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What Will the E-Discovery Team of the Future Look Like?

Created on June 21, 2019


E-Discovery Market Analyst at Exterro

It’s fair to say that e-discovery is at an inflection point. As an industry, it has seen an influx of cash. 2018 saw an almost doubling of mergers, acquisitions, and infusions of capital from investors. Big players like Microsoft are making inroads on the basis of their substantial footprint inside enterprises.

Governmental jurisdictions from the EU (with GDPR) to California (with the CCPA) are enacting regulations that put new demands on practitioners, with over 50% of respondents to a recent Norton Rose Fulbright report stating they have to balance cross-border discovery operations with jurisdictional data protection regulations.

And in the trenches, the practice of e-discovery is changing too. The demands on in-house legal teams are rising. For every $1 billion in revenue, businesses are spending over $1 million on legal disputes.  Where five years ago, a single IT professional was responsible for approximately 230 GB of data, next year, that amount will have more than quintupled to over 1230 GB per IT professional.

Data types have exploded from email and standard office documents to include social media posts, instant messaging applications, text messages, and more. How far in the future are data types that are biometric and geo-spatial? Suffice it to say, e-discovery teams must continue to evolve (and rapidly) if they want to keep pace with the changes in the e-discovery industry.

In Exterro’s new report, The State of E-Discovery 2019, we take an in-depth look at the business, judicial, and technology trends shaping the e-discovery industry—and at the ways e-discovery teams are changing to meet those challenges.

So, what will the e-discovery team of the future look like? Here are three ways it might differ from what you’re used to.

It will be proactive.

Reactive e-discovery is a recipe for disaster. If an e-discovery team doesn’t have a firm grasp on its likely custodians, where their data resides, and a process in place to ensure its preservation, they’ll be behind the eight ball before their real job even starts. They’ll be at risk of missed deadlines, budget overruns, and increased legal risk.

Proactive e-discovery teams are already embracing project management principles, as they:

  • Implement project management principles, including moving away from using attorneys as e-discovery managers
  • In-source e-discovery activities, starting with the left side of the EDRM
  • Cooperate and communicate effectively, not just internally with IT, but also with opposition as needed during the litigation process

It will be smaller.

Anyone who has spent more than a week in a business environment has heard the phrase, “Do less with more.” Unfortunately, legal teams in general and e-discovery teams in particular are not exempt from this mandate. The State of E-Discovery 2019 reports that almost 80% of legal teams responding to a recent study had fewer than 50 members.

Just because a legal team is small doesn’t mean it struggles to perform. An even greater amount (84%) were “very or somewhat satisfied” with their legal team’s performance. Part of this is because legal teams are developing diverse skill sets to optimize their efficiency. Attorneys on teams specialize in a variety of roles including litigation, contracts, and relationship management. Meanwhile, legal teams are adding IT professionals to support operations like e-discovery, with fully 36% having dedicated IT resources on their team.

It will embrace technology.

And perhaps it goes without saying, but technology plays a huge role in ensuring that these smaller, proactive legal teams are able to function effectively. Technology continues to be the great equalizer in matters of e-discovery.

E-Discovery teams are adopting more and more tools to get their work done. The average legal department uses 3.5 dedicated legal software tools. 75% of professionals agree that new technology makes their job easier—and 50% agree that the technologies being introduced are now made for legal professionals, rather than IT specialists.

The most popular tools by legal teams include both legal hold technology and e-discovery data collection and processing (as well as document management, e-billing, and matter management). Moving away from point tools for a holistic e-discovery technology platform, which minimizes the risks and delays inherent to data transfers, can point the way toward an even more efficient future.

Find out more about what’s happening today in e-discovery by downloading Exterro’s newest report, The State of E-Discovery 2019.