ILTACON 2022 wrapped up just weeks ago, and if there’s one resounding theme that’s stuck with most attendees, it’s that the future is now. With the first two days keynoted by business futurist Patrick Schwerdtfeger, the conference firmly set a focus on disruption, transformation and technology advancement.
This was energizing for FTI Technology’s experts in attendance, given the cutting-edge work they’re doing every day to address clients’ most difficult data challenges and digital risks. There was also a sense among them that the industry is feeling a touch of whiplash from how quickly things have changed in e-discovery and other related legal functions in recent years. Practically overnight, professionals in the legal field have been forced to shift focus to address completely novel data types, workflows, technologies and discovery challenges. Many are still working to catch up.
Below, several FTI Technology leaders across emerging data sources, digital forensics, e-discovery and investigations share their key takeaways from ILTACON.
Wendy King, Senior Managing Director
“The three hottest topics during the conference were AI, metaverse and emerging data sources. There were a lot of really interesting conversations across these threads — particularly during the panel on which Jerry Bui spoke about the impact the metaverse is going to have on our roles as legal technologists.
“One thing that really struck me, though, was that while it’s important to talk about futuristic things, the industry is also struggling to keep up with the disruption that’s happening right now. There are still many current challenges that have yet to be widely solved or standardized. For example, the format for how we communicate is changing at a rapid clip, and is increasingly impacting e-discovery and document review work in a number of ways. Yet, many teams don’t understand or can’t stay apace with those changes or how they impact discovery workflows and defensibility.
“As an industry, we must implement standardization around today’s usage of technology and its subsequent challenges. There needs to be a standard for how these emerging data sources data will be produced as evidence. Only with standardization around the issues we’re seeing today will we be able to strike a balance between addressing the here and now and preparing for the future.”
Jerry Bui, Managing Director
“The keynote really set the tone from the start. Patrick talked about AI a lot and how important it is to be aware of it, even if it hasn’t yet been fully realized. To me, AI is really an evolution of what we formerly viewed as automation, and there are already applications for it that are delivering transformative results now. It only takes a little bit of imagination to see where it can lead — both in terms of improving e-discovery workflows and acting as a new source of evidence.
“Also, the rapid disintegration of the document format has been apparent to many of us at FTI Technology for some time now. It’s what’s driven many of the new solutions coming out of our emerging data systems group. So, it was interesting to gauge where the rest of the industry stands on that front. Many are still trying to shoehorn this sprawling data landscape into what has been traditionally seen as a document, and I think that’s because things have just changed so quickly that it’s taking time for everyone to adjust to a new way of approaching things. There were some discussions around whether emerging data systems should be treated natively and the best ways to convert long strings of chat messages into a format that can be reviewed in a discovery context. This is an area where our teams are really leading the pack, so those were exciting discussions.
“Overall, I think a lot of change is still to come. We’re nearing a time when there will be entirely new categories of data, such as artificially created data that is generated from AI, and new worlds, like metaverses, that spur an unprecedented category of disputes and investigations. So, the future is now, but in many ways, the issues ahead of us will still be wildly different than what we’re seeing today.”
Tim Anderson, Senior Managing Director
“It’s fascinating to think of the disruption in the world today and the options in AI and machine learning that are now available to innovators in the legal space. Throughout the sessions and conversations at the conference, I was reminded again and again that technology disruption is being felt more acutely in terms of the raw materials of our work (the data) than it is on the output of the work we do. For quite a long time, practitioners in our industry have benefitted from standard, predictable inputs of data. Yet over the course of the last several years, it’s changed radically to new ways of communicating and new formats, which have largely broken the traditional ways of doing things.
“The changes in the data landscape have really put our field in flux and I had a keen eye throughout the event to see how people were talking about this. It was surprising to find that while there’s a lot of openness to innovation, the industry overall is still behind and playing catch up to the realities of today’s data. Talking about it generally was a bright spot, but there’s still a long way to go.
“That’s why events like this are so important. They give us a chance to take a pulse check on the broader industry, as well as to collaborate. We need to come together in this way to embrace transformational change and steer the direction of the technology that will ultimately impact and support our work as e-discovery and digital forensics practitioners.”
Deedra Smith, Managing Director
“My take is that the direction of the future is exciting, and it’s also a bit daunting. From a document review perspective, many of our clients and the legal field more broadly are just starting to become familiar with predictive coding. It’s taken a long time for us to educate the market and help clients feel comfortable with the use of advanced analytics and their benefits. And now, it’s somewhat like starting over, because these new emerging data sources aren’t compatible with those algorithms. For example, people now use images and emojis within their communications much more than before, and traditional analytical tools and predictive coding models don’t know how to deal with those images.
Providers like Reveal are starting to develop promising artificial intelligence technology for images and other non-traditional data formats, but these tools have not been vetted and approved by the federal agencies and courts. This can make even the most tech savvy client hesitant to utilize these tools fresh out of the box. In many respects, we have to go back to basics again. Working with clients to develop new standards for emerging data sources that will meet strict agency and court requirements will be a big emphasis in the coming years.”
Ethan Wilansky, Managing Director
“Emerging data was the big takeaway. I agree that the industry overall is still trying to catch up after such a rapid shift in the data sources we need to address. I think the future is really going to be about enrichment — how do we take new and interesting forms of data and make them work within an analytics platform to drive insight. I also think that our tools and processes will need to address the reliability challenges associated with retrieving data from a variety of constantly changing cloud endpoints through a wide array of collection APIs. Our industry needs more events and opportunities like these to collaborate, at a technical level, to improve the enrichment process and bring the value of AI into the workflows for emerging data discovery.”
In addition to attending sessions and hosting client conversations at the event, Jerry spoke on a panel and participated in a livestream with Cat “Technocat” Casey from Reveal to discuss metaverse implications and how the metaverse fits into the legal industry. Tim Anderson also sat down with Cat to discuss emerging data sources in depth.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.