When It Comes to E-Discovery, Leave the Driving to Us

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When I read Ralph Losey’s recent article in Law Technology News, “Five Reasons to Outsource Litigation Support,” it brought to mind that old Greyhound bus slogan, “Go Greyhound—and leave the driving to us.” Don’t waste your time driving when that is Greyhound’s core competency, the slogan suggested. The same holds true for many aspects of e-discovery, as Losey’s article describes.

E-discovery is a complex process that requires both legal services and non-legal services. A law firm’s core competency is to provide legal services. E-discovery vendors have core competencies in providing those non-legal services. Law firms should focus on practicing law and leave the driving to outside vendors.

Losey argues forcefully for why firms and legal departments should focus on their core competency:

Your organization is a law firm, or law department of a corporation. Your lawyers are trained and engaged in the practice of law — that is your mission. Why should you own and operate a nonlegal e-discovery business within your walls under the guise of a litigation support department?

His point becomes even more forceful when he explains that his firm decided to outsource only after spending nine months preparing to do the opposite. Losey joined his firm, Jackson Lewis, in May 2012, as national e-discovery counsel. He helped it build a major e-discovery program that included a trained e-discovery liaison attorney in each of the national firm’s 49 offices, mandatory e-discovery training for all associates, and recommended training for all partners.

Despite this extensive infrastructure, and after nine months of research, Losey’s firm decided to outsource to a vendor all the non-legal e-discovery work that, until then, its litigation support department had been providing to the firm’s clients.

Core competency was a key factor in the firm’s decision to outsource, Losey writes. The decision allowed the firm to focus on the practice of law and outside vendors to handle computer-related technical services. In addition to core competency, Losey outlines four other reasons why legal organizations should consider outsourcing:

  • Complexity. “Nonlegal e-discovery services are difficult to perform correctly,” he asserts. This is highly technical work that can easily be botched.
  • Cost savings. It is expensive for a legal organization to set up and operate a litigation support department, Losey notes. “If you continue to keep your e-discovery work in-house, you have no choice but to keep writing big checks for the latest technology and staff,” he writes.
  • Risk. The complexity of the non-legal aspects of e-discovery means that the risk of errors is high, along with the risk of exposure for those errors. If a client’s data is accidentally exposed, who is liable?
  • Ethics. A law firm’s provision of non-legal e-discovery services raises a host of ethical issues, Losey contends. Better to bypass them through outsourcing.

The bottom line, Losey indicates, is a much cleaner break between legal and non-legal e-discovery services. While outsourcing is not without issues of its own, Losey concludes that, “these issues are easier to deal with than the issues raised by running a side-business, even if it is often a de facto not-for-profit.”

Additional Advantages of the Cloud

Many of the points Losey makes in his article strike chords here at Catalyst. Catalyst is a company that has remained focused on its core competencies in document hosting, search and review for more than a dozen years. It is a company composed of veteran e-discovery professionals who fully understand the complexity and risks inherent in their work.

However, one point particularly worth emphasizing is that of cost savings—and more specifically the cost savings that come from hosting data in the cloud. Losey does not specifically mention the cloud, but he does note this:

Litigation support departments, like any business, are expensive to set up and operate, and an e-discovery business requires a large initial investment. Not only must expensive hardware be purchased and continually replaced, but the software is in a state of near-constant change and ultimately usually proves to be more expensive than the hardware. Specialized employees are costly as well, and need expensive training to use these tools.

That paragraph precisely sets out the business case for a cloud e-discovery vendor. With a cloud-based e-discovery vendor, law firms and legal departments avoid the expenses of setting up and operating a department, they avoid expensive hardware purchases and replacement, and they avoid near-constant software upgrades. They even avoid many of the specialized employees. All of this “driving” is left to the cloud vendor. The lawyers just focus on the legal work.

Recently, we engaged in an in-depth analysis comparing the total cost of ownership of a cloud-based e-discovery platform against locally hosted or appliance-based platforms. Soon, we will publish the detailed results of our analysis.

The result of our analysis was startling in its conclusion. While we already knew that cloud platforms saved money in several aspects of e-discovery, this was the first time we know of that anyone pulled together all the costs, direct and indirect, and compared them head-to-head.

What we found, using our most conservative figures, was that the cloud produced cost savings of 36 percent over appliance-based platforms. That is significant for any sized case and particularly so for large legal matters involving high volumes of electronic documents.

So when Ralph Losey makes the case for why legal organizations should outsource the non-legal aspects of e-discovery, we could not agree more. By outsourcing to a reputable vendor, legal organizations save money, avoid risk and get to focus on what they do best. They can practice law, while they leave the driving to us.

 

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