Comment: How SaaS is changing the Practice of Law
by Chuck Yang*, Product Manager, Zapproved Inc
Cloud computing is rapidly changing the way corporations operate on every level. Investment in cloud technologies allows all business units, including the legal department, to become more efficient, more cost effective and more innovative. Interestingly, the cloud technologies that have driven innovation are also creating growing volumes of disparate data — which makes the preservation of electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation response more challenging. As corporate legal departments struggle to contend with Big Data, varying data types and disparate storage repositories, e-discovery becomes more complicated and costly. To tackle the ever-growing problem of Big Data, lawyers will need to tap into the supercomputing powers of true SaaS.
What law departments are looking for in a SaaS solution
Driving the growth for SaaS solutions is the search for a competitive edge by corporations looking for ways to disrupt the marketplace in which they operate. Corporate legal departments have long sought to gain better visibility into the e-discovery process, exercise greater control and proactively reduce costs by bringing e-discovery in house. In many cases, however, these initiatives have meant expensive investments in on-premise solutions that unfortunately have not effectively delivered the desired efficiencies. Legal departments are left with solutions that lack sufficient capacity, scalability and flexibility, and remain inaccessible to remote employees working outside the firewall. Furthermore, on-premise solutions are expensive to maintain and quickly become obsolete as data volumes grow rapidly growing and technology continues to evolve. Keeping up with advances in modern technology is a challenge that many corporate legal departments are struggling with as they seek to improve their e-discovery management with ever-tightening budgets.
True SaaS gives supercomputing powers to corporate law departments of any size
The power of supercomputing, once available only to large corporations and research labs who could afford to make substantial investments in distributed computing infrastructure, is finally available to everyone–in the form of cloud computing.
Imagine having the power to turn on a processor as easily as flipping on a light switch. You flip it on when you need it, then flip it off when you are done. In the context of the practice of law, the need for processing capacity is episodic. At times legal teams will have high volumes of data to process and at other times, equipment is left idle. For example, imagine a legal department faced with the challenge of having to process several terabytes for a case of data all at once. Many legal departments have on-premise solutions with fixed capacities, so if the job exceeds the capacity of the local system, the legal team will have a couple choices: 1) Purchase and install additional hardware and software, which can be costly to buy and time-consuming to implement; or 2) outsource the job to a service provider, which can be costly and deprive the legal team does of sufficient control over and visibility into the process. With the power of supercomputing, however, a legal team can instantly and affordably ramp up processing capacity to meet the volume of the case at hand. Processing of a multiple terabytes of data could be done in hours rather than weeks or months.
True SaaS means legal departments no longer need to make massive upfront infrastructure investments and pay for expensive maintenance for capacities that will often go unused and are not flexible to meet growing demands. True SaaS allows any legal department to be more agile in their business operations so that they can adapt to changing needs efficiently.
Understanding true SaaS
Given the interest in adopting SaaS solutions it is important that companies know they are getting the real deal and not just a cloud-hosted version of an on-premise solution. True SaaS solutions are single-instance and multi-tenant—i.e., there is one software instance with multiple tenants using the same software.
A world-renowned example of a true SaaS solution is Salesforce, whose system is used by corporations globally. Salesforce customers receive regular software updates frequently so their software is never out of date. There are no additional fees for updates, and users don’t have to install software to use it. All tenants get access to and benefit from the upgrades at the same time.
True SaaS legal solutions enable corporate legal teams to deploy immediately so they can quickly start managing their e-discovery efforts in-house. The software is always up to date while maintaining any organization-specific configurations in place. In addition, legal teams don’t need to invest in additional infrastructure or software. If more processing power is needed, supercomputing power scales to the processing need and is available via the cloud infrastructure so that legal teams can rapidly process ESI without time delay or additional investments.
There are many benefits of true SaaS but perhaps the three most compelling are: (1) instant scalability by quickly adding processing power as needed and powering it back down when finished, with fees tied directly to usage; (2) higher security levels that are even more robust than what can be achieved through typical “behind the firewall” systems; and (3) affordability and cost predictability, which eliminates the unpleasant surprises we associate with many technology investments.
Today’s leading cloud vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) have infrastructure incomparable to what most corporations can realistically build on their own with regards to processing power and security. In the 2014 Cloud Storage Magic Quadrant, Gartner placed AWS in the “Leaders” quadrant and described AWS as having the most complete vision and highest ability to execute among comparable services. Amazon’s secure, global, storage infrastructure delivers reliable service enabling business agility. With the economies of scale that SaaS solutions like AWS offer, companies of any size can take advantage of these benefits.
How SaaS is changing the practice of law
SaaS brings the power of supercomputing to corporate legal departments, but what does this mean to the practice of law?
Now corporate legal teams have access to intuitive, easy-to-use software that gives them the control and visibility over each stage of the e-discovery process —making it possible for them to effectively manage e-discovery in-house. In-house counsel can employ better and more efficient processes such as leveraging automation in legal hold notification, enabling remote acknowledgement by custodians and tracking every interaction so that the current status of a legal matter is always visible. With solid preservation processes that is supported by automation, corporate law departments can have the confidence to avoid the “collect everything” trap, which is costly and incurs unnecessary risk. Corporations can learn what responsive ESI an organization has through rolling targeted collections and can achieve significant savings on discovery costs, especially if the issue gets resolved prior to mass collecting, processing and reviewing.
SaaS solutions allow legal teams to access supercomputing at low cost and be super-efficient. Lawyers have instant access to powerful tools that can quickly provide insight into big unstructured data along with email, cloud repositories and other data sources. Understanding the data tremendous advantages for counsel. Getting the right answers fast allows corporate legal teams to reduce cost, reduce risk and improve their litigation response. Having access to flexible and powerful technology helps counsel address the complex challenges that organizations face with today’s e-discovery, and it is the foundation for evolving processes in the future.
Corporate legal teams seeking guidance for modernizing their practice may want to consider the following questions:
1. Does your current technology have any limitations that negatively impact the legal team? Are your organization’s expenses unpredictable? Is the e-discovery process unsustainable? Can it scale to increasing demands?
2. Does your existing system meet your needs? Does your organization have high volumes of data to manage? Can your systems scale up to your data volume needs in two to five years? Does your organization have a mobile workforce or remote employees?
3. Is your technology reliable? Can you count on your systems to run with 24/7 uptime? Is your system properly backed-up? Can it be accessed no matter where you are?
If your organization falls short in any of these areas, SaaS solutions may provide an answer, because they excel at giving corporations of any size access to the power and flexibility of supercomputing, which makes handling the modern problems of discovery sustainable and making your legal team’s practice of law super efficient.
* Chuck Yang As a Product Manager at Zapproved, Chuck focuses on bringing innovative cloud solutions to help companies sustainably address the technology trends impacting e-discovery. Chuck blends over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry as a software engineer, patent analyst and litigation support at McAfee, Intel and Intellectual Ventures. Prior to joining Zapproved, he led the development of Exterro’s E-Discovery platform.
SEE ALSO our story from earlier this year on Zapproved’s latest funding round.