eDiscovery: What are you paying for?
There will always be a place for hard copy in legal work, particularly in the discovery process. However, eDiscovery, or electronic discovery, has become the principal method of collecting and processing evidence in almost every type of legal dispute.
All organisations now generate huge amounts of electronically stored information in the form of email, voicemail, text messages, documents, images, video and the accompanying metadata. This is far too much data for any one team of lawyers to trawl through and process on their own in the context of the discovery process.
The market has witnessed a growth in demand for technical experts in the field of eDiscovery and many specialist vendors have stepped into the breach to assist law firms with this process. A diversity of vendors is a sign of a healthy market. However, the technical nature of a thorough eDiscovery process has made it very difficult for law firm decision makers, who may not have that particular technical expertise, to assess exactly what it is that they are getting when they engage a vendor to assist them with the eDiscovery process. The majority of established, proven eDiscovery vendors provide a competent service. However, the technical complexities involved have provided an opportunity for less competent vendors to provide a lesser offering; a fact that may not be apparent to the law firm decision maker on examination of the offering or of the price.
Similarly, each vendor has a different way of setting out their prices. Some bundle their services under one cost, while others include certain services as standard that are excluded from other vendors’ services. Without a deeper analysis of the services and the costs, decisions makers currently cannot compare eDiscovery services on a like-for-like basis. This makes it very difficult for law firms to buy the most appropriate services at the most appropriate cost.
This article is my attempt at giving those decision makers the tools to:
- decode exactly what is and what is not being offered by vendors of eDiscovery services;
- determine how much the services will cost; and
- compare different vendors’ services on a like-for-like basis.
One simple way to help decode the various vendor offerings is to gain quotes from a number of different vendors and (without revealing the price, which is usually confidential) ask each vendor to explain how their services differ from the services of the other vendors. All credible and proven vendors will be keen to show off how their services compare to their competitors. If you don’t understand what a vendor is saying, then ask for it in clear, plain English. If you are bombarded with technical jargon, then this may be an indication that the vendor is trying to avoid a clear-cut comparison between their services and the services of their competitors.
In addition to making sure a vendor communicates their services clearly, it is important to arm yourself with some background knowledge. I’ve set out below the issues that, at minimum, you should know about your vendor’s offering:
Does the cost include:
- an early case assessment to agreed criteria for earmarking data for review?
- a consultation to agreed workflow and communication?
- the hosting of all data or only data earmarked for review?
- volume costs based on all data or only reviewed data?
- hosting data pre or post expansion?
- all files types or only specific file types?
- any special discounts based on volume?
- encryption cracking?
- processing OCR files?
- offline/offsite data storage?
- data archiving?
- data migration?
- hard copy processing (e.g. digitising hard written comments on an agreement)?
- consultation and technical support?
- full or limited metadata mining?
- best practice information security protocols?
- a cap on the volume of data ingested over a period of time?
Having a clear understanding of at least the issues I’ve set out above, and making your vendor explain and justify their services, will equip you to select the service that is the most appropriate for your organisation’s needs.
At LitSupport we are proud of our services. We are happy to clearly explain in plain English exactly what our service includes and exactly how much each component costs. We believe that it’s good for business to provide our clients with the most appropriate, cost-effective service. This means that we’re happy to help you avoid paying for services that you don’t need. We’re also keen to explain how, and in what way, our services compare with other vendors. Making vendors compare and contrast their services with their competitors will help raise the standard of the eDiscovery services and the way they are offered across the board.