Show Me Your Intelligence Augmentation

Feb 13th, 2018

I want to see technology that works as a natural extension of lawyers.

I’m going to be in NYC next week for LegalWeek, and if my inbox is any indication, the buzzwords this year will be AI — artificial intelligence.

I’ve been a bit skeptical of AI as the easy button in eDiscovery, and I’m not alone — at least two of my colleagues here at ATL agree and I suspect there are more of you out there.

Here’s why. Every day, I talk to our clients and we make decisions taking many variables into account. Some very simple, but common examples include:

  • the impact on the business of talking to a third party about discovery,
  • whether to collect mobile devices for custodians,
  • how many people to include on a legal hold,
  • whether a discovery request is proportional to the value and needs of the case, etc.

And AI can’t help with those decisions because they are not document related — there’s no group of objective inputs it can use to determine patterns and spit out results. It cannot rationalize with subjective factors. I think that AI is a piece of the puzzle, but what I really want is Intelligence Augmentation or IA.

I saw your eyebrows crinkle together. What is IA and how is it different than AI?

Intelligence augmentation or IA is a concept that’s been around since the 50’s that essentially means that we use technology to enhance our cognitive abilities. This article from Network World explains it very well:

On one side, the AI camp believes the future of computing is autonomous systems that can be taught to imitate/replace human cognitive functions. A recent example is Google’s autonomous car, where the machine completely replaces human intervention and interaction.

On the other side, the IA folks believe that information technology can supplement and support human thinking, analysis, and planning, but leave the human at the center of human-computer interaction (HCI). Consider a car collision avoidance system that can help a driver prevent an accident, but doesn’t actually remove the driver from the picture.

. . .

AI-based solutions work best in structured environments where all relevant information can be considered and where the goals of the system are clearly defined – ordering a pizza, setting a meeting, playing chess.

In all these cases, while the number of possible outcomes that has to be considered may be enormous, the outcome can be predicted with a high degree of confidence (and can be tweaked based on user response to improve results in the future). This is exactly the situation where a powerful computer has an advantage over the human mind.

On the other hand, artificial intelligence is not well suited to situations where goals and inputs are not well defined; it’s here where intelligence augmentation will continue to play a major role.

In eDiscovery, artificial intelligence can be built into tools to help analyze data and allow me to drill down from gigabytes or terabytes to a set of documents I want to review. So AI in eDiscovery is really one type of Intelligence Augmentation for lawyers — it is a tool to allow lawyers to help a computer understand what you are looking for by giving it more and more refined inputs. AI applied to data in discovery can tell us more about the data, and that coupled with the other subjective variables in litigation, lets us make better decisions faster.

This topic all hit home for me this week as I was talking to Neil Etheridge, the newly minted CMO of DISCO. DISCO is posed to be one of the main sponsors at Legaltech, so you’ll see them everywhere at the show. After a brief look at the platform this week (I had not seen it in more than two years), you’ll want to stop by and get to know the platform. DISCO rolled out their AI into the platform back in June and I’m looking forward to testing it out. DISCO now includes the ability to immediately activate AI on specific tags that you have applied to content to suggest what other documents may be relevant using a scale of 100+ (the best) to -100 (the least likely to be relevant). I’m planning to do a deeper dive and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was also interested in the process that DISCO undertakes to consider new features — they call it Law Review. During Law Review, the development team comes in and presents the newest proposed features to a group of attorneys and support professionals with real litigation experience called Law Review. The group asks the following questions:

  • Is it intuitive?
  • Is this something I can do without training?
  • Do I know what will happen when I push a button?

The goal of Law Review is to make the feature seamless for litigators. If it doesn’t pass muster, the development team gets input and goes back to the drawing board. The goal is to put control in the lawyers’ hands, and in essence to provide Intelligent Augementation. DISCO will be at booth 2100 and offering daily cash prizes for whoever can do specific tasks in DISCO the fastest. That’s some of the best swag around.

DISCO has big plans for 2018 to position itself for global expansion. You may recall that DISCO started out as the brainchild of some lawyers who needed a better solution to document review at their firm. Over the last several years, and with three major infusions of capital, DISCO has grown exponentially in both number of employees and revenue and become a very big name in what Etheridge calls Gen 3 — the third generation of legal technology.

Etheridge, who came over to DISCO from Recommind just two years ago, describes Gen 3 as technology that works as a natural extension of the lawyer. Previous generations required additional expertise to manage the platforms — DISCO markets straight to litigators and puts tasks in their hands that usually require administrative access like adding and changing tags. Small things like that make lawyers’ jobs easier. One of the biggest roadblocks I see is diving into a platform only to be held up waiting to have a task performed that means I can’t move forward right away. Gen 3 may be the answer to that problem.

So as I head to Legaltech next week, I’ll be looking for how review platforms are incorporating AI, but I also want to know what else you’ve baked in to help me be able to pick up the case easily. How can I, as the partner on the case, be able to leverage what my team has done when I get into the platform? I want to see more Intelligence Automation. I want to see more of Gen 3 that lets me know what’s going on with my data at a glance — a log of actions taken, a dashboard showing documents by tag, and features that bring the lawyers into the data, etc. Because that’s where the decisions need to be made.

Civil litigation cases are won and lost on the documents. There are so many strategic decisions to be made from the initial legal hold stage through collection and review and the software we use needs to help us track and constantly evaluate those decisions as well as apply our thoughts to the data.

The eDiscovery process is very fractured — so many technologies hit on one piece of the eDiscovery puzzle, but few are truly driving lawyers into their data to help them make strategic decisions. If you’ve got a Gen 3 product or are building out better Intelligence Augmentation for lawyers, drop me a line and I’ll stop by to see you next week. Then I’ll report back and let you all know what I found.

Kelly Twigger gave up the golden handcuffs of her Biglaw partnership to start ESI Attorneys, an eDiscovery and information law Firm, in 2009. She is passionate about teaching lawyers and legal professionals how to think about and use ESI to win, and does so regularly for her clients. The Wisconsin State Bar named Kelly a Legal Innovator in 2014 for her development of eDiscovery Assistant— an online research and eDiscovery playbook for lawyers and legal professionals. When she’s not thinking, writing or talking about ESI, Kelly is wandering in the mountains of Colorado, or watching Kentucky basketball. You can reach her by email at or on Twitter: @kellytwigger.