Ediscovery Comment: IT Offers Key Considerations for Corporate Legal Teams to Effectively Bring Ediscovery Inhouse + 6 point checklist

by Brad Harris, Zapproved Inc

The Impetus to Bring E-Discovery In-House
Many corporate legal departments are looking to bring e-discovery in-house. The constant drumbeat to reduce litigation costs has legal teams itching to take discovery into their own hands. In part, this trend has been driven by skyrocketing demands for discovery, as well as exorbitant and unpredictable processing and review costs that accompany exploding volumes of fragmented, unstructured data. Legal teams are aiming to reduce costs, shorten their turnaround time and improve efficiency by empowering their own staff to do the work directly instead of paying third parties to do it for them.

Why Most In-House E-discovery Projects Fail or Underperform
Unfortunately, while bringing e-discovery in-house sounds like a good idea, many organizations have learned the hard way that it’s not nearly that simple. In fact, many companies have failed at such efforts because traditional on-premise e-discovery solutions turn out to be complex to implement and woefully hard to use and maintain. Worse, they are often not designed specifically for legal teams. Organizations aspire to bring e-discovery in-house, imagining they can put easy-to-use tools in the hands of the people who are most knowledgeable about a case. However, when the software is so complex that it requires technical staff to successfully operate it, it often undermines the original goals of improving efficiency and empowering the legal team.

Complexity is not the only challenge organizations face when implementing in-house e-discovery. Other challenges include:

• Hidden costs. On-premise solutions may come with hidden costs associated with acquiring and maintaining the hardware to support the in-house e-discovery environment, often nullifying the principal goal of saving money. Additional resources may also be needed to deploy the software and train the staff to use it. Corporate legal departments and IT should work closely together to gain a solid understanding of the total cost of ownership (TCO) required for implementing and maintaining the software so they are in a better position to predict recurring costs and evaluate priorities.

• Difficulty of keeping software current and secure. Keeping e-discovery solutions current can be problematic for IT. With on-premise software, installing upgrades can be difficult, time-consuming and disruptive, and upgrades are typically performed too infrequently for the legal team to feel confident they are able to securely and confidently manage the e-discovery process. This is especially true when it comes to keeping up with rapidly changing security vulnerabilities to mitigate the risk of a potentially devastating data breach.

• Fixed capacity. Most on-premise e-discovery solutions have fixed computing capacity and are unable to scale up or down as needed to match fluctuations in case load and data volumes. When a sudden increase in capacity is required, organizations with in-house systems may find themselves unable to process data rapidly enough or may feel compelled to make significant upfront investments to purchase, implement and support an expanded computing infrastructure – without knowing whether that the investment will be sufficient for future needs or overkill.

Why the Cloud Is the Right Technology for Ediscovery
Unlike on-premise or dedicated resources, cloud computing can bring corporate legal teams the benefits of shared resources. Moving to the cloud reduces cost, offers greater flexibility and provides for sustainability. However, not all “cloud” or SaaS offerings are the same. In its 2015 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software,* Gartner cautions companies to look for “true SaaS” single-instance, multi-tenant software so they can truly reap the benefits the cloud has to offer.

“Although many offerings are labeled as “SaaS,” caution should be given because some of them are really hosted rather than true SaaS. In addition to the benefits of cloud economics and scalability, e-discovery in the cloud is becoming an appealing option if the data source resides in the cloud. This is a new area for e-discovery practitioners.”

* Jie Zhang and Garth Landers, Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, 18 May 2015.

As mentioned by Gartner, a “true SaaS” solution is a single-instance multi-tenant solution. This means that there is one instance of the software that customers subscribe to instead of having a cloud-hosted version of on-premise software. This characteristic is essential to cost-effectiveness that is afforded by the shared economies of scale. Additionally, it is what allows corporations access to affordable computing and storage costs. True Saas allows access to the cloud’s infinite scalability of computing power and capacity, both up and down, and gives organizations flexibility in handling episodic litigation needs and keeping costs proportional to demand. Finally, the ability of cloud technology to accommodate rapid change allows organizations to keep pace with constant advances in technology and evolving security requirements – all while supporting a mobile workforce. With a “true SaaS” platform, IT and legal teams are empowered to focus on their core competencies and business priorities.

IT Checklist of Success for Bringing Ediscovery Inhouse
Cloud computing is simply a better approach for realizing the goals of bringing e-discovery in house, providing lower costs, faster processing times and enhanced efficiency. One way IT can help legal teams understand the benefits of the cloud is to encourage a more systematic purchase decision process before rushing to bring e-discovery in-house. This checklist should help ensure your team selects a solution that provides the greatest benefit at the least risk:

1. Scale capacity to meet your needs. Controlling costs means having the flexibility to instantly match capacity to the variable volumes of data inherent to ediscovery. Companies don’t have the time nor the resources to take on an expensive, several-months-long project to expand capacity in the middle of a firefight.

2. Ease-of-use puts power in the hands of the user. There is power and efficiency in giving users (including custodians) who are the most knowledgeable about the case access to tools that allow easy preservation, collection and processing of data. Such efficiency allows the team to quickly focus on the merits of the case.

3. Integrate with other processes and applications. E-discovery is seldom performed in isolation from other business technology. Make sure your systems are able to integrate with other enterprise systems and processes, such as HR systems, asset management systems and data repositories. Automated integration can increase efficiency, reduce human error and mitigate the risk of inadvertent spoliation.

4. Security for today and tomorrow. Software that is being continually updated means your software is never out-of-date when it comes to the latest protections against data security vulnerabilities and loss.

5. Stay current with the evolution of technology. Technologies are constantly evolving. So should your e-discovery solution. How frequent are upgrades being made, and how much effort is required to implement?

6. Mind the total cost of ownership. Understand procurement costs, but don’t underestimate the hidden costs that can be a significant component of TCO. Don’t sign up for surprises. Make sure you understand the cost of implementation and training. Make sure you understand how long it will take to be up and running.