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The Great Ediscovery Shake-up – or is that Shakeout !

For those of you who asked, here is the full text of the ediscovery meets Google story from the latest issue of the American Legal Technology Insider newsletter…

According to some commentators, last year was a record year for consolidation within the litigation support and ediscovery sectors. However if the first three months of this year are anything to go by, then 2012 is set to overtake 2011 very soon.

The acquisitions land-grab began in February when Guidance Software bought CaseCentral for $50 million. Then came the strategic merger of Ivize Services and Modus to create a business with a total of 200 litigation support staff. After that we had D4 acquiring Detroit Legal Imaging, RVM buying the ediscovery consultancy EDiscover-E, the acquisition of the London-based managed reviews services provider DLR Legal by First Advantage Litigation Consulting (part of the Symphony Technology private equity group), the formal completion of the previously reported $68 million sale of De Novo Legal to Epiq Systems (the Kenyon Group advised De Novo), and the acquisition of the Counselor Resource Group (CRG) by Transperfect Legal Solutions. In addition, FTV Capital has acquired a $32 million shareholding in Catalyst Repository Systems, and LexisNexis (in the first of what we hear may be many tech sell-offs this year) sold its Applied Discovery business to Siris Capital.

COMMENT: Although it is a widely held view that there are too many players in the ediscovery/lit support market (some estimates suggest as many as 600 providers in the US alone) and that consequently some consolidation is only to be expected, the elephant in the room nobody wants to mention is Google.

Google is already starting to make its presence felt in the legal research sector however at the end of last month it parked its first tank on the ediscovery market’s lawn with the announcement of the availability of Google Apps Vault for Google Apps business customers.

Apps Vault is described as “an archiving, records management and ediscovery solution” that “can reduce the costs of litigation, regulatory investigation and compliance actions.” As if Google was not making it clear enough where its ambitions lie, the announcement adds that Apps Vault “gives management, IT, legal and compliance users a systemized, repeatable and defensible platform.” And if you still aren’t impressed, Apps Vault can also preserve IM chats, is 100% web-based so it can be “deployed in a matter of minutes” and is priced from $5 per user per month.

Cynics not impressed by the possible consumerization of ediscovery should also note the head of ediscovery at Google is Jack Halprin, who readers may remember from his days with Zantaz and later Autonomy Zantaz. The fact Google has recruited possibly the only person at Autonomy who understood ediscovery is another reason for taking the Apps Vault initiative seriously. And another reason for smaller vendors to look for an exit.

At the most recent LegalTech New York, one consultant commented that he was uncertain whether the ediscovery vendors attending the exhibition were hoping for people to buy their services or to buy their companies. If the current trend for mergers and acquisitions continues, we may find ourselves asking the last independent ediscovery vendor in North America to turn off the lights before they leave the market.