When all the tents have been packed up and the Leveson Inquiry circus finally quits town, the British taxpayer will have been stung for £5.6 million, it was revealed in Parliament yesterday.
Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against these people and they do provide some entertainment. The Inquiry into the Ethics and Practices of the Media has been a ratings smash, in the VIP ABC1-NW1-BBC1 demographic.
But if there are to be follow up shows - a probe into the ethics of competitive intelligence tactics used by IT and telecoms companies would be even more shocking - couldn't we at least do it more cheaply?
Surely, there is a massive opportunity for IT companies to step in here and run the next Leveson Show much more cost effectively.
The document management, for example, was scandalously inefficient.
Vast reams of paperwork are an inevitable part of any complex legal hearing, especially one as high-profile and wide-ranging in scope as Leveson, says Mark Kirpalani, managing director, Capital Capture
Even so: "They could have had a more business-like approach to dealing with any sudden influx or backlog of documents, by bringing in a dedicated outsourced document management service," says Kirpalani.
Too often, having carried half a dead tree into the dock with them the witnesses often failed to find the spot in the testimony that barrister Robert Jay wanted to ask them about. Give them a tablet! It would have been much cheaper and less time consuming to use a scanning operation to digitize the info, argues Kirpalani: "The equipment can be removed after the hearing has ended, minimising the cost requirement."
"Data can be retrieved and shared quickly and easily, giving instant access to the specific case evidence," he says.
Technology could have made the inquiry more effective too. There are plenty of algorithms that could have been applied to Piers Morgan's video conference, to detect patterns in his body language and speech patterns and look for evidence of furtiveness.
This show would have been a perfect showcase for forensic company Cellebrite. If, say, Piers had indeed hacked into Ulrika Jonsson's voicemail using his mobile phone, a UFED Touch could extract the details of this call from the device using their call log. A forensic investigator would link up the suspect's mobile phone to the UFED Touch using a USB cable and extract the data required.
The next process would be to decode any deleted data (if Morgan deleted the call logs to cover his tracks, the UFED would still be able to extract them) and import them into a computer to analyse the information.
Sadly, Cellebrite was never called to the Inquiry. Try and push them a bit harder next time, Sophie!
Similarly, Recommind could save us all a lot of time with its eDiscovery and concept search technology. Leveson has examined 300 million emails; most of the budget must have gone on paralegals.
Recommind doesn't believe a simple search or document management solution would be the holy grail for Leveson's woes. Computers still need human intelligence to guide and train them while trawling through the mountains of guff in order to uncover the controversial gold.
With the Leveson Inquiry, where the evidence is largely contained in millions of individual digital documents like contracts, letters, emails and IMs, the traditional approach is to employ an army of paralegals to do keyword searching, make an initial appraisal and present a manageable selection of information to senior counsel for review and subsequently to the court.
The problems are obvious - the time and cost implications are dramatic, human error is inherent and the chances of missing critical documents are high.
Using Recommind's predictive coding software, legal experts provide a set of initial instructions to 'seed' and train the software. Rather than simply identifying specific keywords and phrases, concept search technology 'understands' the meaning of documents and recognises patterns within them. Documents are then ranked according to likely relevance and those at the top of the pile can be directly reviewed by senior counsel, rather than a less knowledgeable paralegal.
This approach is much faster, much more cost effective and human error is cut to a minimum.
"In high profile legal cases such as the Leveson Inquiry, not remembering or not knowing exactly where your data is, is no longer a viable excuse," says Frank Coggrave, general manager at Guidance Software, "if you want to minimise damage, you must provide relevant digital evidence as quickly as possible."
Technology will soon replace your lawyer, promises Dana L. Post, a senior associate in Freshfields' U.S. Litigation practice. Perhaps one day, we can have an Automated Leveson show. An automated lawyer is pretty scary. Imagine the bills it would be able to generate.
This was first published in June 2012