A few years ago (and maybe still) a lot of people in legaltech spoke of the idea of a single legal team doing everything in-house – end to end – with the help of technology. And this is definitely possible. But only a tiny percentage are able to do this. Because let’s face it – even with the latest technology, eDiscovery is a complicated endeavor, and it would take a very mature legal team, including an eDiscovery-savvy IT department to handle every situation. That’s why managed services are on the rise, with law firms and corporations utilizing them as part of their eDiscovery process.
In a recent article on his blog eDiscovery Strategy, Chuck Kellner laid out a really great overview of some of the reasons why this is happening.
To expand on that, here are some (but certainly not all) situations where eDiscovery services could come into play.
Many law firms (particularly smaller or boutique firms) don’t want to invest in eDiscovery software, infrastructure, or personnel, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t having to deal with Electronically Stored Information (ESI). If the document count stays relatively low, they can usually find a work-around using manual processes (which has its own problems). But when something comes in like an Intellectual Property suit involving a large quantity of documents, manual processes or even legacy technology doesn’t cut it when you have a short turnaround time required to process, review, and produce the ESI needed to deliver a favorable result in the case.
This is where managed services come in. You’re assigned a dedicated case manager who can assist with strategy and planning on how to execute everything including the initial data collection, processing, review, and production. They can reduce your document universe headed to review (which is the largest area of cost in eDiscovery) by leveraging ECA and advanced analytics. They can even help you set up proven review workflows to help your team get the facts as quickly as possible. And after the matter is concluded, the law firm now has a relationship with this case manager, who already understands their firm’s unique needs should another case arise where they need help.
Complex and Specialty Discovery
Just because a firm has eDiscovery processes and technology in place, doesn’t mean they’re prepared to handle every scenario. Custom and complex discovery requests are one example. Let’s say a law firm had a request from an attorney that would only review documents in consolidated PDFs. The attorney provided 4 PSTs, one for each custodian, and in return wanted all emails and their attachments in a single pdf, and all documents within a PST placed in a single pdf portfolio. The final deliverable is essentially 4 giant PDFs. Some may label this an overly complex request and reject it. But a managed services team that specializes in these things can leverage their processing engine to convert PSTs into single files and repackage them into single layered PDFs.
Corporate Legal Teams
As I said before, it takes a mature legal team to deal with complex eDiscovery, particularly when you have large datasets and start moving to the right-side of the EDRM (processing, review, and production). Corporate teams often deal with legal holds, data preservation and collection, but will call in an assist from managed services for help after that.
One thing that is of value to corporate teams when it comes to managed services is having a dedicated eDiscovery Project Manager to assist with building a workflow that is comprehensive and cost-effective. When it comes to processing your collected ESI, most in-house corporate teams don’t have an automated and scalable solution. Today, datasets can become unwieldy and with the ever-growing number of filetypes, things can get tricky. Managed Services can quickly and accurately get things moved into Early Case Assessment (ECA), so that data can be culled and streamlined and only the most relevant documents are sent to review. And then there are production deadlines. Services teams can build production templates ahead of time, image relevant documents proactively as they become available, and do a thorough QC of the production to ensure the job is done right and on time.
Besides all of these things, corporations who may regularly face litigation can reuse ESI processing, review, and production histories. They simply pay a flat fee to host the data and can use it again without having to go through (and pay for) the process should it become relevant in another case.
This aspect of managed services applies to both law firms and corporate legal teams. The cost of eDiscovery, particularly the review stage, can be both expensive and hard to predict. Managed services often are billed based on the amount of data rather than an hourly basis, which provides much more insight into costs at the beginning rather than having to wait until the job is completed. This allows you to process your data, weed out irrelevant ESI, and get a look at the facts of your case before review, while only paying for data processed. If you decide to keep this data hosted for future use or reference, then a flat-fee for hosting applies, which is a much more cost-effective approach than sending your entire collection through review and having to pick your jaw up off the floor when you get the bill.
There are many other scenarios that may come into play when it comes to applying managed services to eDiscovery, but it’s clear why legal teams use them. Technology alone can make a difference, but having the support, expertise, and experience of a technology partner can allow you to handle cases of any size and complexity without the stress of having to do everything on your own.