Updated: Jul 19, 2020
e-Discovery markets spanning the globe vary in their maturity. Some regions are well versed in advanced analytics. Others are slowly making the transition from hard copy to electronic review.
“e-Discovery as a sought-after, standalone service didn’t really exist in Singapore, Southeast Asia, and other parts of Asia,” said Gino Bello, managing director within FTI Consulting’s technology segment. “Up until recently, there simply had not been a need.”
A few years ago, having a review exceeding a few million documents was rare. However, data volumes are increasing in the region. As a result, companies are struggling to power through large-scale reviews.
“Five years ago, if you had a discussion on using analytics, people would say, ‘That’s nice, but we don’t need it,’” Gino said. “Suddenly, companies started having millions of documents on the table, whether that be regulator action, a litigation, or an investigation. They now need technology to help handle the review.”
Driving without a Clear Roadmap
Gino likens the e-discovery market in Singapore to that of Australia 10-15 years ago.
“In those times, you had to convince lawyers that electronic discovery was the way to go, not paper,” he said. “In Singapore and all over Asia, we are trying to convince lawyers that using Relativity and analytics is now the way to go, not via Outlook or simple searches within their email client.”
If a party does want to use a novel tool on a case, this presents a challenge for less mature markets. There isn’t established and clear guidance putting structure on discovery protocol.
“Some of the courts don’t have a prescribed protocol on what metadata or tools are allowed,” Gino said. “If you want to use advanced tech, you have to be very prescriptive with your workflow. You have to show supporting data to illustrate efficacy.”
Many organizations see the opportunity that less mature markets present in driving technology adoption. FTI Consulting was the first to use technology-assisted review in Singapore on large-scale regulatory cases, with both predictive coding and active learning.
Collaborating with Regulators
FTI is involved in regulatory matters alongside some of Singapore’s largest law firms. Increasingly, regulators are investigating organizations for alleged financial misstatements and failures, some of which are front page news. As a result, companies have to turn over information, which often includes all communication and financial data from senior executives, managers, and finance employees spanning multiple years. Collections such as these can easily yield tens of millions of documents.
While using search terms to cull large populations can be agreed upon by the parties, millions of documents may still remain from the original document set. All parties have the same goal—identify and exclude privileged and non-relevant information before production.
In a recent case, FTI knew technology could speed up a review and provide cost savings to the client. Simple calculations showed a 20-person manual review of millions of documents would take four to five years to complete. FTI suggested using Relativity’s technology-assisted review (TAR) features to shave time and cost off the review. But, they had to convince the company, the law firm, and the regulator that this was the best course of action.
The regulators were open to using the technology; they just wanted to know how it worked.
“The regulators were excited about the promise of the tech,” said David Kim, a senior director at FTI Consulting. “I have found this to be true with regulators in other parts of Asia; they want to learn about the technology. When it comes to analytics, we have their attention.”
The team held weekly meetings with counsel and biweekly meetings with the regulators.
They talked about the pros and cons of TAR. David and his team also presented case law showing TAR adoption on a global scale. FTI was able to leverage wider first-hand experience from their US and UK colleagues, in addition to their Asia team.
After a couple of months, the team reached an exceptionally high percentage recall rate for identifying “hot” documents and excluding privileged documents with the tool. With that, the team moved forward on using TAR for the matter.
“Everyone here was working toward the same goal. We wanted to identify key and privileged documents quickly and accurately,” David said. “TAR’s ability to get the parties the information they needed faster was huge. In this phase, the goal was to produce a lot of documents with minimal review.”
Moving Tech Innovation Forward
With the completed privileged review, FTI is gearing up for the investigation phase.
“This isn’t the end of this story,” Gino said. “We are continuing to use Analytics in RelativityOne to find the insights we need, to assist the company and their law firm to position themselves strategically, and to be able to defend their position, all while being cost and time efficient.”
Technology continues to illustrate its ability to drive efficiency on accelerating reviews and enabling legal and investigations teams to better position themselves in such cases. Data volumes will clearly continue to rise in Singapore and in Asia. Regulators will focus on the use and availability of analytics. As such, the e-discovery market will grow in tandem.
“Whenever pioneering new tech, you have to go that extra step of demonstrating to people its value,” Gino said. “When you’re facing millions of documents, people want the tools that will make their lives easier. Not only that, they want to save time and money while being able to provide advice proactively. Analytics provides for all of these critical factors when dealing with high-stakes investigations.”
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
FTI Consulting, Inc., including its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a consulting firm and is not a certified public accounting firm or a law firm.
Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the Brand team, Relativity’s in-house creative team, where she works closely with the multimedia team and the larger marketing department to develop and socialize new ways to tell stories.