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Beware when Lawyers “e-Discover”: Not Everyone is a Search Expert

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Law Technology News (registration, free, required) almost always has useful articles (also written for quick reading – that rare good online layout) – and some that are inadvertently funny (or maybe even advertently).

This latest issue, April 2008, has quite a few excellent ones, and one in particular that may be funny only to librarians, though it’s a serious topic and the advice should be heeded.

So, in my Consult a Librarian, Already! file, this terrific article by Craig Ball:

Ball in Your Court: Science of Search, excerpt:

‘Federal Magistrate Judge John Facciola is a remarkable fellow. He hails from Brooklyn, wears bow ties, knows the Bruce Springsteen songbook by heart and doesn’t hesitate to bring the White House to heel when the administration gets sloppy in its electronic evidence preservation. But his most heretical act may be his observation in United States v. O’Keefe, No. 06-249 (D.D.C. Feb. 18, 2008), that keyword search of electronically stored information is a topic “clearly beyond the ken of a layman.” By a layman, he means any lawyer or judge who isn’t an expert in computer technology, statistics and linguistics.

Facciola adds that, given the complexity of the science of search, “[F]or lawyers and judges to dare opine that a certain search term or terms would be more likely to produce information than [other] terms . . . is truly to go where angels fear to tread.”… ’ Read full article (and others) here (registration, free, required).

(Hmmm, maybe the next time a lawyer hands you a 5-figure bill for e-discovery, you might want ask to see their search strategy 🙂

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