Head of Litigation Support Services
Why choosing the right eDiscovery Service Provider is critical
Here in South Africa, as data volumes are beginning to grow, law firms and their clients are realising that the greatest cost of a case is document review. The pressure to find solutions and people to manage and reduce these costs is becoming paramount.
A competent eDiscovery service provider can ease this pain, BUT beware of the risks of an unwise selection or a selection based upon the wrong reasons.
In order to fully understand the cost drivers consider the following 4 crucial components of the eDiscovery process:-
- Assessment of the size and scope of the project – An eDiscovery provider cannot give the most accurate cost estimate without detailed information on the project as well as the timelines involved. Remember that some eDiscovery providers have the tools and experience to perform early data assessment, which can involve the testing of selected keywords, custodians, date ranges, as well as the use of various culling techniques all of which are likely to minimise the volume of data to be collected and reviewed. Therefore, at an early stage, informed decisions can be taken by the law firm and client as to the most appropriate strategy.
- Collection – the way in which technology has advanced means that more and more systems and devices need to be considered as sources of potentially relevant data, as well as the defensible collection of that data. Therefore consider all the potential sources of evidence such as computer, backup tapes, social media platforms, mobile phones etc. Make sure that the service provider/platform can manage these sources.
- Tier 1 document review – a good way of reducing the cost of review is to implement a cost effective review strategy, including the use of less expensive reviewers, coupled with technology features, to eliminate non-relevant data. This will also highlight potentially relevant data for review by more expensive reviewers.
- Reporting – continuous review and reporting is crucial to maintain budget versus time ratios
Given all of the above it is clear that choosing the right eDiscovery service provider is of the utmost importance and balancing costs against risk, whilst maintaining timelines, becomes critical. Here are 8 quick pointers which will help to identify an appropriate and strong provider:-
- Cost – the most obvious, but beware that you compare like with like when looking at cost alternatives. Be sure to note and assess any assumptions made and if there are no assumptions contained in the estimate then you would have to question that provider’s knowledge and experience. Make sure that you understand all of the intricacies of pricing per gigabyte (GB) against an all-inclusive price as well as a fixed price.
- Speed – ask the right questions so that a timeline map or sketch can be determined. Ask Questions such as, “How quickly can documents be uploaded?”, “how many reviewers will assist with Tier 1 review”, “How many documents can be reviewed per hour”.
- Security – have the provider give you full details of their internal and hosting security measures
- Hosting location – in these days of Data Protection and Privacy the location of the hosting is crucial and if there is a breach of DP caused by hosting outside the jurisdiction, the end client can face This becomes especially important with the emergence of cloud based hosting.
- Provider’s legal knowledge – of course you want your provider to be competent about its technology but what experience and knowledge do they have of the legal aspects of the discovery process? Do they have experience of cross border challenges? Do they understand the complexities of what constitutes privileged documents and can they assist in identifying these prior to discovery?
- Quality – is essential and you must be assured about defensibility and quality control procedures and safeguards.
- Staff – experience and knowledge is everything. How long has the person allocated to your case been involved in eDiscovery and where? What types and sizes of cases has he or she handled?
- Going the extra mile – eDiscovery, especially international, is not a 9 to 5 operation. You must know if your eDiscovery project and technical support manager is available to help outside normal working hours. How will they materially assist with production not only for discovery but also trial if necessary.
In conclusion, your correct choice of eDiscovery service provider will enhance the service and satisfaction between the law firm and the client and will significantly increase the chances of a better result, whether that be a win at trial or an advantageous settlement.