In the previous installment of this blog featuring the in-housing experiences from leaders Katie Lynch, Director of Legal Support at Veolia North America, and Tammy Thompson, Director of Litigation Services at Worley, we learned how Worley was able to save $1 million in a single matter by handling discovery internally and we garnered some best practices to optimize external legal spend and stay away from some of the most common “vendor traps.”
Today, we focus on why Veolia decided to handle discovery in-house 15 years ago, and how they manage to do it—even when faced with multi-TB cases—with a team of one.
If you’d rather watch Lynch and Thompson sharing their success stories, you can access their full InHouse 21 session on the video below:
Debunking the Lack of Bandwidth Myth (Vol. II): How Veolia Handles Multi-TB Cases with a Team of One
As the global leader in resource management, Veolia provides water, waste, and energy solutions for industries and communities across the world. The company has almost 180,000 employees worldwide, of which 25,000 work for the North America branch.
But when it comes to handling eDiscovery, Veolia doesn’t need a large legal support team. In fact, they only need Katie Lynch.
As the Director of Legal Support at Veolia North America, Lynch manages the entire discovery process from the collection to final production in-house. For large matters that require external review, she stays in control by providing outside counsel with a responsive set and inviting them to conduct the review using Veolia’s tool.
Why Go In-House: The Decision That Changed Everything
Back in 2006, when the FRCP had just been amended, Katie Lynch was tasked with figuring out how the legal team should navigate the changes. At that point, Lynch could have taken the easy route and mimic other companies which decided to rely exclusively on outside counsel and vendors to minimize the risk of sanctions, but she had strong reasons not to take that approach.
Already familiar with managing most of the discovery process in-house, she understood that going all-in with that strategy was the only way to avoid the skyrocketing costs of external providers while keeping Veolia’s eDiscovery process fully defensible.
In Lynch’s view, it’s not cost-efficient to pay third parties to get up to speed with data, processes, and internal idiosyncrasies that she and her team understand better than anyone else.
“We know our documents better, we know how our systems are structured. We don’t need to bring in an outside vendor and pay them to understand where we keep our data or pay outside counsel to discover how we communicate about things. It just doesn't make sense.”
The decision was a no-brainer at the time. Fifteen years later and millions of dollars saved in the process, she still suspects it was the right call.
From Massive Collections to Tiny Productions
In the almost two decades Lynch has been running the discovery show at Veolia, two particularly large matters instantly come to mind when she thinks about both her biggest undertakings and accomplishments.
The first of them involved a contract signed in 1998, which had spanned for 17 years. With such a vast collection period, Lynch had to deal with multiple custodians, repositories, device types—old computer towers and floppy disks included—and basically collect everything she found. The total collection size was 1.5 TB.
The second case had a lifetime of only five years but involved hundreds of custodians, which resulted in over three terabytes of data collected from a server filled with responsive documents and Google Vault.
By handling data collection and applying culling techniques in-house, Lynch reduced the review set in the first case from 5.5 million documents to just over 200,000, which then resulted in a production of merely 15,000 documents.
In the second case, outside counsel ended up reviewing most of the documents since they were deemed responsive, but the final production included just 500 GB of data, from the original collection of over 3.3 TB.
As Lynch points out, in that case, the review set could have actually been much smaller if outside counsel hadn’t insisted on producing as many documents as possible to make the costs of discovery hard to bear for the requesting party. The reasonableness of opposing parties and outside counsel actually plays a crucial role in discovery cost control.
That’s why both Lynch and Thompson are strong advocates of establishing direct communication with regulators whenever possible, and having a solid negotiation process with opposing parties to reach favorable agreements around the scope of discovery in litigation.
But how does Lynch’s achieve these massive data reductions?
It all starts with an early cases assessment, where she quickly processes all the collected data with Logikcull, gets rid of over 50% of the documents just through automatic de-duplication, and determines the actual size of the collection and the most relevant search terms.
“The beauty of using Logikcull is that we can get data processed pretty quickly. That means that when we go to meet-and-confer with opposing counsel, we’re not making guesses. We can tell them exactly how many hits each search term produces and go back and forth until we reach an agreement."
After a successful meet-and-confer process with opposing counsel and some iterations on the search terms, Lynch starts running those terms. And she can do it more effectively than anyone else since she has a better understanding of the documents that need to be weeded out.
And only after the most responsive documents have been surfaced does Lynch involves outside counsel for expert review.
The savings Veolia is achieving with this simple approach are massive. Just in the first matter, if she had sent the original collection for external review after the initial deduplication, Veolia would have paid over $2.25 million in totally expendable review costs.
Avoiding Pushback from Outside Counsel while Staying in Control
Setting clear boundaries and staying on the driver’s seat when dealing with outside counsel could be a source of friction.
That’s at least what Lynch was expecting when Veolia decided to take an internal approach to eDiscovery.
However, in her experience, most law firms are excited to work with a partner like her who has a good understanding of the discovery process, the company’s data, and the custodians.
For Veolia’s team, it’s crucial to use outside counsel’s time and expertise where it matters most. That’s why they always drill down on the responsive set first and then invite them to Logikcull to conduct the review on the same platform.
“There are still some folks that want me to print the results of the research so they can review them, but once I get them to log into Logikcull and they see how easy it is to use, they’re more receptive, and they actually use it.”
This way, they can ensure their data remains safe while establishing effective collaboration with outside counsel.
Google Suite: The Final Piece to Veolia’s Optimized Discovery Process
Veolia’s disruptive approach to discovery is largely built around a strong bet for cloud tools.
One of the largest Google Suite customers in the world, Veolia’s centralization of company communications in one single platform has been a key element in their streamlined eDiscovery process.
Furthermore, by syncing their Google Vault data with Logikcull, they’re able to reduce collection timelines by 50%.
Prior to getting the integration up and running, Lynch was manually downloading all the data from Google Vault, saving it on a server on her local drive, and manually ingesting it into Logikcull. This process would take her hours to complete while compromising data safety.
"With Google Vault’s integration, I'm basically cutting the time it takes to collect data by half. I no longer need to download to upload, it's going right from the cloud into Logikcull."
By automatically pulling data from Google Vault into Logikcull not only has Lynch been able to get rid of unnecessary bottlenecks to work more efficiently, but she’s also increased security by eliminating the inherent risks of storing discovery data on local drives.
If you’re interested in learning more about Veolia’s disruptive approach to eDiscovery, check out the recent case study they did with us.
Ready to cut six digits from vendors’ and outside counsel bills while taking control over your discovery process?