[The following is a guest post written by William "Bill" Hamilton, partner at Quarles & Brady and executive director of the UF Law E-Discovery Project. He was the principal instructor for the course he describes.]
This spring, the University of Florida Levin College of Law and Catalyst teamed up to break new law school ground by offering an ambitious, experimental e-discovery course, “Electronic Discovery Data Analysis and Review.” The course followed the “basic” e-discovery course that the University of Florida law school has offered since 2007, and which uses Catalyst’s products for demonstration purposes. This time, however, the students would get their hands on the data.
The course quickly attracted more than 30 UF law students. The course also caught the attention of the University of Florida Department of Computer & Information Science and Engineering. Two of its students audited the course. (The department has collaborated with UF Law to build a random sampling tool that will shortly be available for a fee download.)
To power the course, Catalyst built and provided the students with an e-discovery “sandbox” consisting of over 800,000 Enron documents where students were able to perform class assignments and experiment with the cloud-based search technology of Catalyst Insight. It is truly impressive to be able to search hundreds of thousands of documents in less than a second. For the students, huge data volume suddenly became a real problem and a real opportunity.
The course featured virtual presentations by Jim Edelman, senior search and analytics consultant at Catalyst, on keyword search problems that featured “war stories” and lessons learned; training on Catalyst Insight by the Catalyst training team; in-class presentations by Catalyst search consultant Ron Tienzo on predictive coding and review design; and a dynamic presentation by Catalyst’s CEO John Tredennick on predictive coding processes given at the recent UF/EDRM conference on electronic discovery for the small and medium case.
Practical Learning for Law Students
The Data Analysis and Review course progressed by tracking Catalyst’s product development trajectory. Simple free-form search exercises soon became enhanced with faceted searches that then became Catalyst defensible tracked searches and that were ultimately complemented with machine learning processes. At each step in Catalyst’s evolution, the class tracked the case law and articles that have pushed forward the search revolution of the past two years.
We even broke up into teams and tested ourselves in mock Rule 26(f) conferences based on real search problems. We also discussed the trials and tribulations of designing a review (passes, quality control, reviewers, batching, coding, privilege, etc.) and then had to design a review using Catalyst’s graphic tool. Doing it yourself requires thought, perseverance, imagination and a certain mental toughness. Application is the real learning moment.
This UF Law course featured a unique combination of participation by Catalyst professionals who dedicated their time and energy and a non-traditional practical problem-focused law school course designed to prepare students for real-world experiences. We read case law but also watched a UF Law Information Services team break down a PC and explain data storage, memory, and processing. We studied case law and secondary sources, but we also learned that developing actual search queries in a real-time environment is not easy. It takes practice, practice and practice. We studied the Catalyst user manual, but learned that even a program with an intuitively designed user interface has power features that are manageable only with experience.
E-discovery education can only meet its challenge when legal service providers offer hands-on data analysis and management experience. E-discovery education must not only talk the talk, but, as Craig Ball has emphasized for years, must walk the data walk if it is to produce competent e-discovery professionals. Hats off to Catalyst for helping to make this happen.