Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software

When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” — providing documents relevant to a lawsuit — the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for a platoon of lawyers and paralegals who worked for months at high hourly rates.

But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif. helped analyze 1.5 million documents

for less than $100,000.

Searching for Patterns MARCH 4, 2011

Smarter Than You Think: Rock-Paper-Scissors: You vs. the Computer OCT. 7, 2010

Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.


“It’s a means of showing who leaked information, who’s influential,” said Elizabeth Charnock, founder of Cataphora, an information-sifting company. Credit B


Category: Computer Science

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