Effectively managing New Zealand’s increasing discovery volumes

This article was originally published on the New Zealand Law Society and has been republished.

Globally the data volumes experienced in the discovery process are increasing rapidly and this is no different in New Zealand.

A common myth in New Zealand has been that our discovery data volumes are only small.

This is not the case.

Sure, the volumes experienced here will be smaller than more litigious countries, but New Zealand volumes are still increasing exponentially. We are all communicating differently than we did in the past, while the devices we use to communicate and store information continue to evolve.

Experts now estimate that data volumes are doubling every 18-24 months, thus making how to effectively manage these volumes a consideration for anyone tackling the discovery process.

How are New Zealand data volumes increasing?

Looking back a few years in New Zealand it may have been typical for a dispute to only have a few gigabytes (GBs), but now it is very common to see in excess of 100GB if not more as the starting point for discovery.

Let’s take a dispute with a couple of individuals. Solely looking at their emails, it is not uncommon to see 4-5GB per person, equating to 10GB.

Most matters will have even greater volumes of data, including more custodians and sources, as many send and receive thousands of emails within a year, while the disputed period may be several years. This can easily equate to tens of thousands of documents, and into the hundreds of thousands if anyone were to print them out.

If you are not seeing these volume increases in your discovery process, are you starting with all the potential information?

Getting to only what you need quickly and cost-effectively

Obviously, not all the increased data volumes will be relevant to the dispute.

No one expects you to read all the information, or at least ‘eyeball’ every document if we want to get through them quickly (and cheaply) – nor is it humanly possible.

How to manage these increasing data volumes is an important consideration for anyone undertaking an investigation or discovery exercise. We now need to work smarter, as the objective of any discovery exercise should be to facilitate a method of getting to the most important information quickly, cost effectively and accurately.

To get started, it is worth investing an hour at the outset of a matter to work out the best way to approach the discovery exercise. The time invested at the outset could save thousands down the track, not to mention lessening the burden for you and your firm.

So much of the data is simply irrelevant

The greatest obstacle in most discovery exercises is the considerable increase in the amount of irrelevant information.

On most matters, the amount of key discoverable documents may not be too different to the numbers experienced previously. The key is: how do we get to them, as so much of the information will probably be irrelevant.

No one wants to have lawyers investing their time (and the clients’ money), looking at information that may be totally irrelevant. The skill is to come up with methods and leverage the use of technology to get rid of what you don’t need so that you can devote your energies at only looking at what matters most.

Using powerful eDiscovery technology will be a great advantage to help remove the irrelevant information so that you can focus on the most important information.

The need for powerful discovery tools

These escalating data volumes and the rising cost of managing the data, make it increasingly important to use the right eDiscovery software to tackle the discovery process.

The typical ‘rule of thumb’ is, as the volumes and complexity of a matter increase, then so does the need to look at more powerful tools – especially if you want to manage the discovery process efficiently, cost-effectively and accurately.

These tools can help you cull and filter what you do not need, so you can focus on what you do. Features like Technology Assisted Review (TAR) and grouping similar content together can enable you to quickly and accurately move through the documents to review.

It is no coincidence that three New Zealand regulators have taken on Relativity  widely acknowledged as the leading eDiscovery platform globally. Many are also looking at other powerful tools like Ringtail and Everlaw.

It is not to say one of these tools must be used on every matter as there are other good tools available.

Explore the tools available

It is worth having a look at what else is available, even if you are currently satisfied with your existing eDiscovery software. Ask yourself if these tools are giving others an advantage over you?

Evaluate your eDiscovery software options every 12-24 months to ensure that you are equipping yourself with the most effective discovery tools.

Again, be sure to seek impartial advice – not just from those selling the product.

Like the rest of the world, the volumes of data experienced in the discovery process in New Zealand continue to increase rapidly, requiring smarter ways to manage this information. The skill is to find an effective method get through this information so you can focus on only what you need in a way that is quick and cost-effective.

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