‘Search’ is the Word

We’ve added something new to the Catalyst blog. You may have noticed it: a new word in the blog’s name. The word is “search.” Adding a single word may seem like a subtle change, but we see it as momentous. Let me explain.

We’ve been blogging for more than a year and watched as our readership has grown both in the United States and around the world. We’ve made new friends and had opportunities to give shout-outs to our favorite people and writers elsewhere as well. We have been flattered to have received the attention of revered sources such as the Wall Street Journal, the ABA Journal, Forbes, Law.com, Above the Law, and many of the top bloggers in our space.

Recently, I had a chance to meet with Bob Ambrogi, our communications director. Preparing for that meeting, I got to thinking about our purpose in writing what we called the Catalyst E-Discovery Blog. Something didn’t seem right about our focus.

While e-discovery is an important topic for trial lawyers and legal professionals, it covers a lot of ground. With our small band of merry writers, having day jobs to boot, we couldn’t hope to address that broad waterfront. Nor would we want to. Many others are already doing a good job of covering the growing e-discovery space.

Then it hit me, probably that morning in the shower where most of the lightning bolts strike. “We need to focus on search,” I said to myself. Search is at the heart of the e-discovery process and search is what gets us up to go to work. After all, Catalyst is primarily a search company. Just about everything we develop is built around search and what we harvest from search.

So, search is the word, at least from our perspective. With digital content growing like Topsy, legal teams don’t have a prayer of reviewing it all. Shoot, you can’t hope to review even a small percentage of what people are collecting these days. Without search, we would be in a world of hurt, at least for e-discovery.

Not only is search the word, it is also the law. I still recall reading the decisions in U.S. v. O’Keefe and Victor Stanley v. Creative Pipe Inc. U.S. Magistrate Judges John M. Facciola and Paul W. Grimm were attempting to send a radical message, one that sure caught my attention. “Search matters,” they said, backing that up with their rulings. If you don’t do search right, you are going to miss something important. If what you miss happens to be privileged material or something you should have produced to the other side, there will be consequences. Privilege may be revoked. Sanctions may be issued. Pay attention people!

I did. Shortly after reading those decisions, I started talking about how we at Catalyst might up our game. For more than a decade, we have provided one of the most powerful search engines in the industry. Still, we assumed our attorney users would do the heavy lifting. Not so, said Magistrates Facciola and Grimm. Search “is clearly beyond the ken of a layman,” not to mention of lawyers and judges, Magistrate Facciola cautioned in O’Keefe. What do they know about search? For that matter, what do any of us know other than what we learned using Lexis and Westlaw?

So, I rounded up some of the smartest people I know and formed the Catalyst Search and Analytics Consulting group. Their mission was to focus on honing search skills and to help our partners and clients get better at what they were doing. Best practices, tips for making privilege searches more effective and sampling techniques will all be featured in this blog.

We also brought in serious scientists with backgrounds in statistics, mathematics and deep-text mining. On top of that, we got involved with leading search think tanks, like The Center for Intelligent Systems and Machine Learning (CISML) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Bruce Keifer, our director of research and development, and I even presented the keynote on advanced mathematical and statistical search techniques at Text Mining 2010, the annual workshop held in conjunction with the 2010 SIAM International Conference on Data Mining. We wanted to attend both to show them what we are doing and to solicit ideas to advance our own research. You will see that work discussed these blog pages.

Dedicating this Blog to Search

Search is everything in our world. When you log in, we are running a search against our security database. When you look at folders or document collections, we are searching to get their contents. When you click on the “More Like This” link, we are running an even more complex search. Clustering, predictive coding and email conversations are all defined by search. Some of it is about key words but, increasingly, more of it is about mathematics. Indeed, even if most don’t realize it, search engines are not really searching for words. Everything is hashed and turned into numbers beneath the surface. Ultimately, it is all ones and zeros.

This blog is dedicated to search. We hope to chronicle the developing law of search and make it practical and understandable for lawyers and other legal professionals. What are these cases saying and what do the judges want from us? I can’t promise perfect clarity here but we will sure try and make sense of these often differing decisions. Where logic can’t be found, we will say that too. At the very least, we will offer the “Catalyst Take” on what the courts are serving up.

We mean to go beyond the law here. Our goal is to provide tips, techniques and best practices for all kinds of searches—from privilege to production. After all, the stakes are high in the legal profession. Do this stuff wrong and you may be facing waiver of privilege, adverse inferences or even monetary sanctions. That’s bad news for you, your partners and your malpractice carrier. Your clients won’t be too happy with the results either.

Look for the Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog to lead the way on topics such as:

  • The search cases: From O’Keefe to Mt. Hawley Insurance and beyond. Are lawyers qualified to craft and run their own search methodologies? If not, what should you be doing?
  • Defensibility of your search protocol. What must lawyers do to ensure that inadvertently produced privileged documents will be returned and not used in the case pursuant to FRE 502 and “clawback agreements.”
  • Tips and techniques to find privileged documents. Practical advice from search experts on how to find privileged documents and improve your search strategy.
  • Advanced analytical techniques for managing large document populations. New statistical and mathematical techniques to find relevant documents and pare down document populations to target relevant documents.

This isn’t just about defensibility. We’re passionate about effectiveness. How do we improve search effectiveness? Covering the Yin and Yang of search, we hope to arm you with better techniques to find relevant documents and discard those that don’t matter. When you are facing a large document population, weeding out spam can be as important as finding that smoking gun. Culling the batch to the few that actually need review is important both to keep down review costs and to meet tight deadlines.

Welcome to the Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog. We hope you will find our content useful and come back often. We encourage comments, replies, challenges and tweets of all kinds. We are proud members of the legal search geeks community and offer this blog to our fellow travelers as our contribution to the topic. Search is an important part of the e-discovery process. We want to give it the serious, in-depth treatment it deserves. We also want to make it fun.


About John Tredennick

A nationally known trial lawyer and longtime litigation partner at Holland & Hart, John founded Catalyst in 2000. Over the past four decades he has written or edited eight books and countless articles on legal technology topics, including two American Bar Association best sellers on using computers in litigation technology, a book (supplemented annually) on deposition techniques and several other widely-read books on legal analytics and technology. He served as Chair of the ABA’s Law Practice Section and edited its flagship magazine for six years. John’s legal and technology acumen has earned him numerous awards including being named by the American Lawyer as one of the top six “E-Discovery Trailblazers,” named to the FastCase 50 as a legal visionary and named him one of the “Top 100 Global Technology Leaders” by London Citytech magazine. He has also been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology in the Rocky Mountain Region, and Top Technology Entrepreneur by the Colorado Software and Internet Association. John regularly speaks on legal technology to audiences across the globe. In his spare time, you will find him competing on the national equestrian show jumping circuit or playing drums and singing in a classic rock jam band.