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Law firms don’t just need to manage their discovery documents, but perhaps millions of other pages of other documents including briefs, contracts and letters. One way to make it easy to locate this information, for example, if you want to find any briefs generated by the firm which cite a particular decision, is to use an enterprise search engine (ESE).
We are all familiar with using search engines on the Internet. An ESE performs the same function internally. It goes out and locates all the information on a firm’s internal network, indexes it and analyzes. Some can also access external sites, such as news, legal research sites or medical publishers, and incorporate that data as well. They then present the data to the user either as an index (like Yahoo), a search Window (like Google) or some combination of the two.
These engines used to be limited in the types of documents they could access, but most now license their technology from one of two vendors, enabling them to search at least 165 different file types. In addition to your standard text documents, they can also search graphics, PDF files, e-mail and databases.
Although the ESE’s can generally search the same documents, they do differ in how they determine what data is most relevant in response to a query. Among the techniques used to generate more accurate searches include:
- Disambiguitization – This involves deciding the meaning of a word in the context in which it is used. For example, recognizing that someone searching for “Dodge Caravan” is interested in cars, not avoiding lines of camels.
- Synonyms – If you search for “cancer,” it may also provide documents talking about carcinomas and melanomas.
- Voting – Ranking search answers based on how often users select them.
- Personalization – Adjusting the search results to meet a particular individual or work group’s interests.
Each engine varies in exactly what techniques it uses to generate its results. Google, for example, has a product called the Google Search Appliance, which comes preloaded on a server that someone can just plug into the network. Other products have their own proprietary algorithms they use to perform searches.
The leader in high end ESE’s is Verity, Inc.’s K2 Enterprise. It also offers a lower end ESE called Ultraseek which it acquired about a year ago from Inktomi Corporation. Hummingbird, Ltd.’s SearchServer can work with its legal document management software or on its own.
Besides helping the law firm itself locate documents, an ESE can also help clients locate documents for production. Anadarko Petroleum Company installed Convera Corporation’s RetrievalWare in order to reduce the time its engineers, geologists and geophysicists spent searching for information among the two million documents on its Intranet. It did that, saving the company about 78,000 staff hours per year, but it also helped them cut discovery costs. When they had to search through ten years of e-mail records recently to produce evidence in a case, the entire job only took 300 hours rather than the 1000 hours it would have taken without the ESE.