investigator’s toolkit

The Investigator’s Toolkit: Five Technologies Every Legal Team Needs

In any corporate investigation, missing even one key fact can derail the entire effort. If an investigation is triggered by a regulatory compliance violation, loss of sensitive data or pending litigation, the stakes are especially high. Without the ability to quickly piece together the full puzzle of what happened and when, and who was involved, investigators become stuck, exposing the organization to potentially grave legal, financial and reputational risk.

The investigative process of identifying key facts and combing through every potentially relevant document has always been a daunting endeavor. Today’s data climate has made the task even more difficult and costly. IDC predicts that the global datasphere will reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. It is estimated at 33 ZB today. Beyond the sheer volume of data, investigators are no longer dealing with email and hard drives alone. Surveillance video, social media, collaboration tools are other forms of multimedia and disparate information now in play as key sources of evidence.

As more and more people move away from email and conduct business through chat and text messaging, mobile devices are becoming one of the most challenging and prevalent data types for investigators today. Delineating a text message from start, middle to end, and displaying it in a way that makes sense to the legal team is a major pain point.

While vastly underutilized by most legal teams, technology and advanced analytics play a critical role in solving these challenges. Unfortunately, many of the tools that can provide significant cost savings and efficiencies have not been adopted due to widespread worry and misunderstanding about how the technologies work. A recent survey from Above the Law reported that when faced with an investigation, respondents said they are more likely to leverage keyword search (31 percent) and manual review (28 percent) over analytics and AI technology.

Our team works with clients to help them overcome barriers to analytics adoption by demonstrating the financial benefits they provide in investigations and educating counsel about how the tools work. Some of the key functions we use, which should ideally be a part of every investigator’s toolkit, can be applied across a diverse range of data types. Our go-to solutions and platforms help legal teams reduce the time and cost of investigating across large and varied datasets, and provide integration with other tools for workflow efficiency. These include:

  1. Visual Analytics: Visualization is one of the most impactful tools for investigators. Visual analytics provide various ways of slicing and dicing data, examining metadata, extracting entities to support additional investigation decisions and layering additional analytics for a robust story of what’s hidden within the documents. The rapid insights gained from visualizations simply cannot be achieved with basic keyword and date range searching. Platforms like Brainspace, Relativity and Nuix Discover all provide unique visual analytics functions and illustrations that make it very easy to gain broad knowledge about a case’s key facts.
  2. Concept Search: Visual analytics also reveal key concepts that matter to a case. By pivoting on these with concept search, investigators can easily drill down into information. In Brainspace, teams can use a word, phrase or document to identify related terms, and query the document set based on numerous concepts, providing deeper knowledge of the matter.
  3. Concept Clustering: Identified concepts can be clustered together for another view of the data. Nuix Discover is one of the leading providers of concept clustering. By leveraging proprietary content analysis algorithms, the tool can organize a full set of unstructured data into a structured and organized visual index.
  4. Continuous Active Learning: CAL is a highly effective form of predictive coding that surfaces key documents quickly, and supports linear review as an investigation progresses. Teams can leverage joint functionality between Brainspace and Relativity to dig into a prioritized document set, use it to train a CAL model and accelerate review workflows. Nuix Discover and Relativity also offer this functionality.
  5. Communication Analysis: Understanding the flow of communications between key individuals is critical in an investigation. With communication analysis (Brainspace and Nuix Discover offer this capability), teams can view a comprehensive, interactive map of email, text, chat and voicemail exchanges. This is an especially important feature in helping counsel make sense of mobile device data and the chronology of text messages within a document population.

Our team recently worked with outside counsel on a whistleblower matter focused heavily on text messages. It was a high-stakes and time-sensitive case. The attorneys needed to move quickly to determine the validity of the whistleblower’s claim and uncover communications that were relevant to impending custodian interviews. Leveraging CAL and communication analysis via a team of investigators working on several aspects simultaneously, we helped counsel begin to identify key facts and pull hot documents for use in interviews. This matter serves as a prime example of how analytics can be used to support numerous moving parts of an investigation, and begin revealing facts even before the entire document population is collected.

It’s important to remember that using analytics is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many ways to apply the tools. They are not intended to replace linear document review, but rather to speed up the processes by which investigators can find and understand the most important documents in a set. By embracing new tools, and working with experts that understand how to leverage them in defensible ways, counsel can significantly reduce document review costs and improve workflows for high-pressure investigations.

About Melissa McGinn

Melissa McGinn is a Senior Director at FTI Technology. She manages large, complex e-discovery matters and advises clients on all phases of the EDRM. She is an expert in developing workflows in Relativity, Nuix Discover, Exterior and Brainspace to help clients respond to e-discovery requests.

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