It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that costs associated to eDiscovery are going up.
However, it does take an experienced eDiscovery attorney or corporate counsel to recognize that there are several ways to maximize their legal investments. In my 15+ years’ experience in the legal industry, I’ve seen a lot of invoices, from a lot of vendors providing a lot of different prices for various eDiscovery services. What I’ve discovered is that while fluctuations in overall costs either up or down are inevitable, what’s more important is what firms and corporations are specifically spending their eDiscovery dollars on.
A Step Back in Time
To start, let’s take a look at some data from 2007. The average vendor invoice from multiple sources for a 10GB project was typically broken down into the following line-item charges:
- $2500 per GB for processing: $25,000
- $40 per GB, per month for hosting: $2,400 for 6 months
- Combined invoice charges: $27,400
Aside from obviously higher charges, many other aspects of eDiscovery were also different. For example:
- Processing of ESI (extraction of text, metadata, tiff generation, etc.) was much slower, with most vendors being able to push between 20 to 40GB of data through their environment in a 24-hour period
- Tiff review was very common, native review the exception
- Review platforms were also not robust enough to handle large amounts of data or support a review by dozens of reviewers simultaneously
- Web-based review platforms just started to really be utilized (i.e. iConect and early stages of Ringtail) vs. localized, application-based review systems (i.e. Summation or Concordance)
Present Day Evolution
Comparing 2007 criteria to 2014, this same project might look something like this:
- The 10GB project would now be a 100GB project, as data volumes have been exploding over the past decade
- Data would now be processed for native review, at $150 per GB ($1,500)
- Assuming a 6-month hosting duration at $10 per GB per month ($1,000)
- Lastly, a production of 20% of the document population at $350 per GB ($7,000)
The end result:
- 2007 Costs: $27,400
- 2014 Costs: $9,500
As you can see, in comparison, charges for vendor-related services are a lot less that almost a decade ago, even with data volumes 10 times higher. However, ESI processing has improved a lot as well, with some systems capable of processing upwards of 1TB of data per day. Review platforms can now support hundreds of simultaneous reviewers in the same case database and you can access your case information and documents from anywhere in the world, thanks to web-based review platforms.
So, Why are eDiscovery Costs Still Going Up?
So why has the overall cost, taking not only vendor-related charges into account, but also attorney and review-related spend, increased?
There are multiple reasons for this:
- First, additional technologies are now utilized, beyond processing and hosting, such as Computer Assisted Review, conceptualization or even automatic (machine) bulk-translation, as case-related sources of ESI become more and more “global”
- Second, data volumes have significantly increased, thus resulting in more documents that require (physical) attorney review
- Third, many law firms are reluctant to “get rid” of data, although the data is no longer required for a specific matter
- And lastly, firms and corporations are missing opportunities in efficiency, such as the use of already collected and/or processed data and work product for multiple matters. Instead, many firms tend start from scratch with every new matter
Dollars and Nonsense
To look at it from a dollars and cents perspective, the actual cost associated with processing and hosting of data has dropped more than tenfold. But, due to the increase in potentially responsive documents, attorneys are required to physically look at more than 10 times the amount of documents than before.
As data trends and associated vendor metrics reveal, the number of potentially responsive documents will continue to steadily increase, while attorney review-rates in parallel are remaining the same or will increase.
But All is Not Lost
There are multiple ways where spend associated with eDiscovery can be curbed or reduced. Some of the options available are:
- Development of an effective identification, collection and culling strategy reducing the amount of data even introduced into the discovery, processing and review process. This really helps to keep the costs associated with attorney review as minimal as possible. Subject matter experts and workflow consultants can assist with developing these defensible strategies.
- For the instances, where a large document universe is unavoidable, an open mind to the utilization of conceptual analysis and computer assisted review will also prove fruitful, keeping costs associated with the review at the necessary minimum, while ensuring that the defensibility of the discovery process remains intact. Near duplicate identification and email threading also fall into the same category of technologies, that can significantly reduce the data volume and attorney time associated with document review.
- Instituting cross-matter management, such as data and work product re-utilization. This also includes the use of previously collected, processed and/or reviewed data for subsequent matters.
- Development of an effective, defensible data remediation plan, that includes the comprehensive tracking of all data associated with cases, prior and current. It will allow your firm to properly manage and decommission (defensible deletion) data no longer required or not relevant to previous or current matters.
The above are only a few of many strategies and opportunities around effective data management, data reduction and document review. I recommend sitting down with your trusted advisor or subject matter expert to discuss case or client-specific situations and see which methodologies can be applied, so that costs and volumes are kept at the necessary minimum.
To assist you in your learning, feel free to visit the blog articles and whitepapers available on the Modus website to delve deeper into how these methodologies and strategies can be successfully applied.