Last month I presented a webinar with my colleague from Exterro, Nancy Patton, on the subject of using legal analytics to drive an improved eDiscovery practice. This is an important subject, as eDiscovery is extraordinarily expensive. During the session Nancy and I focused on three key strategies companies can use to control costs and increase efficiency:
- Process optimization
- Unifying eDiscovery and Matter Management
- Leveraging legal spend metrics
These strategies will help you minimize the time your department spends on meeting eDiscovery needs while ensuring improved results. I’ll detail below how each strategy can help.
Traditionally, companies took a “serial” approach to eDiscovery, first collecting large amounts of data and only moving on to processing once all data was obtained. This resulted in more hours and longer timespan for eDiscovery. But as the volume of data began to increase, along with the costs, a more modern “concurrent” process became more common. Now, it is standard for companies to collect a narrower set of data and to begin processing earlier, while data collection is ongoing. This saves time by eliminating the processing wait time and saves costs during the review stage by reducing collected data.
Early Case Assessment that includes data processing is the key to narrowing the data set intelligently, ensuring that relevant data is collected while extraneous items (such as duplicates) are eliminated before review begins. It allows attorneys to know more about their matters earlier, enabling an informed case strategy from the beginning.
Courts have come to expect, even mandate, this kind of process optimization. When parties receive eDiscovery demands that they are unprepared to handle due to poorly understood data sets during collection, serious problems can result. In one recent case, a company was slapped with $7 million in sanctions when their eDiscovery process did not measure up. Opposing counsel will always ferret out these kinds of issues and exploit them whenever possible.
Unifying eDiscovery and Matter Management
eDiscovery is, of course, not a standalone process – it is a critical stage of matter management. Integrating matter management and eDiscovery eliminates the need for duplicate entry of data into two separate systems. When data is shared in real time, users of both tools have access to the most current information at all times, with no questions arising from conflicting data generated by different systems.
In addition, an integrated approach to eDiscovery and Matter Management provides better operational insight by allowing the Matter Management solution’s business intelligence engine to report on the costs, personnel, time, tasks and activities involved in eDiscovery. It supports a single source view into all aspects of the matter, allowing you to apply Matter Management disciplines to eDiscovery. Just as performance metrics are used in Matter Management, similar metrics can be used during eDiscovery to evaluate performance, drive efficiencies, and share information with team members and executives.
Establishing Legal Spend Metrics
In order to get the most out of those metrics and reports, you should ensure that your data is as rich as possible so that it can be used to manage existing cases and drive future projects. Matter Management tools allow you to harvest eDiscovery and other information directly from invoices, making historical data a sound driver of strategic decisions on subsequent matters.
UTBMS codes provide the basis for detailed information on the eDiscovery process. The 34 task codes that are specific to eDiscovery enable you to segment reports by each task and phase. Additionally, with eDiscovery-specific activity and expense codes, your service providers can capture and report on very granular data about the work they do. This data should be included in carefully created outcome, performance, and exception reports that drive decision-making.
To the extent that you capture, segment, and report on this information, you can understand every aspect of eDiscovery and, therefore, manage them to minimize costs, maximize efficiency, and improve results. The ability to meet these goals hinges on a strategic approach to eDiscovery that utilizes modern processes, integrates with Matter Management, and leverages legal spend metrics.