predictive coding

A recent decision by the UK High Court means that litigation lawyers in Great Britain will now be allowed to present evidence based on automated searches of documents, rather than traditional searches conducted by human beings.

This decision follows similar ones in the US and Ireland, and it can only be a matter of time before Canada, Australia and other countries follow suit.

The technical term for the types of key-word searches, filtering and sampling to which the UK High Court has given judicial approval is “predictive coding” or “technology assisted review” (TAR). In an article about the ruling, Michele Lange of Kroll Ontrack wrote in JDSupra, “Summing up his decision, Master Matthews stated that predictive coding is just as accurate, if not more so than a manual review using keyword searches.” She says that “Master Matthews also estimated that predictive coding would offer significant cost savings in this particular case and that the possible disclosure of over two million documents done via traditional manual review would be disproportionate and ‘unreasonable’.”

Lange acknowledges that judicial approval of the use of predictive coding is not universally welcomed by the legal community. She lists some of the objections raised by UK lawyers in a survey conducted by her company, most of which related to risk aversion, fear of loss of revenue, and lack of understanding of the technology.

While lawyers may continue to object to the digitization of legal work on principle, the demonstrated costs savings and increased effectiveness of such technologically based tools as TAL, and now their approval by the courts, means that their use is likely to become standard procedure before much more time has passed.

Is your firm embracing or resisting the new forms of technological assistance that are available to lawyers… or are you somewhere in between? As always, I am interested to know your thoughts on this (or any other) matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.