Trends: Clients continue to drive the shape of eDiscovery as Kroll Ontrack eyes LatAm and China

The demand for eDiscovery services either onsite or in-country is a lot higher than it was even six months ago, according to senior management from Kroll Ontrack, which is currently looking at expansion into Latin America and China.

Clients’ desire to avoid falling foul of evolving EU data privacy legislation is continuing to shape the eDiscovery market and Andrew Szczech, director of legal technology services at Kroll Ontrack, told Legal IT Insider: “The thing that people are talking about with regard to global eDiscovery is that data privacy is driving the way eDiscovery services are provided.

“The specifics of the regulation and legislation around data privacy will emerge over time but clients are saying that they know if they get it wrong, they will get into trouble, so let’s keep data in the country, let’s not take any risks. They are asking the eDiscovery provider to provide in-country technology and services to make sure they can comply with the requirements in Europe.”

Whereas once most of Kroll Ontrack’s demand for eDiscovery services came from the US, that is shifting towards Europe. Szczech said: “We are well placed in Europe and we have a good heritage, which is important for clients. Simply setting up a data centre in a country isn’t good enough – clients want to work with people who are on the ground. If you have French laws and are working with French clients, the client doesn’t want a UK-based case manager.”

Outside of Europe, Kroll Ontrack is eyeing Brazil and the wider Latin America region, as well as China. “Privacy is one issue but sometimes the local laws require data to be handled locally,” said Tracey Stretton, legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack. “In China, state secrecy laws will stipulate that data must be stored locally and Switzerland has blocking statutes that restrict the transfer of data across borders. The landscape is so complex that clients just want to take the least risky route.”

Kroll Ontrack’s expansion ambitions come amid wider consolidation and expansion within the eDiscovery sector, which has seen suppliers such as Consilio buy Proven Legal Technologies. Szczech said: “The drivers are twofold. It’s about global presence but also gaining experience with certain technologies such as [kCura’s] Relativity.”

Kroll Ontrack in December 2015 announced that it is adding Relativity to its eDiscovery offering in Europe, to give law firms and corporate legal teams flexibility in their choice of document review tool.

Another growing trend taking place behind the scenes is that corporate teams are becoming ever more sophisticated users of eDiscovery services, often instructing providers direct.

Sczech said: “There is more of a trend towards direct instruction from corporate legal teams that routinely have eDiscovery needs, for example big banks or pharmaceutical companies. They will often have a chosen provider or small panel of providers. But there are still many organisations that go through law firms and don’t know anything about eDiscovery.”

Stretton added: “Clients that know the litigation process have clear expectations and want to control the process and do things their way but there are still many clients for whom eDiscovery is too sporadic to build such capability around.

“You need to have the right controls in place to make those teams work effectively. Reviewers need to be experienced, document review is becoming is a real specialisation.”