Dynamo Holdings Limited Partnership v. Commissioner
In an order dated July 13, 2016, the U.S. Tax Court once again strongly supported the use of Predictive Coding. The case had already featured some notable opinions and orders on the topic. This recent order is a fun read for analytics nerds and newcomers alike, as the Court did a great job of laying out the associated facts and addressing the typical arguments for and against use of the technology. Here are a few items that caught my attention as I read it.
Opposing Party as SME
As I noted in a recent blog post, the use of an SME to train a Predictive Coding algorithm can be an expensive proposition. The responding party here took an interesting approach by allowing the requesting party to serve as their SME. There are certainly cases where parties meet to discuss seed documents, but there are also a fair number in which the parties do not feel the need to disclose use of the technology, never mind the documents used to train it.
I can understand why parties are uncomfortable submitting to their opponent’s discretion. However, Dynamo’s aggressive training approach clearly helped their cause. In fact, the Commissioner’s training of the algorithm was the only process-related factor the Court mentioned when concluding that “[t]here is no question” Dynamo met its discovery obligations. It is an interesting strategy to consider if Predictive Coding is accepted by the court and parties, as it may save you some training costs and bolster the defensibility of your process.
Read more at the Altep blog: My Top Five Takeaways from The U.S. Tax Court’s Emphatic Affirmation of Predictive Coding
This article assumes that Technology Assisted Review is being deployed in a production review setting where the user seeks to identify potentially relevant documents from among a larger corpus, and to subject those documents to full manual review. The use of TAR as an investigative or fact finding tool is a more financially flexible proposition, and the efficiency of that approach should be evaluated via separate standards.
There has been some debate in the past few years about the proper role of the Subject Matter Expert (SME) in technology assisted review (TAR) – a discussion which has understandably resulted in plenty of disagreement. There was a time when most blog posts and white papers swore that SME training was the only path to success, but that position looks to have softened some.
I have always been a bit skeptical of the necessity of SME training, especially when that SME takes the form of a law firm partner or senior associate. While a more compelling argument can be made for client insiders as SME trainers, I am not convinced that SME training is necessary in either case. There are two main factors that drive my opinion here – consistency and cost. Each of these factors must be carefully considered before embarking on a TAR project.
Proper planning is required to achieve consistency. However, consistency coming at a price tag that is greater than anticipated review savings is practically meaningless. The margin for cost efficiency between linear manual review and technology assisted review is thinner than you might think if you don’t carefully consider and control training costs.
Read more at the Altep blog: To SME or Not to SME (in TAR)… That is the Question
The most critical component of the predictive coding exercise is training of the system. The whole point of this component is to separate relevant content from non-relevant content. The point is most definitely not to separate the responsive documents from the non-responsive documents. These are two very different standards. Separating responsive documents from non-responsive documents usually requires not only identification of non-relevant content, but also dissecting relevant content to meet responsiveness requirements. The latter is all too often where the training process goes wrong.
One of the more beneficial goals of using predictive coding software is the ability to accurately identify and eliminate non-relevant documents from the review universe. With that in mind, system trainers need to remember that they should avoid dismissing relevant content because it does not meet responsiveness requirements. I know that has been said thousands of times, but it needs to be said again and again.
Responsiveness in your case may hinge upon whether a particular widget that was manufactured in Seattle was red. If a system trainer then dismisses an e-mail as non-relevant because it discusses blue widgets made in Seattle they are confusing the system and hindering the process. To truly get the most out of the process you must include the blue Seattle widgets discussion as relevant, and likely also include discussion about widgets of other colors manufactured in other cities. Discussion of the manufacture of widgets is relevant content. Whether they were made in Seattle and if they were red will determine whether the document is responsive.