My first year with DISCO was a whirlwind that took me to dozens of cities and countries to discuss the rapidly changing world of legal technology and the future of the practice of law. I rarely spent more than a few consecutive nights in my own bed and was constantly on the go. While I have loved every minute of this chaotic year, the last few weeks of working from home and social distancing has afforded me the time to reflect.
One thing that stood out as I looked back over the last year was how my views about DISCO have evolved. If you had talked to me about DISCO, even as recently as last year, I likely had a whole litany of things that I knew to be absolutely true about DISCO — and I was completely wrong!
Before you say that I have been drinking the Kool-Aid, let’s take an honest look at everything I thought I knew about DISCO, and what I found out after taking the leap to the DISCO side.
Before I sat down with DISCO’s CTO, Keith Zoellner, I had completely written the solution off as nothing more than a company trying to capitalize on the latest cloud buzz. As I have become ingrained with the dev teams and client advisory council, I have found that DISCO is a much more mature solution with a dizzying roadmap and hundreds of dedicated engineers breaking, improving, and optimizing it.
Each component of DISCO Ediscovery and Case Builder has been validated by dozens of practitioners, clients, and detractors before the first beta version sees the light of day. This ensures that each modification improves the function and user experience and helps build to the ultimate vision of being the single stop for all legal technology needs.
DISCO has a big vision — I hadn’t realized it also had the technical chops and willingness to invest to make this vision a reality.
Sometimes being too good at something can work against you. In this case, Neil Etheridge (DISCO’s CMO) and his marketing experts took DISCO from “Who dat” to front and center on a global level in the discovery and legal technology space. This meteoric rise in visibility is great, but sometimes great buzz makes people (like me) assume that there is nothing to back it up. Thankfully, the first time I got a demo made it clear that there is a lot more to DISCO than great branding.
Rather than using marketing like a smoke screen (à la “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” in The Wizard of Oz), DISCO leveled up their marketing because they realized they had something game-changing and wanted to create enough buzz to get people to take a serious look at the suite of solutions. The adoption of DISCO by Am Law 100 and Fortune 50 companies further highlights this misconception.
This misconception I often repeated in my prior life, because I assumed any new entrant was simply copying an existing platform and hoping to pick off a few dissatisfied customers. However, DISCO has built a tool that fundamentally differs in a few key ways.
While DISCO obviously has the same overarching functionality as any review platform out of necessity, the engineering minds behind DISCO took a fundamentally different approach from the ground up. Rather than an on-premise application, DISCO started in the cloud; and rather than recreating the same infrastructure as the competition, DISCO developed a completely new approach leveraging advanced neural networking. This led to DISCO’s ability to process and handle heavy computational lifts in parallel and in a fraction of the time (under a second).
Building from the novel foundation, DISCO layered in complex but approachable advanced analytics that far surpassed TAR 1.0 and analytics on the market today. Rather than settling for checking all the boxes of their main competitor, DISCO decided to go big or go home. From data visualization and continuous active learning to developing completely new suites of tools that expand beyond the standard discovery domain, DISCO thinks bigger: envisioning a future with DISCO as a primary interface across a wide litany of legal technology solutions. Expect more to come.
In my past life at a large Am Law 100 Law firm, I had little reason to believe that DISCO was any different from the countless, indiscernible Silicon Valley startups I had seen on the floor at Legalweek or ILTA. I confidently told my team that DISCO was “just another software company” that was trying to play in the ediscovery space because I had not yet seen anything to convince me otherwise.
In reality, DISCO is a purpose-built suite that is changing how attorneys and litigation support interact with legal technology. To ensure that people can get the most out of the advanced software, DISCO invested in a service and support layer made up of key hires from Google, top law firms, and discovery providers. In addition to a large client success and support team, DISCO has developed extensive managed review services, forensic capabilities, and industry-leading advanced discovery consulting capabilities.
So while DISCO is, at its core, an innovative software company with a vision for broader legal tech applications, it is also something bigger than that (and growing). The goal is not to supplant the service giants of the world, but rather to enable clients to maximize the benefits of engaging with DISCO.
Industry analysts have called me literally dozens of times, lumping DISCO in with some other smaller niche players simply due to the word “cloud.” This misconception was the single largest deterrent in my mind for truly considering DISCO in any real way.
This was the first major preconceived notion that was blown up when I finally sat down with the technology brawn behind DISCO. At its foundation, DISCO was purpose-built to capitalize on the parallel and elastic computation capabilities of the cloud, rather than airlifting the same Frankenstack of disparate hardware and software with the same scaling limitations into the cloud like so many other providers. DISCO created a fundamentally different architecture to fully utilize the elasticity and scalability of the cloud.
With real-time elastic infrastructure, DISCO has dramatically more computation power to pull from without the same scaling limitations other providers encounter. Whether our data set is a million or 150 million documents, search times and page-to-page viewing remain under a second. And, as more analytic capabilities are developed, the speed and agility remains.
This combined with the venture backing ($83 million in the last round) and ranking by IDC as a leader in the space clearly separates DISCO from the herd — especially when you consider some providers were too small to even make the $25 million floor set by IDC.
When I first heard of DISCO, the market had not yet made enough of a shift away from standardization and towards adoption of cloud-optimized solutions for major organizations to make the jump. That has certainly changed and is doing so with an increasing velocity, especially over the last 6-12 months.
Major banks, airlines, telecoms, pharma and other highly regulated entities are not only now open to the option of cloud and alternatives to the industry standard tools, but they are actively driving dialogue to bring new tools in-house, and loosening their outside counsel guidelines when it comes to cloud-optimized solutions across the enterprise including ediscovery.
Part of me figured that DISCO would flame out like many of the “of-the-moment” providers, but time and funding have put that belief to bed. DISCO has been quietly building momentum for seven years — a lifetime in our industry, considering ediscovery only gained traction in 2006. It is safe to say DISCO is not going anywhere.
The mantra that DISCO is great for small matters or firms is pretty ubiquitous even today. I was firmly in that boat and felt that my Am Law 100 firm with its Fortune 10 clients could not possibly benefit from the same tech that boutiques have been praising. I blame this on hubris and a lack of understanding about the foundation DISCO was built on — and thankfully, some pretty massive firms and corporations have realized that DISCO has benefits across the spectrum of matter size and organization scale.
From Greenberg Traurig to Southwest Airlines, major players have seen a drastic reduction in time to evidence with a tool that can harness the full potential of cloud computing, and are making the jump.
Before the massive injection of venture capital and the wave of adoption of new tools across the ediscovery market, it certainly felt like the market consolidation around a single tool would stifle or at minimum mitigate the success of any upstart alternatives. One recent article postulated that the ediscovery market maturation has spanned four distinct eras, starting with the era of Concordance (2002-2009), moving to the era of Clearwell and on-prem analytics in a box (2009-2012), moving to the era of Relativity (2012-2018) and finally entering the next-gen era starting last year (2019-?).
No one can deny the long standing dominance and positive impact legacy platforms have had, but the market is evolving and new demands and exploding data volumes require this new wave of solutions that can scale, adapt, and innovate at the pace of their challenges.
Perhaps the biggest misconception I had was that, under no circumstances would I use DISCO. Clearly that is not the case, since I made the jump from a top tier law firm to DISCO to help drive innovation. But more than that, I felt like my prior program was too big, complex, high profile, and cloud-averse to risk trying DISCO. In hindsight, and looking to the future, DISCO is well-positioned to support needs across a spectrum of size and complexity. And unlike much of the competition, DISCO has the appetite and funding necessary to innovate at the rate top-tier practitioners need to continue to support the evolving needs of high profile clients.
Being so wrong has never felt so good.