Predictive Coding: Mutually Assured Destruction?

MP900385972 Ralph Losey: "So…Predictive Coding…for or against?"

Perry Segal: "I'll tell you what.  I'll attend your session, then give you my answer, ok?"

Heck, even if I had a ready answer, after sitting in on a session with these heavy-hitters, I might change my mind, anyway.

What is predictive coding?  I'll give you the short answer directly out of the accompanying documentation:  "Technology that informs the coding of uncoded documents based on their similarity to already-coded documents.  Predictive coding permits us to leverage review decisions across many documents, not just one."

Well, that certainly clears it up.  If this were The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'd liken it to Infinite Improbability Drive – probably.  Or to put it in terms my mind can get around, predictive coding is sort of like assessing the probability of something being probable or improbable over a series of documents, then retaining the probable and discarding the improbable.  The important part for our purposes is that this is the latest approach to efficiently locating relevant documents – with or without human intervention.

The presenters provided two examples of what we face: 1) a theoretical example of one billion emails, 25% with attachments, that would take 54 years to complete under their scenario, and 2) an actual look into the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, which started at 350 billion pages, culled down to 40 million pages for review by 70 contract attorneys.

A science fiction example was appropriate after all, since the requirements are astronomical.  I was in technology a long time before I became an attorney and the reality is simple.  Predictive coding – in the right hands – has the potential to be a very efficient element of document review.

What do I mean by "right hands"?  Two things, for the most part: qualified and ethical.  The "qualified" part is self-explanatory.  Ethical?  If a party plays the usual games – or only pretends to be implementing this – the entire process breaks down; hence my reference to Mutually Assured Destruction.

My answer to Mr. Losey at the conclusion of the session?  "I don't think the answer is between 'for' or 'against'.  I doubt we're going to have a choice."

Or, for my sci-fi answer…"DON'T PANIC"…