E-discovery expert: ‘We live in a world of big data’

Published: February 3rd, 2014

Category: News


E-discovery expert Jason Baron spoke Monday about the need for lawyers to have a basic understanding of the e-discovery process. (Photo by Kelly Logan)

By Kelcee Griffis

When Jason R. Baron went to law school in the ’80s, document review meant reading over thousands of papers manually in search of evidence to bring into the courtroom.

Although recent decades brought new realms of material to comb – emails and other digital documents – it has also delivered new tools to make sorting through the content more efficient.

Baron, who is of counsel with the Information Governance and E-Discovery Group at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP in Washington, D.C., spoke Monday about a few of those tools and the need for lawyers to have a basic understanding of the e-discovery process.

The lecture was the second installment of the ICAIR E-Discovery Project Speaker Series. About 25 students and faculty attended.

At the beginning of his talk, Baron debunked a misconception: Performing an e-discovery search is the same thing as doing a Google search.

Baron gave the example of Googling a restaurant in Gainesville. A user’s returns are based on geographic location, previous search history and popularity. That type of filtering doesn’t happen in e-discovery.

When searching documents and databases on e-discovery quests, hits aren’t ranked by priority as in Google searches.

“We live in a world of big data,” Baron said, referencing the Lehmen Brothers case that involved billions of pages lawyers had to sort through. In instances when lawyers deal with a large-scale case, they need something more powerful than a keyword search.

Part of the movement in e-discovery is predictive analytics, he said, which is a way to cluster documents together based on a seed set the lawyer populates. It allows lawyers to perform a smarter search to weed out irrelevant returns and to deal with large documents in chunks.

This is especially helpful because emails have become so prolific, Baron said.

“Email is the killer document of the age,” he said. “Every client will have email, some kind of technical stuff, for you to go through.”

As for the importance of e-discovery, Baron cited the American Bar Association’s competence rule, which calls lawyers to understand the “benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

“It’s a lawyer’s obligation to do a comprehensive search,” he said, and that means using e-discovery.

He also encouraged young lawyers that knowledge of e-discovery does not require knowledge of technological inner working or jargon. They should simply understand basic principles of using e-discovery. He compared it to being a mechanic versus knowing how to drive a car. Lawyers are the drivers.

“You don’t need to know what’s under the hood,” he said.

Dominic Isgro, a 3L who attended the lecture, called the lecture “very helpful.” He said he is committed to work at a Tampa law firm after graduation, and bringing e-discovery knowledge could give him an edge.

“This is something that lawyers don’t, as a group, know a lot about,” he said. “I believe this, as Mr. Baron said, is something we need to know something about.”

Samar Sultan, a 3L who also attended the event, called e-discovery another world and said listening to an expert was beneficial.

“I think students who are graduating need to know something about this world,” she said.

The Levin College of Law and the UF Law E-Discovery Project holding the second annual conference for the small and medium case March 14. Check the conference website for the latest updates.