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Streaming at the Edge of the Law

One of this year’s themes at the South by Southwest (SxSW) festival is “Surviving the Shift: Rethinking Music and Data.” The music industry is transforming itself as the trend in buying music shifts from digital download to streaming. Consumers now have the ability to listen to almost any song or album by subscribing to a service like Spotify. While this access to unlimited music is a boon to listeners, it is reshaping the required skills for musicians to be successful. Musicians now must not only work on creating a great album; they must develop various digital marketing strategies like streaming live shows to promote their brand.

A similar transition is occurring in the legal industry with the intersection of law and technological innovation. One of the hallmarks of the legal profession has always been the skill of analyzing the “four corners of the document.” However, most relevant documents in cases today are electronic and have never even existed on paper. Even standard legal documents, such as mortgages and wills, can now be e-signed and saved on a desktop without ever being printed.

Documents are no longer finite bubbles but rather streams of data—for example, email threads, social media, chat sites and more. Instead of relying solely on the text within a page, documents are now being analyzed through data outside of the text. This is because electronic documents such as email, spreadsheets and presentations exist in a web of complex relationships as attachments, parent emails, email threads, and contents of storage containers. Not only do they exist in these relationships, they also contain a universe of hidden information, or information about information (metadata).

This requires a new set of tools that simplify the analysis and interpretation of data at massive scale—such as advanced analytics that look behind the “face” of the document to quickly and simultaneously uncover important patterns in communications while excluding documents that are not relevant (hence shortening the time of a review and commensurate costs). For example, email threading tools show the progression of a communication in its various trajectories; using advanced search methodologies can help identify relevant documents based on metadata fields; reporting tools allow quick viewing of file types by population; data visualization techniques provide important graphical insight for all sorts of potentially relevant information, such as communications between specific custodians, the makeup of a set of documents so reviewers can make informed decisions on how best to approach a review, etc. With the transition from documents to data, even review workflow tools have switched from grouping documents in discrete buckets to models that reflect flows of information.

While content is still key, the format and technology behind the content is what drives interpretation and process today. The traditional walls of a document are quickly dissolving into a sea of moving links and nodes, requiring new approaches like those in the music industry.

Larry Gomez, Esq. is account principal, client services at Conduent. He can be reached at

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