departments, law firms, and solution providers. With the notion of benefits all around, we took the breakfast to Los Angeles where the conversation around TAR was markedly different, but abstracted up nicely by one of the panelists: TAR can help us achieve what really matters – more efficient case information management.

While the attendees in NYC and DC reported high levels of experience with TAR, the LA folks expressed more of a desire to learn what is going on and how they need to think about TAR. The attendees want to get past the skepticism about the technology and understand how to get law firm partners to buy into TAR techniques, like predictive coding. Much of the early discussion focused on roadblocks and speed bumps slowing down TAR adoption. In general, everyone agreed that healthy skepticism is a roadblock and that “bow-tie” partners can slow down TAR adoption because of a fear of upsetting traditional business models. However, the consensus is that TAR is here to stay and that we need better educated lawyers that know how and when to use it (kudos to those in the room who were there to learn how to get started). More than one person mentioned that TAR presents an opportunity for young, hungry associates to differentiate themselves by developing skills in statistics and experience with these new, advanced technologies.

One of the panelists was from a large southern California corporation experienced in big, constant litigation. This company brought TAR in-house and has been doing it for a year. He knows it works and threw down the gauntlet – everyone needs to experiment with TAR and gain a comfort level with how it works. When asked about the role of the law firm, given that the corporation purchased a TAR infrastructure, the gentleman pointed out that he didn’t need the law firm to know the ins-and-outs of the TAR process the first time around; he just needed the firm to make decisions on the documents. As the relationship continued, the law firm learned the value of TAR and invested more time in learning the process and technology.

This one company provides an interesting example because it purchased an all-you-can-eat software license for TAR. It didn’t have to worry about volume limits. That was very important to getting a broader adoption of scalable TAR – removing the variables (e.g. volume concerns) that make people not want to adopt TAR tools. With volume concerns out of the way, there was one less reason to avoid TAR.

The discussion also got down to brass tacks. One panelist made the point that TAR is good because it ultimately helps with case information management – getting to the facts within a case matter quickly and being able to make decisions rapidly. This is an idea that has come up over and over in the discussion of TAR and it is one that can be easily lost. The point of TAR is to make lawyers better at their jobs. That there are added benefits of cost reduction for corporations, higher margin review for law firms, and revenue growth for service providers is a nice byproduct.

The notion of speed to the information that matters the most came up multiple times, but so also did the quality of review. One attendee used the analogy of a “smurf in a box.” Do you believe that there is a smurf in a box just because I told you it is there? What was the process around my conclusion that the smurf is in the box. The judiciary has expressed a desire to not have to give a seal-of-approval to TAR black boxes. Rather, the process will need to encompass a QC component; and that component is built into TAR through statistics. Another attendee pointed out that QC is not just about defensibility, but can also be used to find problem reviewers. If a TAR system is consistently finding certain documents relevant, but a reviewer is not, perhaps the reviewer was not properly trained or is not looking for the right things.

It was another informative conversation about TAR and all its implications. As usual, the group could have gone on for hours longer. We will continue to memorialize the conversations and then do a wrap up of the whole road show as Q3 comes to a close.

The next breakfast event is today – Thursday, August 2 in San Francisco followed by Chicago on Wednesday, August 8. If you would like to be considered for attendance and participation in future discussions like next week’s shows or others coming up this quarter, please contact TCG Events.