By Tim Rollins
There are plenty of reasons why an enterprise should conduct as much of its own e-discovery as possible. It lets you ensure that your practices are defensible. It gives you visibility into the process, so you understand where you are at any give time. You can define the process and identify areas where you can create further efficiencies.
For many (and probably most) organizations, the decision to in-source e-discovery operations usually comes down to one big factor: saving money.
In our 3rd Annual Study of Effective Legal Spend Management, produced in partnership with the Blickstein Group, respondents to the survey answered a couple of questions that provide some interesting insight into how legal departments can save money. At the highest level, the news is good. You can save money on e-discovery. The survey of almost 70 in-house e-discovery and legal operations professionals, representing large enterprises including over 30 Fortune 500 companies, found that there are many ways to save money on e-discovery spend—all you need to do is embrace and implement one or more of these proven methods.
But where along the E-Discovery Reference Model are the rewards the greatest?
Traditionally, organizations have started bringing e-discovery in-house by focusing on the left-hand side of the EDRM, laying the foundation with information governance policies and procedures and then managing their legal holds in-house. And while that process still makes good logistical sense--after all, you can't do any of the tasks further into the EDRM until you've identified and preserved the relevant data--this survey revealed that it doesn't necessarily yield the largest savings.
In the first of two questions directly related to the topic, the survey asked, "In what areas is your legal department looking to reduce e-discovery spend the most?" Respondents were asked to rate stages of the EDRM on a scale of 1 (highest priority) to 5 (lowest priority).
The choice of document review as the collective top priority makes sense and probably would ring true at any point in the entire e-discovery era. It's time-consuming, frequently outsourced, and has more or less always been the most expensive stage of the e-discovery process. Meanwhile, left-side EDRM tasks like identification and preservation are lower priorities. They're frequently in-sourced, and especially in the case of legal departments that have e-discovery software, likely have already been subject to cost-savings.
A second question asked e-discovery technology users what types of technology they found most effective--and in this case, the results were somewhat surprising.
While document review comes in first place, early case assessment is in second, ahead of collection and processing. Why then would early case assessment (ECA) rank so high? It would seem that there are at least two factors: one related to costs within the e-discovery process, one an organizational benefit that moves beyond e-discovery into the larger realm of legal strategy.
- Reduced downstream costs: "Preserve broadly and collect narrowly" is fairly common e-discovery wisdom, and is the first major reason why in-place ECA can be so powerful. Insight into the data prior to collection allows you to collect less data, which means lower storage costs, lower processing costs, and most importantly, lower review costs.
- Ability to set case strategy early: With insight into the data relevant to a given matter, legal teams can make strategic decisions sooner--therefore maximizing their value. If, for example, you learn that a plaintiff's litigation has some merit, you may opt to settle earlier in the process, avoiding expenses associated with litigation. If, on the other hand, the insight proves you have the winning hand, you may choose the opposite course.
For more insight into how organizations are effectively managing their e-discovery budget, download the 3rd Annual Study of Effective Legal Spend Management today.