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E-Discovery Unfiltered and Understanding Innovation Velocity

By Ari Kaplan with Victoria Blake.


Ari Kaplan interviews Victoria Blake, the Senior Director of Product at Zapproved, a cloud-based software company that builds e-discovery tools for corporate legal from legal holds through processing and review.

Ari Kaplan

Tell us about your background in your role at Zapproved.


Victoria Blake

I have worked with software companies for about 15 years, largely in product roles. I am passionate about the intersection between the “why” of software, the needs that software is trying to solve, and the “how,” which is the engineering itself. I really find that area endlessly fascinating. I've been at Zapproved for about a year and a half. I arrived in June of 2019 in the middle of building out ZDiscovery, our platform that spans the stages of the EDRM. Zapproved is mostly known for its legal hold technology, but we also have this powerful ingestion and review tool powered by Nuix. We brought all that goodness under one matter centric workflow. I think that we are solving the right needs at the right time.


Ari Kaplan

How has the pandemic impacted the way legal teams manage litigation?

Victoria Blake

The steps of litigation and e-discovery are largely the same. We are not saying that the litigation workflow itself is changing because it is really about the environment in which that workflow is happening. Zapproved focuses on corporate legal, and we are deeply tied into the pain points and pressure points that our customers are experiencing inside of the corporate ecosystem. What we've been hearing from our customers more than anything else is that the pandemic is putting a strain on the relationship with IT, which has a long list of priorities it needs to get through to serve the needs of the business. While legal is part of those needs, they might not be at the top of IT’s list. When you add the pandemic and the move to remote work, the IT priority list has become longer. This might accelerate a trend that we're already seeing, which is the creation of a specific legal IT role.


Ari Kaplan

Are you seeing changes in how users apply your software in the current climate to adapt?


Victoria Blake

We look at basic interaction patterns and product usage statistics to ensure that we are hitting our core needs. In March, we saw about a 20% drop in the number of holds that were going out and about the same decrease in the amount of data being ingested. Three or four weeks later, however, we saw about a 120% increase and the trend has been pointing up since then so we haven't seen a change in the application of the tool, other than an uptick in use.


Ari Kaplan

What should litigants ultimately understand about e-discovery?


Victoria Blake

The first thing to recognize is that e-discovery is not a single problem to solve. The EDRM makes things look very linear, but there is not a single problem. Rather, it is a series of smaller problems that require a balance of people, process, and tools. At Zapproved, we don't see a world where in-house teams do everything that a single matter requires. Our vision is to help in-house teams manage the bulk of their matters from legal holds through processing, review, and production, making it easy to work with outside counsel. It is not an “either/or,” it is an “and.” I think that Zapproved strikes that critical balance because it is an easy to use tool that allows companies to bring more e-discovery in-house and save money by moving away from the billable hour. It also allows our users to reduce data volumes when outside counsel is needed.


Ari Kaplan

When I spoke with leaders at the beginning of the year for the E-Discovery Unfiltered report, 89% of corporate respondents and 75% of law firm partners noted that they prefer to access their software solutions in the cloud rather than on-premises. Why is the appetite for the cloud so strong?


Victoria Blake

We are now at the tipping point. It took a lot longer than we all thought it would when the cloud first arrived on the scene. The cloud is where innovations are happening first and where new products or models are being created. I call that innovation velocity. My favorite metaphor for understanding cloud versus on-premises tools is my old compact disc library. I used to spend about $15 per CD and if I wanted other albums, I had to buy them.

If I didn't want to spend more money, I was stuck with the music that I thought I'd like, but that really started to annoy me over time. Now, I stream, which gives me more access to more things more quickly than before. Innovation velocity is about how quickly a tool iterates to meet one’s needs and how quickly one can access the best things on the market. This is where the cloud just beats on-premises hands down. There are two fundamental reasons why the cloud is so much faster for innovation: (1) cloud technologies are making strides every single day thanks to the mighty army of engineers at Azure or AWS, so when a SaaS company is building on top of their work, it just puts a rocket pack under what it is trying to do; and, (2) we can get work out the door faster and at Zapproved, we're down to daily releases. Innovation velocity allows customers who use cloud-based products to change and adapt quickly. The cloud is also elastic as its capacity and speed expand to meet certain needs, and that expansion does not require additional hardware maintenance or expertise. This has all been critical during the pandemic to support remote work and virtual collaboration.

Ari Kaplan

Another key point from the E-Discovery Unfiltered report is that prior to the pandemic, the respondents in both law departments and law firms indicated that searching and interpreting emojis, ephemeral messages, and non-custodial persistent communications were key issues for 2020. What can legal teams do to stay ahead of them?

Victoria Blake

The model in which we are working has really changed and a minority of my communication happens over email. Most of it takes place in Slack and other relatively new collaboration tools. I also use a ton of emojis in my correspondence. The best way to manage it all is to choose a vendor who can change quickly and adapt to new tools. They will ensure that you can preserve, collect, ingest, search, and review all of the emerging data sources.


Ari Kaplan

How do you see legal teams handling the proliferation of new forms of data from the remote communication platforms that have exploded during the pandemic?


Victoria Blake

There has been a massive proliferation of data and with more and different tools being used every day, I don't think we will ever be able to hit the pause button. As a result, there are some really interesting proportionality implications. The two trends that have come together are the: (1) recognition that the cloud is the future; and, (2) understanding that collaboration tools are driving further cloud adoption.


Ari Kaplan

How do you see e-discovery evolving in 2021?


Victoria Blake

2020 was a rollercoaster and making predictions in this environment is tricky to say the least, but I will offer three. First, there will be continued growth in corporate legal teams, including increased headcount and differentiated roles, such as a new legal IT position. Second, the proliferation of data sources will expand and we may be surprised by some of the new tools that come to market. Third, we will see an increased sensitivity to security and corporations will want to audit more of their vendors to ensure that they meet key security standards.

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the

legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at http://www.ReinventingProfessionals.com.


Listen to this podcast at: https://alkaps.audioacrobat.com/stream/alkaps-20201123170055-2591.mp3


#AriKaplan #VictoriaBlake #ediscovery #legaltech

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