E-Discovery, as most people know, is a relatively young branch of legal practice. Depending on matters of definition, one could reasonably argue that it’s:
- 12 years old, dating to the 2006 FRCP Amendments
- 15 years old, dating to the landmark Zubalake case
- 20 years old, dating to the Microsoft monopoly trial in 1998
Without a doubt, Mary Mack, Executive Director of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), has an exceptional perspective on the theory and practice of e-discovery that is matched by few experts in the field. From her work building one of the first cloud e-discovery solutions at Fios, Inc., to her current role as one of (if not) the leading e-discovery educators in the world, her thoughts on the history, present, and future of e-discovery can give us all, newbies and experts alike, plenty of valuable insight.
I caught up with Mary on the telephone last week to ask her a few questions about her background, e-discovery as a field, and E-Discovery Day, as she’ll be participating in a great panel conversation about the technology that’s made it onto her E-Discovery Technology Wishlist, which will be taking place at 1:00 pm EDT/10:00 am PDT on December 4th.
Here’s a lightly edited look at what she had to say.
Q. How did you get started in e-discovery?
My first formal e-discovery role was with Fios in Portland, and that was after about 20 years of working in corporate IT. When I got out of law school, attorneys weren’t all that interested in computers. And they certainly weren’t interested in young attorneys telling them to be interested in computers. So I basically worked at my hobby, which was computers. And I thought it would be for about 10 years before the legal community would catch up with computer technology, but actually, I did that for 20 years until just the beginning of e-discovery.
Q. And do you still see that divide between litigators’ and technical mindsets?
In some ways, we’re still in an early adopter phase now, almost 20 years later, in terms of lawyers embracing computers. I think there’s certainly more of us now. You might call e-discovery “approaching Main Street.” We’ve got technical competence, ethics, and things like that, but I think there’s still a large segment of the legal community that would prefer not to deal with anything technical—maybe other than their cell phone and personal computer.
Q. That really speaks to the need for E-Discovery Day. How do you see E-Discovery Day spreading that message about the need to integrate technology with the practice of the law?
I think E-Discovery Day probably has two functions. One is to bring us together as basically we’re already inside the bubble; we’re inside the e-discovery community. But it’s also an opportunity to bring e-discovery out to the greater community that’s not even lawyers. It’s regular people. Because anybody who deals with the law, like if you’re in a divorce situation, an immigration situation, landlord/tenant situation, a lot of the evidence in these matters will be electronic. E-Discovery Day gives these people an invitation to learn. It’s wall-to-wall education, and I get to engage with our community—a lot of people all in one day.
Q. Who were some of your early influences as you got into e-discovery?
We had quite a group at Fios that basically learned it together. Larry Johnson in Seattle, Michael Rhoden, and Tom Howe. Duane Lites down in Texas had created a bulletin board where you could ask questions, and people would answer, and that was really helpful. And of course George Socha started the EDRM.
Q. You’ll be talking about e-discovery technology on your E-Discovery Day webinar. What are some new technologies you see arising that could have a big impact on e-discovery.
Well I think there can be much better interfaces. I think we’re getting better in our point and click interfaces, but the next frontier of course is voice-activated technology. Can you imagine doing your search and review with a voice interface? I think I saw something just emerged for voice time keeping for attorneys that have to bill by the hour; they can just dictate it. But I think in review, and while you’re searching, there might be some room for a voice interface there.
I would also like to see technology that improved the ease of billing and budgeting in e-discovery, something that would help figure out what a case was worth. Have it hook into your matter management or litigation analytics tools so you could figure out what an average case was worth, the likelihood of winning, what an organization’s metrics for e-discovery costs per person involved. You could build an estimate of what a case would cost to bring it to trial, and offer insight into your possible range of success and range of exposure, allowing a risk manager to make an informed decision.
I’d like to close out this interview with a big thank you to Mary Mack for taking some time out of her busy travel schedule to have this conversation. If you want to hear more of Mary’s thoughts on the bright future of e-discovery technology, sign up for her E-Discovery Day webinar, What’s on Your E-Discovery Technology Wish List? Tech to Keep an Eye on in 2018, at 1:00 pm EDT/10:00 am PDT on E-Discovery Day, December 4, 2018.