The Singularity is Near, But Not Just Yet
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” - Mother Teresa
Much has been said about how technology is going to disrupt the practice of law. While there have been many advancements to date, a promise of new software on the horizon always creates a paradigm shift in how attorneys manage litigation. In the very reactive business of litigation, thinking ahead and trying to be proactive can be challenging.
As a myriad of software companies work to build a better mousetrap, corporations have tackled the complex problem of managing legal costs and the visibility into those costs by treating the legal department as a business unit instead of a cost center. My colleague, Tom Spaulding, wrote an excellent blog post detailing the rise of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. The convergence of IT, legal, and accounting as a multi-disciplinary approach gives executives a better idea of the how and why dollars are allocated, thus giving legal some ability to be proactive.
When you drill into the litigation section, specifically eDiscovery, you can see very quickly where corporate legal departments have worked to manage cost. The first and most simple way to limit costs associated with litigation is to limit the amount of data which gets to outside counsel. Most likely, this begins with a corporate application that searches email and unstructured data, handing over only filtered documents to counsel. Most mature companies are doing this.
The second way corporations limit costs is to source the best prices for the eDiscovery services they buy. Managed Services agreements, Alternative Fee arrangements, subscription pricing, law firms providing eDiscovery services at an hourly rate; all of these mechanisms are ways to control the unpredictability associated with the unknowns that exist in eDiscovery and litigation.
Many legal departments have successfully used these two methods to get eDiscovery spend under control, and gone back to focusing on day-to-day legal work. Assuming that a corporation is actively limiting data being sent to counsel and sourcing the best price available for eDiscovery services, where is there any cost left to cut? The reality is that there is still 80% of the total cost of a litigation engagement left. Assuming that eDiscovery constitutes 20% of the overall litigation budget and attorney’s fees constitute 80% of the budget, it’s easy to see where efficiencies gained in attorney review of discovery can generate large savings.
The magic bullet doesn’t exist with regards to making attorney review more efficient, so we must deconstruct the process and find ways to make every function less taxing. It’s the Swiss Army Knife metaphor: have a suite of tools available to pick and choose what works best for your case and implement them. Plan your work and work your plan.
A few great tips on cutting additional costs:
- Text Analytics: use email threading and near-duplicate analysis to make coding decisions on a one-to-many basis.
- TAR: Categorize documents using assisted review to prioritize documents and see the most relevant documents first.
- Use seed documents outside of Assisted Review to find “hot” documents faster, giving you early insight into meaningful case information.
- Quality control productions to ensure privileged documents don’t fall through the cracks of a linear review process.
All of these things are components of review acceleration and contribute to the user experience and eventually the bottom line. They do little to give in-house counsel transparency. At Inventus, we believe that in-house counsel should have complete control and visibility into the eDiscovery process so that the associated cost and risk can be minimized.
To accomplish this, we’ve added more tools to the Swiss Army Knife and worked with our corporate clients to develop these tools. Take, for instance, our Privilege Log Generator. Using the openness of the Relativity platform, we added a layer of technology that allows for users to reduce the time needed to generate a privilege log by up to 60%. This same technology allows us to build rules into coding layouts, greatly reducing the number of clicks required and adding logic to coding decisions.
Zoom out in the process a little bit and you find our M3: Multi Matter Management solution. When data is going to be reused because a certain case demands it, or you have a custodian whose data is always in play, why pay to have an attorney code the document more than once? Not only does this negate the cost of processing data multiple times but it gives predictability to budgeting. One particular Inventus client will save close to $4,000,000 this year in review costs. Knowing that in future cases documents won’t need to be reviewed allows clients to effectively cut future law department budgets.
Zoom out even more and we land on Spotlight, Inventus’s business analytics application built specifically for legal departments. In addition to review accelerators and proprietary tools like our Privilege Log Generator and Multi Matter Management solution, this integrated customer portal gives instant access to things like review metrics, spend over time, savings over time, expected cost, etc. Now you have a holistic approach to legal operations and eDiscovery. Look for big news in the coming months as we continue to make improvements to Spotlight.
Maybe one day we will live in a world where legal departments can respond to discovery requests with the press of a button, but until then having access to every tool that minimizes cost and risk is a must.