Predictive Coding Going Places … Like Corporate Contracts and M&A

by Jim Wagner

We all have dirty little secrets. And the one I’m going to share is actually not a secret. I’d say it’s just often overlooked.

For the past 15 years I’ve been living … let’s just say I have more or less been a sheep, living among the wolves. You see, ahem … clearing throat … thinking of speaking appearances … expert depositions and affidavits … pre-trial conferences … negotiation of discovery protocols … submission of predictive coding patents … courage …  just admit it:  I’m not a litigator.

Yep.  Even though it’s never been hidden on my resume, the little discussed fact is that I grew up an M&A attorney.  A corporate guy. A deal lover. Phew, glad that’s on the table.

With that said, I’ve enjoyed my time in the forest. I’ve learned, lived and breathed the world of e-discovery. And I’ve been there every step of the way.

Zubulake meant something to me. Litigants could no longer ignore their electronic evidence, no matter that it was inconvenient. Qualcomm was equally important, reminding clients and their counsel that there were very serious ramifications to playing loose with the rules. More recently Judge Peck changed the world with Da Silva, officially opening the door for predictive coding in his courtroom and, by default, in every courtroom.

Sure, there are things that drive me crazy about the waste in litigation. But one thing that I’ve grown to appreciate is that when it comes to court battles it’s quite possible for a forward-thinking side in the right to force change (think about Dynamo Holdings sticking it to the IRS no less). And that when change happens there’s a public announcement (aka the court opinion) to let interested onlookers know that there’s a new precedent, and potentially a new process, that they should consider.

So as I cast an eye back to the world of M&A and corporate contracts, there are some things from the world of e-discovery – like opposing parties pushing for change and public opinions announcing those changes – that I miss. But, to be clear, I don’t intend to miss them for long. You see, the best of e-discovery, the best of predictive coding and machine learning, is coming to the corporate world.

For decades, corporate attorneys have been slogging through documents the old fashioned way. Page by page.  Clause by clause. Maybe in paper. Maybe in PDF. Hopefully in searchable PDF. But if you’ve spent much time in most deal rooms or CLMs, that’s the most you can hope to get. Until now.

It’s an exciting time in the corporate world and not just because M&A is heating up. It’s exciting because there are some terrific minds and terrific companies that are bringing the best of predictive coding, of machine learning and automation, to help businesses more effectively negotiate, manage, analyze and monitor their contracts. If you haven’t seen them, you’ll want to get to know companies like Seal Software, Ulf Zetterberg’s market leader in enterprise-class contracts discovery and analytics, Ned Gannon’s startup eBrevia (using Columbia University machine learning IP), and Noah Waisberg and his diligence killer, Kira Systems.

These guys all have something different to offer, but the one thing that they have in common is that they are laser focused on bringing automation, a la predictive coding, to the corporate world. At Apogee Legal, it’s companies like these that make our jobs easier. It’s our role to understand how these technologies work, and to help our clients understand how these technologies can make their lives better. It’s good stuff, and it’s only going to get better.  At least that’s my prediction.

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