When Did eDiscovery Grow Up

By Sean King, COO, RVM Enterprises

I recently held a roundtable conversation with my team at RVM to see what was on their minds. During the discussion one of them asked a question that I’d hadn’t really thought about before. When did eDiscovery cease to be “new and shiny,” and start to become an established field?

I have been a proud member of the eDiscovery industry for nearly 20 years, having worked in prestigious litigation support and legal technology departments at AM Law 100 law firms and legal technology service providers that, like RVM, provide direct service to law firms and corporate clients. I grew up in this industry. I started as a kid out of college that knew something about computers and helped lawyers do what they needed to do with computers. I have watched this industry blossom into something that deals with cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and block chain. eDiscovery has changed so much, and yet that change has been practically seamless.

So much of our day-to-day lives has changed, and quickly. When I think back on what I was doing 20 years ago, I remember using DVDs to watch movies, CDs in my car for music; I had a Blackberry as a phone, signed my mortgage papers for my first house by hand for over an hour, and shopped at brick and mortar locations. The landscape for those businesses have changed significantly. And, while some worried that the profound changes ushered in by Apple and Amazon would harm the existing industries, I could argue that they are even stronger and more successful because they have evolved to keep up with those leaders.

The story of eDiscovery is the story of evolution. It is the story of a kid growing from childhood to an adult. eDiscovery, metaphorically, changed from a kid to a teenager to an adult. Twenty years ago, it needed a lot of hand holding. The parents — lawyers, if you will — were afraid to mess it up, lest it turn bad. And, they went through a lot of growing pains such as FRCP changes, sanctions, case precedent, and technology changes. But the parents have become a lot hipper to the technology; they rely on the books and precedent that are written, and they are more comfortable with the constant changes.

To continue this metaphor, it might be possible to say that eDiscovery might be married. For so long, we treated eDiscovery as unique, a thing to be carefully handled, and treated differently from all other discovery. Today, it is the most common form of discovery and is merged with other things like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, cloud-based storage, BYOD policies, and other mature technology enhancements to our everyday business lives. Like many of us that are now adults, there is no unique distinction. We are all the same. We all work, provide for our families, and do the things we need to as adults. Once we became adults, we sort of blended in with everyone else. So, where is this growth taking eDiscovery? We at RVM continue to see that maturation process at warp speed. Our clients are not inexperienced and technologically-incapable lawyers at law firms. Instead they are increasingly sophisticated corporate general counsels that deal with eDiscovery as part of their everyday business. eDiscovery is not seen as novel or niche. It has become mainstream. And, as many have written before, it is time to drop the term eDiscovery and call it what it is. Discovery.