Legal Outsourcing Industry Evolution

Legal Outsourcing Industry Evolution

A little more than two decades ago, I have personally experienced and bear witness to the evolution of the Legal Outsourcing Industry here in the Philippines. 

My journey began when I started working in Legal Coding circa 1998 with then Saztech Philippines Inc., which later became SPI Incorporated, then rebranded to SPI Global, and now known as Straive.  I started my career in the Legal Industry as a Data Coding Operator and during those days, I was exposed to the volume of paper a single offshore litigation case goes through.  Most of these cases (also referred to as “projects”) usually amounts from half a million to more than a million printed pages that had to be browsed through visually and encode data needed by the litigation case.  It was a very slow and tedious process of turning those voluminous scanned documents provided by the courts into a searchable database.  The primary work we had to do was to look over each printed paper, identify what kind of document it was and its boundaries, when it was created, by whom, who is the recipient, subject, etc. depending on the case/project requirements and encode them into our system.  The basic Legal Coding Processing Stages were: 1) Pre-Production – the received scanned documents were printed in pages and assigned into batches for distribution to Coding Operators; 2) Coding – the batched printed pages will then be browsed through visually and encoded; 3) Quality Control – encoded data is checked for accuracy; 4) Post-Production – the encoded and checked data, which was batched during Pre-Production is processed and now merged into one; 4) Quality Assurance – final check on the consolidated data prior delivery to the client; 5) Transmission – delivery to the client via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or via shipment of discs.  As the years passed, I had first-hand experience of each process that these documents had to go through before it was finally delivered to the client including post delivery service.

At the advent of the explosive growth of Information Technology, we started to see the downward trend of receiving work that came from archived/scanned documents.  What comes next is the rise of receiving records from electronic sources such as e-mails.  This is when my then company initiated a new division to begin handling electronic sources for offshore litigation cases.  The division is called as EDD (Electronic Data Discovery) and even though I had no part on this new division, I had the chance to interact with them as my position in the company has risen from Data Coding Operator to Project Manager for Legal Coding.  I was then given a bird’s eye view, so to speak,  in the new world of e-Discovery since there were projects that I had to coordinate between Legal Coding and Electronic Data Discovery Teams.  This opened my eyes to the future path of litigation cases and on where it is heading, since data is slowly transitioning from paper to electronic storage.  As adoption of electronic storage in the world progresses, the Legal Coding Division eventually had to shut down due to the decreasing work volume it was receiving.  The company hence decided that the division is no longer feasible to further its own growth and had to release the division and personnel.  I then had to say goodbye to the Legal Coding Industry that I have been a part of for more than 10 years.

A new opportunity was then presented to be able to work in the e-Discovery field itself.  An offer to work for CsteMs, Inc. came in which was just starting to build its team to handle outsourced e-Discovery works.  Leveraging the experiences gained in Legal Coding plus previous interactions with Electronic Data Discovery Team, I was able to swiftly transition from handling paper to electronic sources with minimal difficulties other than diving deep into the specific processes and applications that were used to expropriate the required data from the electronic storage and presented into a concise and searchable database that users can now use to perform search queries that will help target records that hold significant value in the litigation cases.  I then went through trainings to facilitate my lack of knowledge in areas especially in the myriad software/application that are used.

As my training progressed, I realized the sheer advantages of doing e-Discovery against Legal Coding.  The amount of time reduced in e-Discovery to process 1 million records into searchable data would only take roughly 3 days, while it would take months to get it completed for Legal Coding.  Other significant advantages I found, if in Legal Coding we had to go over each document to get the data, in e-Discovery, we just have to feed the entire media (e.g. hard drives, USB flash drives, etc.) and the system will automatically extract all the needed data from each file on the media.  This is called the e-Discovery’s Ingestion Process, where raw electronic source is read one-by-one via the system to extract all available data on each file (e.g outlook mail file).  Each of these files will then be represented as records in the database of the system to which it will now run through a Deduplication Process (finding unique documents) to scale down the number of records.  In Legal Coding, this will be a very tedious task of searching all possible duplicate documents since it will need someone to go into the database and perform the identification manually.  Moreso, e-Discovery also options to convert the documents to image files (known as the TIFFing Process) and then perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to facilitate indexing (data is compiled into a dictionary-like storage) in preparation for searching.  In comparison to Legal Coding again, this needs to be done via another application.  After going through the Production Process in Legal Coding, there is still a need to go through different applications in order to make the coded data in the database useful, which e-Discovery has removed entirely since the system developed has already integrated those separate processes from extracting the data from the raw source, to indexing, searching, and exporting it to the client for review.  All of these processes are within one single and efficient system, including exporting to a presentable format for court presentations.

It has been years since I have started working in e-Discovery and it has been fulfilling to see how the Legal Outsourcing Industry have evolved together with me in it.  CsteMs, Inc. is currently providing services of only a portion of the entire e-Discovery Processing Cycle and plans to continuously grow for the years to come.  We are constantly being challenged to expand our skill sets to match the ever growing information technologies.  Newer evidentiary areas for court cases are just being used like streaming, social media, chat rooms, mobile devices, etc. and should the envisioned metaverse will come to fruition, I will not be surprised that it will also become another field that will be serviced in the e-Discovery Industry!


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