The Third Wave of Ediscovery – is a paradigm shift underway?

by Brad Harris, VP of Products, Zapproved*
A sea of change is brewing
Two important trends are significantly affecting e-discovery today. First, corporations face a tsunami of fragmented data in disparate repositories. At the same time, corporate legal teams are seeking ways to manage their departments more efficiently. Not surprisingly, e-discovery is a prime target for trimming costs. One study revealed that 94% of corporate counsel rates cost as a “frustrating” aspect of e-discovery, with 57% of in-house counsel reporting spending of more than $1 million per year on e-discovery. How are they responding to this challenge? By insourcing their e-discovery processes for lower and more predictable costs. In fact, 79% of respondents to that same study report redirecting work in-house. Unfortunately, as legal teams struggle to manage the risk of this growing data universe, they are finding that available technology solutions to e-discovery challenges are often lacking.
Because current solutions do not affordably address the challenge of rapidly expanding data volumes, today’s discovery practices are increasingly unsustainable. Most e-discovery software is designed with fixed processing capacity. As more data gets pushed through, e-discovery tasks take increasingly longer to accomplish and are increasingly expensive because legal teams must invest either in more on-premise processing power or spend more on outsourcing e-discovery processing to accommodate the growing data volumes.
Another problem facing the in-house legal team is that current discovery solutions are typically not designed to collect data that is stored in the cloud. This is increasingly problematic because more and more corporations are moving business data to the cloud. By 2018, at least 30% of the data reviewed in discovery will be stored on the cloud, up from 5% in 2015. This is state of e-discovery today: an overabundance of data to manage and e-discovery solutions that are not keeping up with the current data environment.
Looking back: The first and second waves of discovery management
First wave: The paper age
During the paper age, corporations handling discovery optimized for managing paper evidence. Copiers were the technology of choice. Costly service providers were the norm, discovery was slow and there were few real standards. When email became the primary method of business communication in corporate America, new solutions were needed. Data creation and storage inevitably shifted to electronic formats and products emerged to manage this growing digital universe.
Second wave: The on-premise age
The on-premise age of discovery management originally represented a new way for corporate counsel to bring more discovery functions in-house. Corporate counsel was no longer completely reliant on outside counsel or specialty service providers to manage e-discovery. While the goal was more control over the process and more predictable costs, the on-premise age is characterized by expensive infrastructure—such as dedicated servers and private data centers—that is complex and costly to maintain. Because of the complexity of the tools, there is heavy reliance on service providers or IT staff to run and maintain the solutions. Another challenge of the on-premise age is that it does not handle the episodic nature of litigation well. It is difficult to forecast capacity requirements in order to justify the capital expenditure, so organizations struggle to modulate the spend appropriately to need, and costs remain unpredictable.
With increasing frequency, today’s legal practitioners are finding their on-premise investment is not designed to deliver the desired goals of control, speed and cost containment, especially when challenged with an exploding data universe in variable formats and locations.
The effect of growing data on corporate discovery
The volume of electronic data is forecasted to grow by more than five times today’s volume by 2020—from 4.4 zettabytes in 2013 to 44 zettabytes. As more electronic bits of information are created and disseminate to myriad new platforms, the complexity to preserve, collect, and produce it for litigation increases.
The main factor driving this tidal wave of new data is the cloud. Individuals and corporations have been moving swiftly to use cloud-based solutions to manage their communications channels and to store their data, where it is immediately accessible at anytime from anywhere. They no longer have to worry about how much data they can store on the corporate computer system, because the cloud offers unlimited storage capabilities. The result is more data being created and retained, in more places—and exploding discovery costs.
There is a clear need for innovation. Emerging e-discovery solutions represent a significant paradigm shift: from traditional fixed-capacity, installed software to the cloud-based applications.
However, it’s important to note that not all cloud solutions are created equal. For example, cloud options such as a private cloud or on-premise software that is hosted in the cloud do not offer the same benefits as a true Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application. True SaaS or “true cloud” has single-instance multi-tenant architecture. This means it was built to take full advantage of the economies of scale (shared resources) that the cloud offers. Let’s explore the benefits that a true cloud solution can offer corporate legal departments that are looking for affordability, control and limitless computing capabilities.
Third wave: The cloud age
True cloud software gives corporate counsel more control, both over the department’s budget and the process itself. It gives corporate legal teams access to supercomputing power to drastically reduce the time required to process data. Instead of outsourcing data processing, where the turnaround time for data delivery can be a week or more, the cloud can deliver data in hours.
Because the true cloud software is intuitive and designed for non-technical users, it can be operated directly by anyone on the in-house team—eliminating wasteful steps and realizing near instant access to potentially responsive data. Legal teams can collect what they need when they need it and can cull, dedupe, review and tag data more quickly—significantly reducing data volumes and downstream costs. Also, the near-instant access to discovery data gives corporate counsel the ability to “know now,” providing early insights into a case so they can effectively forecast the scope of a discovery requests, estimate costs and predict outcomes earlier in the process than had been previously possible.
With the advantages of true cloud software, legal has much greater control over the steps in the e-discovery process, and can be less dependent upon IT. Legal departments can also replace substantial up-front capital investments in on-premise solutions with predictable subscription pricing. True cloud software is easy to deploy. It requires no infrastructure nor installation of software, so there is nothing to maintain. Its elasticity means it can dynamically scale up and down on a case-by-case basis to right-size computing power to current discovery needs. True cloud also offers seamless upgrades by the vendor, without disrupting day-to-day business, providing an essentially future-proof approach to e-discovery technology.
True cloud software for managing e-discovery makes sense. Corporations have already moved much of their business critical data to the cloud, at both the department level (marketing, sales and human resources) and the communications level (email, voicemail, document management and invoicing).
They now need solutions that can effectively manage data stored in a variety of cloud repositories like Office365, Box and Dropbox so they can collect, process and review this information efficiently.
True cloud solutions are characterized by the following five attributes:
1) Shared resources to reduce costs.
The economies of scale that are associated with single-instance multi-tenant software (true cloud), dramatically reduce costs. Customers pay only for what they need using shared resources, and costs are far more predictable.
2) “Right-size” capacity requirements to needs with scalability and elasticity.
Scalability provides organizations with instant and virtually unlimited increases in processing power to accommodate increases in data volume, without large upfront investments in infrastructure. Elasticity allows dynamic expansion and contraction of available capacity to meet variable needs.
3) Fast deployment, ease of use.
Legal departments looking to insource need to be able quickly implement solutions that don’t require IT personnel to maintain and are easy to use. True cloud solutions are designed so that non-technical people can rapidly get started and use the software to improve their workflows.
4) Automatic hassle-free upgrades.
Demands evolve so you want your software to evolve as well — that’s the essence of a true cloud approach. With true cloud technology, new features and updates are regularly made automatically to enhance the product without disrupting everyday business.
5) Data security.
Security associated with the shared resource of the public cloud benefits customers with layers of data security that is vastly superior to what organizations can implement on their own.
True cloud software represents the future of e-discovery
True cloud is the sensible approach for legal departments to quickly and easily reduce data volumes and get instant access and insights about discovery data—giving them the power to truly “know now” about the merits of a case. True cloud also represents a radical new democratization of e-discovery: Legal professionals, regardless of their technical skill, can now leverage the full power of the cloud, bringing speed, flexibility, affordability and sustainability to the business challenge of managing exponentially growing volumes of variable and disparate data.
* Brad Harris, VP of Products, Zapproved has more than 30 years of experience in the high technology and enterprise software sectors, including assisting Fortune 1000 companies enhance their e-discovery preparedness through technology and process improvement.