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InFusion Recap: Q&A with eDiscovery Expert Tom Bonk

Several Epiq experts attended and spoke at inFusion, the annual user conference for Exterro, maker of information governance, legal hold, and discovery workflow management software. We spoke with Tom Bonk, vice president of professional services at Epiq, about the conference – read on to get his take on this year’s activities.

Q: What were the main themes at inFusion this year?

There are two themes that were apparent at inFusion, and have been hot topics at many other conference this year as well. One is artificial intelligence – there’s a palpable buzz around AI and its potential for solving thorny technical and legal challenges that corporate enterprises face. At inFusion, Exterro shared that it is making some big investments in introducing advanced AI capabilities as part of its core platform, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they deliver.

The other main theme is the emergence of alternative forms of electronically stored information (ESI), such as Slack and mobile messages, mobile chat, persistent chat, and other data types outside of traditional email. This is not a new challenge, but new data types continue to present new and varied challenges to legal practitioners.

For anyone and everyone who’s working through collection, preservation, and discovery of ESI, this topic is very top of mind.

Q: How would you say the eDiscovery industry has evolved over the years?

At this point, I think it’s safe to say folks know what to do with the email when it comes to legal discovery and investigations. Most legal practitioners are now comfortable with simple, traditional forms of ESI discovery. Past years’ debates around forms of production, whether documents should be TIFF’d, produced natively, and so forth – these debates have mostly been resolved and practitioners are more interested in discussing more advanced problems. Even technology-assisted review (TAR), which was introduced to the industry about a decade ago, most legal practitioners know and understand when and how best to use it. The industry has come a long way, and we’re finally at a point where most legal professionals are comfortable with the basics of applying technology to automate, expedite, and improve the efficiency of electronic discovery, document review and production.

Another encouraging trend I’ve seen at these sorts of conferences over the years is more and more open participation from the judiciary. Judges have increasingly been volunteering their time to get out into the community of legal practitioners – into the real world, so to speak, outside their chambers – to help educate the marketplace on real-life cases, what informs their decisions, and some of their own judicial challenges. For technologists in particular, who rarely get in front of judges, this perspective is incredibly illuminating.

Q: What surprised you most about this year’s Exterro inFusion event?

One thing that surprises me is the continuing gap at corporate enterprises in legal hold processes. The adoption rates for legal hold technology such as Exterro’s Fusion Legal Hold, have been slower than I would have expected. I’m surprised to learn that in 2018, some Fortune 500 companies are still managing their legal hold processes manually via spreadsheets and other offline processes. Although companies have been adopting automation for legal hold notification processes, I’m still surprised on the continuing – albeit dwindling – reliance on manual tracking by legal assistants or administrative assistants.

Q: Any top takeaways for legal practitioners?

There’s still a high demand for professionals who are highly expert in what they do throughout all steps of the electronic discovery reference model (EDRM). There’s no end in sight for demand for professionals who are very skilled and knowledgeable with high levels of expertise in eDiscovery processes to not only share their experiences and challenges at conferences, but to roll up their sleeves and help law firm attorneys and corporate legal departments solve some of their hairiest challenges. 

Another takeaway from the conference that applies broadly is that the pace of innovation and technology is always going to outpace the rate of change in the law. This will continue to create various challenges to solve wherever technology and the law intersect. This is an incredibly fascinating and challenging industry to work in. For service providers, law firms, government agencies, and corporations alike, there’s no end to opportunities to drive change and efficiencies via technology to deliver good outcomes during the legal process.

Tom Bonk is a vice president of professional services, where he has executive oversight over the company’s global forensic collection and technology-assisted review (TAR) practice groups, information governance consultants, and solutions architects. He has more than 18 years of experience in the eDiscovery industry, managing the strategic and tactical use of technology within litigation, regulatory and investigative advisory matters.

Filed under: eDiscovery

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