Will Lawyers learn from innovation #IN Google Search?

Lawyers may benefit by learning from Google has radically and innovatively changed its definition of search.

Did Google Kill Search?

In February 2011 Google appears to have radically changed how they define search, the first such large scale change since Google came to market. 

While no one outside Google knows, it looks like Google search is now;

·     1/3 Google Algorithm rather than 100% before February 2011

·     1/3 Social Signals – Twitter & Facebook and other influencers

·     1/3 Web site ‘Experience’ – based on site interactions



This ‘formula’ was articulated to me and displayed here only to show the significant perspective change Google may have taken related to search. 

The old definition of search had degraded so much that it would be fair to say that change was not an option so it may be useful to consider changes in search perspectives for legal professionals who are hard pressed to deliver low cost effective eDiscovery results to their clients.

Lawyers and Legal Search

Lawyers and legal firms are extremely focused on search, but not for the reasons you would think.

Search in legal markets is a money maker though one piece of the eDiscovery puzzle its promise to lawyers, courts and their clients is that it will help ‘uncover’ or mine a ‘smoking gun’ for plaintiffs or defendants.

We believe that Google’s innovative changes to search are a cause for a pause and consideration of how lawyers and legal firms and services providers might deliver cheaper, faster or better eDiscovery.

Lawyers, eDiscovery & Google

The legal industry, like any other, has interesting stories and myths and the mythology of search appears to be quite unique to eDiscovery vendors and services providers.

Electronic search is not solely defined by Google but Google does influence search and searcher perspectives so we start with Google’s search interactions to understand its influence on lawyers and eDiscovery. 

Answers, Questions & Lawyers

Searchers typically have a question in their mind or focus on an answer and seek ‘content’ to clarify their question or justify their answer.  Lawyers may not be that different than other searchers.

eDiscovery Costs & Proportionality

Lawyers are honest professionals and act in the best interests of their clients, though very lucky when it comes to search as their clients pay the costs of eDiscovery searches.  There is considerable RISK and cost related to eDiscovery search and as a consequence the courts have favoured the concept of proportionality to share costs among legal action participants.

While proportionality is a good idea, it may not impact the rampant and easy manipulation of eDiscovery.

·     Do we really need costly eDiscovery every time?

·     Is there a measure to help us determine when?

·     Can’t we use our own tools and trusted employees in eDiscovery?

·     Is any business value created in the eDiscovery process?

eDiscovery as By-Product

If search is important to eDiscovery, is eDiscovery important to search? 

It may be that properly executed eDiscovery projects would yield findings that can be recycled or re-used by the rest of the business rather than ‘throw away results’ suitable on for lawyers or trials.

Search Standards, eDiscovery & Quality

Some eDiscovery vendors appear to be lobbying for the creation of eDiscovery search standards.  An interesting position, though in our experience precision reduces the flexibility needed to accommodate constantly changing search objectives—all searches are different.

Search quality is held up by some vendors to justify eDiscovery standards though quality is a measure that changes with objectives.  To clients quality may mean achieving an outcome un-related to search, to vendors quality may mean excluding competitors that don’t meet their standards.

Is Search a Measure or Process?

Search is simple, we need something, don’t know where it is, so we search. 

Search has a starting point, ending point and many ways to measure results.

Search standards are great if fixed processes create high quality outcomes.  I’m not sure that any form of search standard would deliver such a guarantee regardless of the skills and consistency of searchers.

The ROI of search is usually evaluated by search results un-related to the process of search, so it seems that focusing search to an eDiscovery scenario or outcome may help improve assessment of search quality.

Search, Social Signals & YouTube

When Google pushed past Yahoo in the mid to late 1990’s entrepreneurs quickly figured out how to exploit search engines to make easy money by stepping between product manufacturers and millions of buyers on the web. 

As a consequence every manufacturer or re-seller that didn’t take counter-measures saw their brands pushed down in search engine results pages (SERP) which instantly made their brands invisible to people that used web search to find products or where to buy them. 

The web created new competitors to manufacturers and may have significantly devalued their brands and while Web buyers could go anywhere to buy anything they quickly became distracted by options as measuring and deciding on 2 or 3 options is not the same as looking at 1,000.

Silicon Valley Search Battles

The value of search as initially defined by Yahoo, Google and a handful of other Silicon Valley firms was ‘degrading’ and would quickly get worse as the Venture Capitalists that invested in competitors to Yahoo and Google needed a way to make money. 

A few years later VC’s found an ingenious investment vehicle where they could successfully make money in the IPO market–Social Media software platforms Flickr, Word Press, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

People soon found that they would rather trust people rather than search engine spiders or the advertisers that fed them and the Silicon Valley VC’s happily to delivered Social Media software platforms to markets.

Follow the Money

Social Media would not become wildly popular until early 2009 but the SEO entrepreneurs responded very quickly as their ‘easy money’ was quickly drying up.  They fought back by creating ‘instant’ content or backlinks to manipulate SERP lists.  Large vendors like Adobe also saw the writing on the wall and created or purchased content generation engines; Adobe acquired Day Software and AOL acquired The Huffington Post.

Shortly afterwards web amateurs finally saw the ‘easy money’ they too climbed aboard the gravy train, the value of search as defined by Google in the late 1990’s degraded even faster.

Google then responded to protect the value of its search franchise by acquiring Metaweb, a semantic database firm, started its own blog platform, added the notion of ‘social signals’ to search by achieving Twitter feeds while simultaneously pushing the SEO entrepreneurs to create video content and feed its YouTube pipes and squarely target old-school Media conglomerates.

Search is a technical topic though simple and rewarding if searchers keep the right perspective according to the outcome that they need to accomplish.

Ask us about Predictive and Agile Search!


Nick Trendov @eDiscovery_ @Groups_Groups @SpeedSynch @ResonantView


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