Jocelyn Hunter, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
Jocelyn Hunter knows a thing or two about more saving and more doing. After twenty years at Home Depot, Hunter now serves as the Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for the company, where she works on employment litigation, international work, legal issues relating to the company’s products – including contractual work as well was regulatory inquiries, and leads the response team for data incidents. We asked her a few questions about her field, and how technology can help improve corporate litigation practices.
How have you seen litigation practices change during your career?
When I started, when you had a large case, the only real resource was people so document review consisted of an individual or individuals sitting in a room or rooms filled with boxes. Individuals conducted every aspect of document review and the size of the document production determined the number of people you needed to have work on it. So, large document productions were layered up with human beings. Just imagine the amount of expense that that is, and the amount of time that that takes. I can honestly say that I don’t miss those days.
Over time, we’ve moved away from that model because of its challenges. Document review has been somewhat disaggregated from the core work law firms do. Now, the work is sometimes outsourced to companies who just do this work or some firms have lower cost individuals who complete the work on their behalf. In addition, our review of documents has been aided by automation, which initially did words searches and is now being refined to find documents that only a human being would have been able to find in the past.
This is great progress. I anticipate even greater advances because we’re still at the dawn of experiencing the benefits technology will bring to the practice of law. Untold benefits will be realized from the ability of technology to simplify and more effectively handle routine tasks.
What kind of tools do you use to set up your case?
It really depends on the issue. We use internal resources and external resources, which can be law firms or other kinds of legal service providers. With respect to technology, we use technology solutions we have within the company and we may also use external vendors who have different technology solutions. Your aim is the efficient use of available tools.
How do you think about technology in your work? Have you used predictive coding?
I am delighted that technology continues to evolve. I think predictive coding can be a helpful tool in certain instances. If you look back to its advent, hearing about it felt a little bit like hearing about the invention of fire. The potential seemed life altering. But what’s really exciting is that technology continues to advance, and the tools that we’ve learned to use that have been helpful to us will be supplanted by other tools that will be even better able to help us with this work.
How do you see Text IQ fitting into this trajectory?
It is the next step in the evolution. It’s really exciting to consider the ability to get beyond the specific coding of documents to more robust artificial intelligence that will actually be able to determine whether a document is something you want to look at. Predictive coding is great, but a refinement of that will be able to bring to bear technological resources that, in the past, only human beings have been able to do – which, of course, is fine, but it’s expensive and time consuming. If machines can learn to do some of this review work, I think we’re going to find that we will get to the document sets that we need to get to more quickly, and I think we will find greater accuracy around what we’re pulling. So, for me, the excitement is just in understanding, learning, and anticipating what it is humans can be doing with technology and how that will help and change the way law is practiced.
What are the biggest challenges you face in a case?
If you’re working on a large investigation or large piece of litigation, you’re going to have the challenge of perhaps lots of witnesses, as well as lots of facts, which you have to master. But in order to do that, you’ve got to get the review of documentation completed. You have to make sure you’re doing a factual review, that’s one thing. But if you’re responding to a request for documents, then you want to make sure that not only are you accurately getting the documents that have been requested, but also that you’re not giving over something that shouldn’t be turned over from a privileged perspective. Whatever resources you’re using to get to that set of documents needs to be responsive. Then there’s the added layer of making sure that you understand what’s privileged versus sensitive in those documents – you need to find what’s in those documents that might be problematic but maybe isn’t privileged so that you’re sure you fully understand what might be sensitive or of interest in those documents.
How do you find and prepare for these documents – that might be problematic but aren’t privileged?
Currently it’s largely manual. When you’re culling large groups of documents, you’re going to need help with that. Once you get down to the subset of documents you’re going to actually turn over, then there’s got to be some additional level of review to determine which documents might be hot because other than learning about Text IQ, I’ve really not heard of a solution that actually does that work.