eDiscovery: 2019 trends in Review

Dec. 26, 2019

For the electronic discovery industry, 2019 was characterized by continued growth and demand for its ever-evolving technology, company mergers, new, challenging privacy laws; and a leading role in some of the country’s biggest political news.

Burgeoning data, burgeoning market

The electronic discovery software and services market was estimated to reach $11.41 billion in 2019 and projected to grow by a compound annual rate of more than 13% to $18.7 billion by 2023, according to the annual eDiscovery Market Size Mashup.

What’s fueling the growth?

The growth in online data, investment, data privacy laws, and the need for eDiscovery technology outside of legal firms are all drivers in the eDiscovery boom.

Increasingly, electronic discovery technology is used for security, and that was the impetus for dozens of mergers and investments in 2019. In February, for example, Open Text acquired eDiscovery company Catalyst Repository Systems for $75 million, recognizing that the legal industry will rapidly acquire more digital technologies to reduce costs and enhance efficiency.

Data privacy laws

New data privacy laws in U.S. states – most notably California – are spreading, and the “biggest changes in eDiscovery may arise from these large shifts in data privacy and security regulations,” according to the 2019 State of eDiscovery Report.

The laws give individuals more control over their private information, including the right to know what kind of personal data is being collected, why it is being collected, what third parties are using the personal information, and the right to delete it.

For the eDiscovery market, the changes bring both benefits and headaches.

More companies will need to make sure they know what information they have, have appropriate privacy policies, can respond to people’s requests for data removals, and have an easy mechanism to retrieve that data. They will likely need eDiscovery technology to help them accomplish those tasks.

“eDiscovery is tailor-made for all of that, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for me not only for law firms that have used it for litigation purposes but corporate legal departments, as well, to dive into this technology a little bit more for privacy,” said Zach Warren, editor-in-chief of LegalTech News during a recent webcast on eDiscovery trends earlier this month.

On the headache side of things, as a collection of state laws, including Nevada, California, and soon, New York, there will be a patchwork of regulations to follow unless the federal government intervenes to provide a uniform national set of regulations.

Artificial intelligence becomes targeted

In the past year, eDiscovery professionals have learned that artificial intelligence and technology assisted review (TAR) are not a silver bullet for all their woes, but there has been an enhanced understanding that AI has a targeted purpose.

In eDiscovery, that means using TAR and predictive analytics early on in a case to make decisions, doing more information governance and internal investigations, and discovering whether you actually have a problem and what you should legally do from there, Warren elaborated.

“I would say it’s TAR and AI but smarter applications of it,” he said.

eDiscovery hits the headlines

It might not have been called eDiscovery in news stories, but eDiscovery technologies played a big role in some of 2019’s most dramatic political stories – chief among them the investigation of President Donald Trump.

When reporters talk about the thousands of pages investigators had to sift through in these cases, they often don’t explain the technology that was used.

“I think it raised eyebrows: how do they really read that much?” said Joe Patrice, lawyer and senior editor at Above the Law during the eDiscovery trends webcast. “It was an opportunity for the industry to explain to the world what they do.”

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