It’s been said that you’re not supposed to interpret tone or gauge emotion in an email or text message. However, if your legal team isn’t thinking about exactly that when facing litigation or investigations, you’re losing ground to your opponent.
When having a face-to-face conversation, inflection and expression help gauge a person’s emotion – their sentiment. That can be used to assess their behavior, not just in the present, but in the past and future, as well. With electronic communications, we lose the advantage of these emotional indicators. However, sentiment can be determined with the right tools, analytics, and experts. And that sentiment can be a differentiator in many types of cases, from theft of IP to wage and labor to investigations into collusion. As my iDS colleagues discussed recently in a piece for Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, it’s the context, not the content, that shines in today’s data-based world.
Determining emotion in a single communication thread, while not difficult, lacks any substance on its own. Expand your analysis to a few days or weeks, and all types of electronic communications, and you can start to see patterns. Maybe an employee’s work product is beginning to be ignored and she feels her career is taking a turn for the worse. She commiserates with a friend for weeks via email and text, who mentions he can connect her with someone he knows at a competitor. While tempting, she’d like to stay at her current employer, so she sends a series of emails to colleagues to try and understand why her work isn’t being given its due, and upper management to discuss the issues and how they can be resolved. These communications go largely unanswered, her disappointment and aggravation gets to a breaking point, and she decides to make that connection, accept an offer from them, and leave her current employer, but she’s not leaving empty-handed.
She slowly moves important documents through a newly created Gmail account under the guise of random emails with a new friend. That friend happens to not be a friend at all – but the competitor she’s joining. Her anger over her colleagues not taking her work seriously and disappointment over being ignored by management resulted in theft of IP prior to departure, slipping under the radar because email subject lines were not something obvious like, “My latest analysis on Acme Corp,” but rather, “What do you think of my latest designs?”
It’s only after she leaves that the company notices unusual access to several documents and systems. An investigation begins and that eventually turns into a lawsuit. All her communications will now be subject to review and the success of finding evidence may lie in sentiment analysis. Experts, like those on our data analytics and forensics teams here at iDS, know how to use the proper tools and experience to gauge where emotions have played a part in a situation and are able to deftly locate the areas where evidence may lie.
Sentiment analysis, and its sister concepts (we’ll tackle those in a future post), go beyond just analyzing emotional emails. Not only should the tone of communications be considered, but also a variety of factors like how often parties communicate, communications after business hours, titles of emails, how much pressure someone was under at the time – which may be seen in the language used, and a variety of other types of behavioral intelligence.
Using emotional analysis can radically change the landscape of your litigation or investigation. Experts should be utilized to sift through communications to find patterns or instances that may be intentionally hidden or barely noticeable over a period of time. iDS’ experienced analytics and forensics teams can help you to locate and gather the right data, select the best tools, and perform the needed analysis to put you and your client in the best position for a positive outcome.
There is power in words – how we say them and how often. Let iDS unlock this power for you.
Please email Mr. Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how iDS' experienced analytics team can assist with sentiment analysis & other data analytics, as well as how the experts at iDS can help with all your legal technology needs on your next case or internal investigation.
The opinions reflected in this post are solely those of the author, are for educational purposes to provide general information, and do not necessarily represent the views of iDiscovery Solutions (iDS), nor any current or former employee of iDS. Moreover, any references to specific litigation or investigation work or findings are fact-specific. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice.
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