eDiscovery Leaders Live: Phil Smith of Ashurst

George Socha
George Socha

eDiscovery Leaders Live: Phil Smith of Ashurst


Phil Smith, Associate Director - Ashurst Advance, eDiscovery, at Ashurst, joins George Socha, Senior Vice President of Brand Awareness at Reveal, for ACEDS #eDiscoveryLeadersLive, broadcast from the Legal Innovation & Tech Fest 2023 in Sydney.

With over 17 years' experience working in software, consulting firms, and now a global law firm across Asia Pacific, the UK, and Continental Europe, Phil leads Ashurst's Asia Pacific eDiscovery team. Phil's team at Ashurst specializes in the design and implementation of efficient, cost-effective solutions to meet the demands of large complex data problems.

Phil discussed the growth of inhouse eDiscovery in law firms, how the boring became the buzz in legal technology, and where eDiscovery and the tools we use for it are headed next.

Key Highlights

    • [1:19] Introducing Phil.
    • [1:32] How Phil got into eDiscovery and to Ashurst.
    • [3:07] The changes Phil has seen in eDiscovery at law firms and in different jurisdictions.
    • [4:27] eDiscovery in the UK and the US.
    • [5:32] eDiscovery in Australia.
    • [6:16] Why eDiscovery developed different in Australia.
    • [8:43] Using different processes and workflows for eDiscovery.
    • [9:34] A greater degree of self-sufficiency and agility the comes from widespread consulting experience.
    • [10:29] The relationship between law firms and their clients in Australia.
    • [11:53] Growing general adoption of technology driving adoption of legal technology and AI.
    • [13:46] Thoughts about ChatGPT and AI more broadly.
    • [15:16] Potential uses for generative AI in legal.
    • [17:03] Skeptical of the black box part of generative AI finding key information.
    • [18:24] What to hope for in the next two years.
    • [20:00] Trying to demystify the black box.
    • [20:50] What else is coming next: privacy, changing data landscape, temporary documents, and the varying ways people communicate today.

Key Quotes 

  • “In Australia … the larger law firms tend to do a lot of the eDiscovery work in house, and that’s end to end…. It creates a really symbiotic process with the legal team. It’s matter after matter working with the same teams, developing really solid workflows, repeatable processes, that I think then allow us to scale immensely.”
  • “It may be [that eDiscovery developed different in Australia in part because] there’s a lot of origins of eDiscovery tools in Australia; Ringtail was developed in the four walls of Ashurt…. Also, maybe it’s a willingness to take chances or develop or try new things and invest in technology.”
  • “You have this built-in innate trust because it’s a law firm, it’s the partner that they’ve been dealing with for the last 15 years, and it’s a much easier conversation…. That’s the buy-in, that’s the trust that is established straightaway.”
  • “What we have to get our minds around is how can we utilize some of these foundation models [like generative A], how can use that as a backbone to create more from that. They’re really powerful but no one wants to flip their privilege information into the cloud.”
  • “It’s maybe how [generative AI tools] draft a synopsis of all key documents. How can they put a chronology together? How can they do an overall summary draft to a partner who hasn’t looked at a single document during the review process? How can they do witness prep?”
  • “The one thing that [generative AI models] are very good at though is you only need a small amount of input of text to get a large amount of information. From an eDiscovery perspective, for short form messaging, that’s really powerful.”
  • “[For adoption of generative AI] it’s about a defensible, auditable process. You can’t just trust the technology. We don’t when we use TAR. We have to provide our recall levels and we have to go to a certain level of defensibility.”

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