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Tech Firms Pitch Tools for Sifting Legal Records

August 22, 2008

Robert Brownstone, Law & Technology Director for Fenwick & West, was recently quoted in a Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Tech Firms Pitch Tools For Sifting Legal Records."

Lawsuits increasingly rely on electronic documents, feeding demand for tools that help archive and retrieve those records, a process known as eDiscovery. More tech companies are now pitching software to sift corporate email and electronic records, but law firms are questioning how much of the discovery process can be automated. They also say more money could be spent to fix legal mistakes that software vendors might overlook.

"You need to have some kind of quality control," says Brownstone, with the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West, which consults with companies on how to combine software with lawyer supervision.

Brownstone tells of a client who declined to have Fenwick attorneys or Fenwick IT eDiscovery specialists oversee an email archives search, thinking internal IT staff could do a cheaper automated search. "They altered files that, legally, had to be retained with original metadata intact," he says. They were recovered after paying Fenwick extra to fix the problem.

Software companies and law firms are now taking steps to resolve these issues. Law firms such as Fenwick now consult with clients on which eDiscovery software to choose and how to use it. Brownstone says that his firm has a proprietary system that combines software with attorney supervision that can save clients more than 20% of what they normally would pay for an e-discovery project.