Recently named a 2023 Relativity AI Visionary, Acorn Legal Solutions’ CEO Lia Majid sat down with Jen Doran, Discovery Counsel at MoloLamken LLP to discuss how the use of AI/TAR has benefitted mid-sized law firms and, as Jen explained, has become more “fascinating than television.”
Before attending Emory University School of Law, Jen worked at a law firm doing things the old-fashioned way, using red flags to mark hot documents and issues. After working in big law for eight years, Jen utilized her love of the “sleuthing” part of a case to take on a discovery-centric role at litigation boutique MoloLamken. She currently represents clients in government investigations, class actions, arbitration proceedings, and other complex federal and state court litigation.
Leveraging technology to understand data from initial case assessment to gathering evidence for trial, Jen advises on best practices and collaborates with case teams to deploy strategies that will achieve clients’ desired goals and outcomes. Her expertise in eDiscovery, information governance, and data protection has enabled Jen to assist clients including commercial banks, a Fortune 100 insurance conglomerate, a global personal care product company, and Fortune 100 executives with complex matters.
Need for Dedicated Discovery Resources
Lia Majid: “So you specialized in eDiscovery at a large firm, and then you came over to a lit boutique at MoloLamken. How did you make that transition? What prompted you to take an eDiscovery role with MoloLamken?”
Jen Doran: “I really was drawn to the fact that MoloLamken dedicated specific resources to developing their discovery practice. They carved out roles in multiple offices for discovery counsel, and what you may have heard about our lit boutique is that we’re known to “punch above our weight.” We come in sometimes mid-stream to very complex, sophisticated matters and we have to get our arms around a large amount of data very fast. So, I really liked coming to a place that knew that if you’re going to play ball at that level, you need to have folks who dedicate their time to understanding how to do that effectively.”
Lia Majid: “Do you think that it’s common for firms of MoloLamken’s size or footprint to have dedicated discovery resources?”
Jen Doran: “More often than not, I have seen the opposite, where associates are tasked with a large portion of the discovery work. That results in some unhappiness for multiple people – the team, the attorney, and the client. The attorney is not developing the skills they truly want to master most to develop their practice, and clients are paying exorbitant rates for review that may not have needed to be performed in that fashion.”
Artificial Intelligence: The Whole Arsenal or the Silver Bullet?
Discovery isn’t always easy – and due to its changing nature, it can feel nearly impossible to navigate AI/TAR without a dedicated discovery counsel or a trusted vendor for support. While AI tools may be challenging to navigate, they have been a cornerstone for MoloLamken’s success in providing time and cost savings to clients.
Lia Majid: “Do you use a lot of AI tools when you’re working on your discovery projects?”
Jen Doran: “Active learning and artificial intelligence can be great tools for prioritization; understanding and making sure that you get to the hottest materials first. If you tee up a mediation, you might even be able to resolve the case before millions of dollars of client money are spent on taking it further and that’s only because you had the key facts in hand right away. What I think is really cool is we are moving into a phase where we have sentiment analysis now and the machine will know to provide you with documents that might tell you how this person had developed a motive and give a feeling for some of the allegations that you’re trying to understand or build.”
Despite the obvious positive changes that Jen has found through using AI for discovery, it is still something that other team members or clients may not understand or find as valuable.
Lia Majid: “How is it easiest for you to sell AI to your other attorneys at your law firm and explain it to your clients so they feel more comfortable adopting it?”
Jen Doran: “What I like to tell them is that this will really help us improve the accuracy of our product. If we know that a certain document with a high responsiveness score might’ve been coded as non-responsive, we know to look at those in particular. We can spend more of our time on difficult privilege calls or further review discussions because we aren’t engaging in constant rework of documents. Artificial intelligence has made us able to reduce the time that we spend laying a second pair of eyes, a third pair of eyes, a fourth pair of eyes on a document, and allows us to really focus on making sure we understand what the most important information is.”
Lia Majid: “It sounds like what you’re saying is that AI is a tool in your arsenal, but not the silver bullet, so you need an eDiscovery expert to put all the pieces together and apply it to the specific situation of the case.”
Jen Doran: “Anyone who is familiar with the tools is required to know what its limitations are. We all know about the model rules of professional conduct that tell us our duty of competence – that we are required to – if not understand the technology – then at least bring on an expert or collaborate with someone who does understand the technology. You cannot ignore the technology available because then you are doing a disservice to your client. It is here to stay, and it is not something where we can stick our head in the sand and ignore it to do things the old-fashioned way, because it will not work, and you may get in trouble.”
Staying Ahead of the Curve – Changes in AI in Recent Years
Lia Majid: “How have you seen AI change your practice of eDiscovery in the years that you’ve been practicing [in eDiscovery] so far?”
Jen Doran: “We are moving into an era where we have more mobile communications and chat communications. Users don’t even seem to talk on email as much as they used to because they have other applications that are faster, more immediate, and more casual. And so, using these tools, we can sometimes understand more of the sentiments behind what people are actually trying to convey. We can perform better quality control because the volume of documents has increased so exponentially. We’re able to look at what a responsiveness rank might be and determine whether documents need to be corrected.”
Lia Majid: “So you’re using AI for quality control now, in addition to prioritizing which document should be reviewed? Do you think that trend is going to continue? Or do you see AI broadening how it affects the discovery practice?”
Jen Doran: “I think that now folks are more concerned with whether generative AI is going to take on the role of understanding what information is being fed into it and providing responses like: ‘Tell me what’s in these documents. I gave you 1,000 emails, tell me what’s in there.’ People are wondering if lawyers are even going to be needed anymore because now, we have machines. What’s going to be really important is, instead of having just a few individuals in the industry who are really invested and engaged in this subject matter, it’s going to become a more uniform and requisite part of day-to-day life. Just like in the early days, electronic Bates Stamping was novel and now it’s routine. Active learning, and all the different methods that we have now to incorporate artificial intelligence are also going to become somewhat rote.”
Lia Majid: “Given the breadth of expertise required for eDiscovery, do you think it makes sense for all firms to have an eDiscovery expert on staff?”
Jen Doran: “In a perfect world I would say that, yes, every entity in the WORLD should have an eDiscovery counsel! However, that’s not necessarily always appropriate. The legal field is unique in having such a high-quality availability of vendors who really know their stuff inside out, acting as outside consultants who can come in on a matter-by-matter basis and assist firms, depending on their size and their needs, with what they have to accomplish. So, in that respect, it’s very feasible and reasonable that some firms might be able to turn to a vendor for that purpose.”
As data volumes only continue to spiral upward, Jen’s predictions may be correct, as there is only more and more data that will need to be collected, with an already disproportionate lack of personnel who are interested and capable of completing this type of work. Similarly, not all organizations have the option to use high-powered eDiscovery technology due to budgetary concerns, which is why Jen is also a proud supporter of Relativity’s Justice for Change program.
Access to eDiscovery For All – MoloLamken’s Justice for Change Partnership
Justice for Change is a cornerstone of Acorn’s work as it allows the team to provide Relativity access to organizations that are making a positive impact through cases related to racial and social injustice.
Lia Majid: “You specifically and your firm also are involved in Relativity’s Justice for Change program. When you think about Justice for Change, what does it mean to you?”
Jen Doran: “What really struck me about the Justice for Change program is that it went beyond your traditional understanding of what pro bono work means. We understand that many firms have pro bono practices where they dedicate time and resources to helping those who might not otherwise be able to engage a high-powered law firm. But the difference with Relativity’s Justice for Change program is that it specifically targets individuals who might not otherwise have the ability to incorporate the tools required to pursue litigation.”
Lia Majid: “A lot of people don’t think about the data aspect of pro bono work because data can be used as a tool. Document dumps are a strategy that some attorneys use as they try to drown the other side in documents. How do you think Justice for Change helps take away the advantage of those with access to resources that are engaging in document dump strategies?”
Jen Doran: “There sometimes will be calls for pro bono lawyers to come to airports, or come to clinics or various places, and people are able to dedicate their time, but that doesn’t mean they’re able to dedicate [the cost of] an eDiscovery platform or artificial intelligence tools or any of the other resources that might really help bring the case to fruition. Thankfully, Relativity has seen that need and has dedicated resources to helping those that require access to justice to get what they need.”
MoloLamken’s Tools for Success
Lia Majid: “Have you worked with service partners before?”
Jen Doran: “There are two types of relationships that really matter to us. There is certainly when our data is being hosted by an outside vendor, and they are providing the platform. But there are also vendors who present products where we are fully capable of performing the work in a self-service model. Both of those relationships are critical because I am a lawyer, not an engineer, and I do not know how to build a machine. I love that depending on what the case needs, we have both of those types of partnerships available to us and we have great vendors out there.”
It is always exciting to see AI innovators discuss the importance of this technology and the way that it will continue to change in the future. Jen is a perfect example of an AI expert who flows with the ever-changing nature of the industry and urges others to continue to gain knowledge of it as well. Through her work at MoloLamken, along with partnering with Acorn through Relativity’s Justice for Change program, experts like Jen are well-equipped to be pioneers of this rapidly advancing technology and prepared to help clients on a larger scale.