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Landmark ruling brings predictive coding to the UK courts

Landmark ruling brings predictive coding to the UK courts


Jubilation in the more forward-thinking quarters of the UK’s legal landscape as a High Court ruling will permit – for the first time – the use of predictive coding to aid disclosure in a case.

Here at Legastat we’ve long been proponents of the latest in legal tech as an essential means to bring down costs and drive forward efficiency, and we’re first to congratulate Master Matthews on his decision – and to look forward to more and more use of predictive coding.

The case involves allegations of breach of fiduciary duties against directors of a large company in the hotel and leisure industry. A truly mind-boggling amount of information requires disclosure, running to some 3.1 million documents. Sensibly avoiding a Jarndyce v Jarndyce situation, Master Matthews is permitting the use of predictive coding to cut back on the vast expense and likely delay of manual reviewing such a whopping amount of information.

But we are rather late to the predictive coding party: other jurisdictions, not least the US, having been using predicting coding software for some years. Recent research into a general reluctance on the part of lawyers and the courts to make use of this tech has suggested multiple reasons, including risk aversion, a mistrust of the software’s accuracy, complacency and satisfaction with the status quo, and a poor understanding of the software itself.

So what, precisely, is predictive coding? Put simply, an expert lawyer will manually review a sample portion of the documents requiring review, and intput into the software the relevant keywords, together with information on whether they should be coded ‘responsive’ or ‘privilege’. The software –which has sophisticated ‘learning’ abilities – learns from this initial input, and begins to operate on the same parameters, gradually growing more sophisticated.

Naturally enough, it’s the cost-cutting benefits that are proving most alluring. When making his ruling, Master Matthews assessed that applying predictive coding to the case would cost between £182,000and £469,00 per month, with addition costs of ‘monthly hosting’ on the software’s own hosting site. A fairly significant sum – and yet likely to be far, far cheaper than the human alternative, which also, naturally, would take considerably longer.

Anticipating concerns from those harbouring private fears that a software programme cannot match the accuracy of human endeavour, Master Matthews said, “There is no evidence to suggest that the use of predictive coding software leads to less accurate disclosure being given than, say, manual review alone or keyword searches and manual review combined.” 

If you, like us, view this development with excitement, and are keen to see quite what legal tech can do to cut costs and improve efficiency, contact the expert litigation support professionals at Legastat now. We are at the forefront of legal tech and IT innovations, and look forward to working with you to keep your practice ahead of the curve.