Catelas: a Divining Rod for your Discovery Efforts

Today’s post comes to you from Matt Berg who wrote a fantastic article (here) about Catelas. Matthew Berg is the Director of IT at Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., a boutique Intellectual Property firm in downtown Boston.  Matt is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and has a broad background in driving and supporting emerging technologies earned over the past 18+ years while fulfilling such roles as software developer, systems integrator and program manager.


What if a vendor told you it could boil down a client’s document discovery production to “the five people you want to focus on first”? Or even better, “two key conversations” among those five people? And all within 24 hours? Sound like something out of Leonard Nimoy’s “In Search Of”?

Catelas’ eponymous product (see here) uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the relationships between parties involved in electronic communications, as well as the critical conversations being conducted by those parties.

And all of that before the first search term or keyword is even brought into play.


Catelas is in my opinion the most intriguing player in the burgeoning “early case intelligence” (aka “early case assessment”) market. Catelas provided me with the following metrics from a recent case at an AmLaw 200 firm in Boston:

•           20,000 employee client, 3 million email log entries were ingested in 2 hours

•           15 individuals were identified as ‘key custodians’

•           80 ‘hot’ documents were tagged for senior executive review

•           Early Case Intelligence Report was provided to the client within 24 hours

Catelas was able to help counsel by defensibly reducing the collection of data. After a quick review of the reduced production set, the firm’s litigation team identified some risk. Based on these findings, they devised a strategy for their client to resolve the matter early through negotiation. A process that normally might have taken weeks (or months) took about a day.


Catelas add value at the extreme left of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). It does not necessarily replace any of the existing functions (you’ll still need products like Concordance, LiveNote, etc. to manage and review documents, email, and transcripts), but it streamlines and adds relevance to these documents, saving significant costs downstream in the discovery process.

From an identification perspective, the approach helps to identify the key custodians before collection even occurs. This early identification has obvious implications for Legal Holds (whose data to preserve). The intelligence provided via the “hot” documents identified can be used to help counsel define and agree on high level case strategy, including keyword determination, interview lists, lines of questioning, etc.


As we can see from the case metrics above, the value of Catelas is clearly up-front case intelligence. The claim is not so much to “find intelligence that others tools cannot find,” but to pinpoint that intelligence dramatically more quickly and more effectively than traditional methods.

So what makes Catelas different? Catelas describes its methodology as following the approach that law enforcement has used for years — linking people to the scene of a crime based on association and proximity (relationships, timelines, and locations) rather than relying on keywords to cull down the dataset. A detective would not gather 500 people within the immediate radius of a crime-scene and interview them with 10 identical questions (which is essentially the way ediscovery works through the use of keyword searching).

The technology Catelas employs to perform these analytics is based upon behavioral science and network analysis. A variety of communications data (email, telephony, SMS, IM, etc.) can be ingested, but the starting point is often email log files. All email servers have these logs, which audit every single email communication into and out of a company.

It may sound like I’m talking about terabytes or even petabytes of data, but that is not the case because these logs contain no email content. Catelas uses this metadata to construct Relationship Maps showing how people are linked. Email is not simply counted between individuals to determine the strength of a relationship. There is much more to it than that — and that is where Catelas’ “secret sauce” comes into play and the folks at Catelas start to get a bit close-mouthed.

Having identified the key people involved, based on their relationships, the collection process (native email files, cell phone records, etc.) can be precisely attuned to key individuals, timelines, and conversations. Catelas then ingests the relevant native files and identifies and tags the priority or “hot” documents as part of its Early Case Intelligence report.

It’s not called “early” case intelligence by accident. Catelas is able to go into a new client, take a copy of its log files, and have Case Intelligence Reports available within 1-2 days.


In the process of researching this BigLaw column, I was unable to find any true competitors of Catelas (though maybe I’ll hear from a few after publication). There are a handful of vendors out there advertising similar functionality. For example, Fios’ Case Intelligence and LexisNexis’ Early Data Analyzer use similar language to describe some of their offerings. But to my knowledge neither uses the same approach as Catelas.


Catelas can help your litigators (and clients) become more informed, earlier in the discovery process. In a traditional model, the litigation process is iterative — intelligence is obtained piece by piece, often over a period of many months. But Catelas is fast-tracking that process to prevent surprises downstream. Its early intelligence helps to reduce risk and provide opportunities to negotiate earlier. The business model that Catelas uses is also flexible — use it on a case-by-case basis or deploy it in-house on a licensed basis. The next time you have a big discovery project (probably weekly given where you work), consider giving Catelas a test drive early in the process.

“When Preservation Requests Are Wielded as Weapons” by Craig Ball

My blog today comes directly from a post Craig Ball wrote this week for LawTechNews here. When Craig puts pen to paper it is definitely worth reading. Here is an excerpt that caught my attention:-

“The rallying cry is that plaintiffs have begun to “weaponize” preservation. That is, plaintiffs are demanding preservation of electronically stored information with such breadth that corporations are settling just to avoid the cost of finding and protecting their own discoverable data.”

Craig goes on to say… Corporate counsel vilify preservation: “The plaintiffs demand that we preserve everything, and we’re spending millions doing so.” If plaintiffs’ settlement demands don’t establish the value of their claims, why should plaintiffs’ preservation demands set the bar for preservation?

He underlines his point with…  “typically, plaintiffs’ actions mirror the same fear and lack of sophistication that spur defendants to over-preserve. Uncertain where relevant evidence resides, plaintiffs demand preservation of every place it might be. Equally uncertain and irrationally afraid of the outlier jurist, defendants say “okay” when they should say “no way.”

This irrational fear is craziness. It is time to stand up and be counted. It all comes down to preserving what is reasonable and having a defensible methodology to demonstrate reasonableness.

The problem is we are dealing with unknowns – we are not certain who is involved or where the evidence might be found, so we take the cautious route of over-preserving… at Catelas we are paving the way in providing attorneys the help they need to say NO WAY! We are using technology to help attorneys present a diligent, comprehensive way to better define the scope of preservation. Invariably this means a rational (and defendable) way of saying “NO, your preservation demands are waaaayyyyy to broad…. and this is why…”

Take a look here if you are interested in learning more about how we do it.

Webinar Series – Are you spending too much on Legal Settlement Costs?

This week I am reaching out to in-house General Counsel with this simple question – are you spending too much on Legal Settlement costs?

Whether a legal matter goes to trial or settles before trial, the negotiations surrounding the scope of discovery still take place. The Catelas assertion is that the scope of discovery is invariably too broad, because we are not certain about ‘who is involved’ and ‘what actually happened’. So we over-collect. Now, even if the case does not go to trial, the Anticipated Cost of Discovery (ACD) is higher than it should be, creating an artificially high ceiling for a settlement negotiation.

Catelas is holding a webinar series over the next few weeks, starting Tues 8th November at 12pm for 40 minutes to discuss this topic in more detail. Join us by registering here.

Early Case Assessment and The Cloud

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Early Case Assessment Trap and today as I was following the goings-on at the annual ACC get-together, it reminded me of our legal industry buzz-words and how vendors constantly re-invent themselves around the latest buzz. No doubt this week “cloud” will be hot  and “ECA” will still be generating a lot of noise.

The way I see ECA being applied is that the C stands for Cost not Case. Opposing Counsels get together and agree the scope of discovery based on the anticipated cost of the “document hit count” arising out of the agreed keyword terms.

Now granted, this is an over-simplification of a complex legal process and sure ECA means many things to many people. But, what we are not seeing is good, honest work being done in the early stages of a case to truly understand things like, who is involved, what is the company risk or exposure, is their sufficient evidence, what action should we be taking?

“Early Cost/Case Assessment” can quite easily become a template for “how much is this going to cost us” and “can we settle for less”.

At Catelas, because of the “buzz-word effect” which tends to make all vendors appear equal, we have shied away from calling ourselves an Early Case Assessment solution, for this very reason. We prefer to be thought of as Early Case Intelligence, where we endeavor to answer these key questions – who is involved, what was said and what action should the company take? We are trying to provide real, upfront intelligence to the client that helps them make smart decisions about the case, going forward. At then end of the day, Counsel does not want to be surprised with a “gotcha” six months into the case. Our mission is to ensure that Counsel gets “One Step Ahead” by providing key intelligence about the case within the first couple of days.

So this year at the ACC Annual Meeting, Early Case Intelligence may not [yet] be an industry buzz-word, but watch this space…

If you want to find out more check out this preso

Lawyers shouldn’t settle for too much!

We are fast approaching the turning of the fall leaves which means that turkeys are being fattened for Thanksgiving. This is kind of a continuation of my smiley faces rant in that the scope of discovery in a case is invariably “fattened up” before the unsuspecting turkey is placed in the oven.

Here’s the scoop: we know that most litigation cases settle before trial. But, in many cases we over-collect and so we use keywords to negotiate down the Anticipated Cost of Discovery (ACD).

See the problem: over-collection because we have no way of substantiating a narrower scope of discovery.  Let’s say a case might initially settle for around $250k, but then we calculate the ACD to be $3M. Guess what, opposing counsel now has a significantly higher “settlement ceiling” to work with. Counsel for both parties then confer and a settlement of say $2.5M is agreed.

In building up the scope and anticipated cost of discovery, opposing council has fattened up the turkey. In some ways Early Case Assessment has become our own worst enemy – we run a number of keyword searches and calculations to get a pretty accurate cost of anticipated discovery.

This is not the defense attorney’s fault, it is simply a consequence of the way we preserve and collect. So again, at Catelas we believe we have the answer: provide a comprehensive and defensible way to limit the scope of discovery. We are able to help counsel to preserve & collect only those custodians that are truly close to the matter. Not by keyword culling, but by actually identifying the relevant custodians.

Bottom line is … don’t get caught in the Early Case Assessment trap by settling for too much!