eDiscovery software allows legal professionals to process, review, tag, and produce electronic documents as part of a lawsuit or investigation. The right software can help attorneys discover valuable information regarding a matter while reducing costs, speeding up resolutions, and mitigating risks.
In the legal system, discovery is the legal process governing the right to obtain and the obligation to produce non-privileged matter relevant to any party’s claims or defenses in litigation. eDiscovery is that process applied to electronically stored information (ESI), such as emails, computer files, and databases. In other words, it is the legal procedure by which parties are required to exchange information and evidence with one another in state and federal courts.
eDiscovery software, also known as document review software, allows legal professionals to handle electronic documents in discovery and investigations. These tools automate common discovery steps such as data ingestion, file indexing, OCRing, virus scanning, and more, preparing documents to be reviewed and produced.
Once data is loaded into a platform, legal teams can begin reviewing the data, creating searches to find documents, sorting information by metadata fields such as creation date or document author, and tagging files as responsive, non-responsive, by subject or legal element, etc. Discovery software can also drastically reduce the amount of documents requiring eyes-on review by allowing teams to quickly cull out extraneous files, such as duplicate files and information outside the scope of the review. This allows teams to focus on the most important data. Once data has been culled, reviewed, and tagged, eDiscovery software can automatically Bates stamp documents, apply redactions, and create productions that can be securely shared with other parties.
eDiscovery software that is cloud-based has the added advantage of making it possible to upload, review, and produce documents online, without the delays, costs, and frustrations associated with eDiscovery approaches such as manual review, third-party vendors, or legacy software.
The best solution for your discovery work will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of data you need to review, the amount and complexity of your data, the probable length of review, and, perhaps most importantly, the eDiscovery software used to conduct the review.
Here’s how the available options compare:
Before the digital era, document discovery was fairly straightforward. An attorney headed to her client’s office, identified the documents potentially relevant or responsive in a matter, hauled them off in banker’s boxes and reviewed the manually, one by one. Redactions were made with giant black pens. Bates stamps were applied with actual stamps.
Today, many attorneys still take a manual approach to eDiscovery. Electronic files will be collected from clients and reviewed, one by one, in programs such as Microsoft Outlook and Adobe Acrobat, organizing their review in a giant spreadsheet. But even with a small amount of documents, this process is inefficient and ineffective. Review teams lose the ability to search against multiple files at once or to quickly organize information by metadata such as date, creator, recipient, etc. Indeed, such manual review may alter the documents, leading to potential spoliation. And even when done right, review teams are stuck reviewing huge amounts of unnecessary information—documents like spam emails or duplicate and irrelevant files that could otherwise easily be culled.
Smart filtering, such as limiting documents by date range or focusing in on only those containing specific keywords can reduce the documents you need to review by 95 percent—saving almost $192,000 vs. manual review.
With the right eDiscovery software, however, that approach is no longer necessary. Smart filtering, such as limiting documents by date range or focusing in on only those containing specific keywords, could eliminate the need to review up to 95 percent of those documents. That leaves only 1,500 documents to evaluate. Assuming an attorney reviews 50 documents an hour, that’s $7,500—savings of about $192,000. When the discovery is done in-house, rather than through eDiscovery vendors, that means lower costs to the client and more billable hours for the law firm.
And because in this new era, eDiscovery technology is simple to use, almost instantly deployable, and charged on a pay-as-you-go basis, many of those law firms previously shut out from eDiscovery technology due to its cost or complexity are best positioned to take advantage.
Imagine, for example, reviewing 10 gigabytes of email in tools such as Microsoft Outlook or Adobe Acrobat. At 3,000 documents a gigabyte, that’s about 30,000 documents requiring review. With manual review, attorneys are forced to work through these files individually, at a rate of about $250 an hour and a total cost of almost $200,000. Such expenses may be so high that clients simply refuse to pay for them. The resources needed to conduct the review would be so great that many firms just wouldn’t be able to handle it.
eDiscovery vendors are third-party legal service providers that aid in the processing, preparation, and production of electronically stored information during discovery. Under a managed services and managed review model, some vendors may also handle collection, review, and analytics as well.
eDiscovery vendors flourished as electronic discovery grew. Indeed, many vendors began as copy shops specializing in servicing law firm clients and expanded from there. Technologies originally designed in the 1980s were unleashed on ESI, creating some of the review platforms that are still with us today.
One widely-circulated report from 2011 estimated that “conducting an electronic discovery event may cost upwards of $30,000 per gigabyte”—or about 60 percent of the median household income at the time.
Consultants made their fortune advising law firms on how to approach massive discovery projects. Vendors popped up throughout the country, bringing needed technological expertise to the process, but nickel-and-diming users with $250-per-gig data ingestion fees and penny-per-page Bates stamping charges.
Vendors became famous for their inflated price tags. One widely-circulated report from 2011 estimated that “conducting an electronic discovery event may cost upwards of $30,000 per gigabyte”—or about 60 percent of the median household income at the time. It wasn’t hard to find million-dollar eDiscovery bills in high-profile litigation, with a sizable chunk of the discovery costs going to vendor costs like “near-line storage” and “hibernated sub-collection fees.”
What is a hibernated sub-collection fee? We don’t know either, but it could cost you $20,000-plus.
As discovery has evolved, it has moved from banker’s boxes to brick-and-mortar vendors to sophisticated, cloud-based eDiscovery software. Today’s eDiscovery processing software allows legal teams to automate thousands of steps, such as data ingestion, indexing, OCRing, virus scanning, and preliminary quality control. Cloud-based discovery software makes it possible to upload, review, and produce documents online, via the cloud, without the delays, complications, or expense of traditional eDiscovery services.
Modern eDiscovery software is worlds away from the legacy tools that were once common—or the overly complex, incredibly expensive discovery approaches that still are. Innovative design makes formerly difficult processes powerfully simple and easily deployable for legal teams of all levels of experience and sophistication. With 24/7 accessibility, on-demand help, predictable pricing, and the ability to grow your resources as you need them, today’s eDiscovery software can often be deployed in under a day—even in a matter of hours.