What is eDiscovery? All of New Jersey finds out the hard way

What is eDiscovery? All of New Jersey finds out the hard way

The state of New Jersey is $161 billion in debt, which means each of its taxpayers would have to part with roughly $52,000 to get its government back in black. That financial abyss puts the Garden State dead last in tax burden -- an amount that would take the net worth of 537 Bruce Springsteens to erase.

All this gives context to the $2.3 million bill to perform eDiscovery in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal (i.e. "Bridgegate") that came to light earlier this month. On the one hand, that sum is a drop in an ocean of insurmountable financial liability -- what's another $1 per taxpayer? On the other, a $2.3 million taxpayer-subsidized bill for anything can come to symbolize systemic waste and inefficiency if those fees are disproportionate to the value they provide.

So is this particular eDiscovery project New Jersey's own little Bridge Bill to Nowhere?

That's a question for others to answer. The goal here is to illuminate some of the fees typically associated with eDiscovery -- fees that are notoriously hard to come by and often leave dumbfounded clients shaking their heads. It's always educational when invoices surface because they help prospective consumers of discovery products and services set expectations, learn more about going rates, and compare alternative solutions.

While the total cost of the eDiscovery work New Jersey incurred for Bridgegate has been reported, the details more or less have not. When we dig into this 73-page smorgasbord of line items (the state attorney general will just give it to you if you ask!), we find, in addition to high-dollar consultative labor, the following charges, which we've conveniently aggregated below:

A couple things to point out here. First, those $35 CDs were actually advance copies of The Life of Pablo. Blank CDs can be purchased on Amazon for 17 cents apiece.

Secondly, these fees were incurred over a two-year period beginning January 2014, which is to say, they are current. Most eDiscovery invoices only surface in legal proceedings after a judgment for cost recovery purposes, sometimes years after the work was actually performed -- and thus only reflect historical market rates.

Costs for travel, postage, software and other service fees (i.e. "ingestion") are not included above. And, finally, some of these fees were client-adjusted, meaning they were examined, accepted, and, in general, constitute what might be considered "reasonable" to pay for these eDiscovery services.

What would The Boss think of all this? Let's just say he's on our side.


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