IST Discover-E White Paper:

Levelling the eDiscovery Playing Field for Small to Midsized Firms

At IST Discover-E, we have years of experience helping our clients with their eDiscovery needs along with full scale legal support management systems.  We are expert in creating and customizing eDiscovery processes that best fit our client’s needs and expectations.  Our model is uniquely transparent, easy to understand and effective in aiding our clients get the decision they want for their clients.

When talking with lawyers at small to midsized firms, it is clear that many are still skeptical of using eDiscovery tools in their practices. Even though eDiscovery tools can make a significant impact on a case, data confirms that over half of small firm attorneys have little experience when it comes to eDiscovery technology, and more than 70% don’t maximize its use.

Many lawyers chose to disengage from the idea in the early days of eDiscovery when servers, licenses and other hardware necessary to build the infrastructure and systems required an onerous up-front investment.  Pricier still would have been the ongoing payroll cost of the people with the expertise needed to make such an investment worthwhile.

These lawyers were and are ever mindful that they face the dual challenge of providing high-quality and cost-effective service to their clients without having the internal staffing and budget that larger firms can support - even though case needs are every bit as complex.  Further, given the infrequency with which some small firms might field cases that require them to perform eDiscovery, investment and know-how into things like forensic data collection, data processing or technology assisted review might have been understandably avoided.

However, in the past decade, consumers and businesses have adopted a host of technologies like company intranets and mobile email.  Because of this, even one single person now generates an extensive amount of electronically stored information (ESI) – from emails and social media posts to text messages and photos. This means that clients are already producing large amounts of ESI, even if the case involves only a small number of parties.  In fact, eDiscovery has grown from an atypical procedure required in special cases in the 2000’s to one enveloping almost every current litigation matter.

The good news for lawyers at small to midsized firms that haven’t already taken the plunge into eDiscovery is that investment concerns have largely been addressed by innovative eDiscovery companies offering cloud-based access to leading eDiscovery systems at a fraction of the cost previously contemplated.  Not only is the IT infrastructure expense eliminated, but the best eDiscovery companies also offer eDiscovery project managers and case consultants when lawyers need an expert to aid eDiscovery strategies.

These cloud-based solutions defray the costs of expensive servers or full-time eDiscovery personnel in-house.  This is just in time for lawyers at small to midsized firms due in large part to the deluge of electronic information originating from almost every corner of the world.  As more and more lawyers adopt the use of eDiscovery in their practice, those slower on the uptake simply can’t afford to continue to potentially miss information in discovery that could strengthen their position during a trial or settlement negotiation.

Locating or making sense of all that data can require some specialized insight.  While there are a variety of new tools on the market to help smaller firms take on the eDiscovery process, the results are still dependent on having the right partner behind the wheel.  Truly, the whole process can seem like an impenetrable mystery to many lawyers, but it’s simply the modern equivalent of billable work that firms used to perform when documents existed on paper.  Outsourced partners can be called upon for a case-by-case engagement or for a longer-term commitment and remain embedded in the quickly evolving eDiscovery technology landscape so lawyers can focus on relevance review and case strategy.

Further, contrary to the belief that eDiscovery is too expensive to undertake, some larger law firms are already earning a great deal of money on the practice and there is no reason small to midsized firms shouldn’t follow suit.  Similar to when lawyers generated revenue in the form of billable hours by reviewing paper copies of client files, weeding out duplicates and irrelevant documents while flagging the relevant ones, revenue can be captured in the same way when outsourcing eDiscovery processes.  Each function is itemized and billed on activity, which can be marked-up or passed through to clients.  In fact, in the 2012 LexisNexis survey: Law Firm E-Discovery Billing and Cost Recovery Trends, nearly 75 percent of law firms in that survey responded that they considered eDiscovery to be an “important revenue stream.”

eDiscovery doesn’t have to be a big hurdle for small to midsized firms; instead, it can be a very big benefit.     Costs have come down thanks to cheaper cloud storage, the capital investment for IT installation and maintenance is no longer necessary, expert advice is more readily available, ease-of-use has improved so lawyers don’t have to devote weeks learning new systems and eDiscovery vendors are more aggressively priced and flexible on how payment is structured.  Even if lawyers considered eDiscovery in the past and found the practice to have too many downsides, they must take a second look now. Many of the earlier concerns have been specifically addressed.

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