3 Ways I Help My Clients Identify Alternative Data Sources

Published on December 5, 2019

Zef Deda

Zef Deda is a business development manager at Acorn Legal Solutions. An e-discovery thought leader working with Am Law 100 firms and corporate legal departments, Zef plays a key role in leveraging his knowledge of advanced technology and phased project plans in helping clients solve complex issues. Zef positions himself as a collaborative thought partner to ensure the best outcomes through his understanding of his client’s problems, their end goals, and working closely with them to identify and ensure the best possible outcomes.

The simple days of email and phone calls are far behind us. Now businesses have moved toward chat applications such as, SLACK, Yammer, WhatsApp, Trello, Blink, etc. These represent significant challenges for eDiscovery. How do you identify from the myriad of applications that people use? Especially the ones that may not be employer sanctioned.

Here are 3 ways that I help clients identify new data sources.

1. I Help My Clients Craft Questions About Alternative Data Sources for Their Custodial Interviews

Custodial interviews are one of the oldest methodologies to investigations but are easily overlooked in regard to eDiscovery needs. IT Departments and Corporate Legal Departments are not always fully aware of new data sources that are being used by employees (which keeps corporate legal departments up at night). You would be surprised how many times we hear someone say, “Everything that would be important to this case will either be on email or file shares,” Then, after further conversation with custodians they discover a collaborative tool such as Slack being used. For some reason, marketing seems especially inclined to go rogue.

While custodial interviews typically try to focus on identifying key actors and facts related to the litigation, it’s also a quick and easy way to identify alternative data sources, too. Try asking the custodian to walk you through their day, identify which software they typically log into, who they talk to, and how they communicate with those people. In particular, asking someone to look at all the apps on their phone and identify which ones to talk to colleagues with is very effective.

2. I Run Early Data Sets Through Artificial Intelligence Tools to Identify Communication Gaps

There are still a fair share of skeptics doubting how advanced AI truly is and how effective it can be. From my personal experience with AI in eDiscovery… IT WORKS! There are many great AI tools out there that are cost effective and extremely advanced.

I prefer NexLp’s StoryEngine. With this tool, we can run key custodian data through it and have the software do the heavy lifting. The software will not only help us identify Who has been talking with Whom about What, but it will feed information to us regarding any additional data sources that are out there. As an example, we ran two key custodians on a matter once to find out that they were using Slack and spouses’ email accounts to communicate and share information. This was identified through StroyEngine in a matter of minutes.

3. I Take on The Role of An Educator

As a service provider, I owe it to my clients to stay up to date the best workflows, methodologies and technologies. I attend numerous industry events throughout the year to learn more about alternative data sources. Because of this, I am able to stay ahead of the learning curve as possible and be an advocate for my client. Sometimes, I’ll provide consulting at the outset of a matter. Other times, I’ll put on CLEs and workshops to help my clients keep up to date on what the most common alternative data sources are.

Final Thoughts

One thing I think we can agree on is that data continues to grow at a rapid pace with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The way we communicate at work today is quite fascinating when you really think about it. I’m not here to tell you that these 3 ways are the only ones to exist with finding new data sources. But I can assure you that these 3 ways have been extremely beneficial for me and my clients in helping them identify new data sources. Running in depth custodial interviews, using AI and continuous education allows me to help advise my clients successfully on matters they bring over to Acorn.


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About Acorn 

Acorn is a legal data consulting firm that specializes in AI and Advanced Analytics for litigation applications, while providing rigorous customer service to the eDiscovery industry. Acorn primarily works with large regional, midsize national and boutique litigation firms. Acorn provides a high-touch, customized litigation support services with a heavy emphasis on seamless communications. For more information, please visit