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Why a Distributed, DIY Approach to Discovery Is More Important Now Than Ever

April 27, 2020  |  5 min read

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Even in the best of times, eDiscovery bottlenecks can be painful. It’s no wonder, then, that so many legal professionals find the traditional eDiscovery process painful, even punishing—it is, after all, full of bottlenecks: two-day turnarounds for simple requests to vendors, the need for IT overhead on even the simplest cases, the back-and-forth with clients over the best discovery approach (and the associated, often overblown, cost).

This is not the best of times. And, given the current health and economic crises, those pains are felt even more acutely. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, a massive economic slowdown, and increasingly price-sensitive clients (and cash-conscious law firms) mean that the traditional way of conducting discovery is increasingly untenable.

As a result, many firms are moving away from a discovery approach focused on vendors and third-party providers and towards a decentralized, DIY process that empowers teams to handle matters quickly and securely, without the frustrations and bottlenecks of previous approaches. Of course, discovery technology that allows legal professionals to take control over their process is not exactly new—many legal teams have embraced this approach for years now.

Those teams now find themselves at a competitive advantage—able to operate nimbly and more efficiently and with less reliance on the inefficient approaches that once characterized discovery. At the same time, they are better prepared to handle the challenges of a “virtual” practice and economic uncertainties ahead.

Even legal teams just now starting to adapt their approach, however, are well-positioned to take advantage of decentralized discovery. After all, one of the hallmarks of this approach is its ease of implementation and use.


What Is Decentralized Discovery?

Decentralized, DIY discovery is, at its most basic, discovery technology that allows legal teams to get their work done with minimal reliance on third parties. It is an approach to discovery where electronically-stored information can be collected and ingested in a review platform in minutes, through a simple drag and drop. (Or, even better, ingested straight from the cloud.) It’s an approach to discovery where data processing is automated and quality-control built in. And it’s an approach to discovery where review technology is simple and straightforward, so that end-users don’t need their IT teams to get started or excessive training and onboarding to get started.

It’s discovery, but without the roadblocks.


Powerfully Simple Technology—That Actually Gets Used

The goal of decentralized discovery is to empower legal teams to access discovery data quickly and cost-effectively, with as few barriers as possible. The key to doing so is powerfully simple technology that legal professionals can not only understand but pick up without much, if any, training. (After all, what’s the point of technology that attorneys won’t use?)

How is that accomplished? One of the keys to a DIY approach to discovery is an interface that is naturally intuitive and easy-to-use. Pair the problems of discovery down to their most basic elements and they become something that anyone can understand: uploading (or ingesting and processing data), search (or document coding and review), and download (production).

Such simplicity is the north-star of any decentralized approach to discovery. For legal professionals to benefit from the time and cost savings of such an approach, for there to be widespread adoption, technology must be accessible. That means an easy-to-understand UI, features that allow you to batch out and assign documents to your review team simply and in seconds, built-in quality controls that alert you to potential issues, and a simple (and secure) means of producing documents to the requesting party. (No more load files, please.)


A More Efficient Allocation of Law Firm Resources

One of the main goals of a distributed approach to discovery is to free up resources so that they can be applied better elsewhere. By empowering teams to take discovery work in-house and into their own hands, organizations can shift the time and resources once dedicated to discovery to more pressing matters.

That means that anyone with familiarity with document review can handle the vast majority of discovery work, simply by dragging and dropping their documents and beginning. (This is why, for example, we call Logikcull “instant discovery,” rather than, say, “‘wait a few days for the vendor to get the DVD’ discovery.”)

As a result, vendor time is reduced or eliminated. Internal IT resources are freed up to be used where they’re most needed, on the most complex and data-intensive cases, rather than day-to-day discovery matters. Attorney time is spent dealing with the merits of a case, rather than third-party vendors and project managers. And clients can spend their legal budget where it matters, rather than having it passed through to third-party vendors.


A Sane Approach to eDiscovery Pricing

Finally, this approach to discovery only makes sense with a pricing model that fits today’s economy. And many discovery platforms, while allowing for greater ease of use and less reliance on vendors, have adopted some of the worst pricing habits of the vendor approach: complicated, complex line-item billing, add ons for technical support, high-pressure pushes for service offerings, and monthly, per-GB hosting fees.

All of these are archaic practices, ways for vendors and “vendors in the cloud” to take a slice out of any cost and time savings you would otherwise realize. In the case of hosting fees, these practices are particularly egregious. Cloud data storage costs just pennies a GB—2.3 cents is the most you can pay to store a gigabyte of AWS, the largest cloud provider. But many cloud vendors still charge $30 or more per GB a month, every month—a 1300x markup.

Will your new data set lead to an additional five-figures a month in hosting fees? (If you’re being charged $30/GB per month, it’s very possible.)

Is that email to support going to cost $250 in project management time?

Does a trickly load file result in thousands of dollars in added IT charges?

If that’s the case, freeing up resources through a DIY approach isn’t benefiting the organization—it’s simply redistributing them to a “vendor in the cloud.”


The Future of Discovery Is DIY

In many ways, the current crises are acting as a great accelerator, rapidly advancing trends that had already been playing out. A shift that might have taken years is now accomplished in days or weeks.

Necessity demands it.

The same pressures that are reshaping the way we work, the way we view the office and the law firm, and the way we collaborate—these pressures are also transforming the way the legal teams approach discovery.

Handling discovery and investigations without the IT overhead, without the bottlenecks, and without the extreme cost is increasingly becoming the norm.

Law firms that are already there have a distinct advantage, while many first that were lagging are quickly making the move.