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Sound Searching

For the past four months, Merck & Co. has been watching its words. In September plaintiffs' attorneys requested that the pharmaceutical company preserve all of its Vioxx-related voicemails. The New Jersey Superior Court judge presiding over the case allowed the request despite Merck's objections.

"We argued that the request was unduly burdensome," says Ted Mayer, partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed and outside counsel for Merck. "Still, the order went through so we are complying."

Consider the same project with speech-recognition software. No human listeners. No transcription services. The only price is that of the software, which on average costs about $30,000 for a 500-hour project using either of the major speech-recognition technologies aimed at the legal market.

The two major technologies are phoneme-based and speech-to-text--each of which employs different audio-mining techniques.

"This is not something we see many companies proactively planning for," Murphy says. "But they need to because technically everything is discoverable, and it takes a very specialized tool to search audio files."

Technology Editor

Keith Ecker

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