Two Words For E-Discovery Savings: Less and Faster

There’s a very good post on Clearwell's e-discovery 2.0 blog, "How To Reduce Electronic Discovery Costs," that breaks out the discovery process into sections of potential cost savings. It’s a good overview and it’s evidently the first part of a series.

The post reinforces a few of the issues we’ve discussed here, mainly that to reduce discovery costs, you should focus on trying to review less data and review that data faster. There are a couple of recent examples I’d like to share that show just how much money can be saved in implementing this approach.

First, a client called with what seemed like a good-sized matter – more than 70 gigabytes of collected ESI that needed to be reviewed and produced on a tight deadline. The reality was that the data had not yet been processed, culled, or de-duped; so we immediately knew that there were opportunities to dramatically reduce the amount of data to review. The combination of the right technology (coincidentally, it was Clearwell’s early case assessment tool), the right hosting company and good project management paid off on that case. The original 70 GB was reduced to less than 5 GBs of data that required review – a 93% reduction. Our team of attorneys was able to complete the review of this data within days versus weeks and the law firm was able to meet its production deadlines at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. Success stories such as these are very common when it comes to reducing data.

The other example is a client whose discovery we’ve handled for the last 12 months. We have project managers and several attorneys dedicated to their matters, and what we’ve seen is that with each matter that comes in the door, the process has become increasingly efficient. Because the review and quality control workflow had already been mapped out, and because the team was already familiar with the client’s data, and the project manager had established relationships with the company’s internal IT contact as well as the company’s preferred review software vendor, those usual start-up measures and learning curves are consistently avoided. The result has been a repeatable process, a shortened timeframe to begin the review and higher review rates once the review begins; in fact, review rates on the first matter were more than double what the company was accustomed to and have increased an additional 50% from the first matter to the most recent. The best result was that the client saved more than $1.5M during this handful of matters.

These examples show that if you have the right processes in place, the knowledge and expertise of the right technology, and the relationships with superior hosting companies and vendors, you can save the time and expense of reinventing wheel for every matter.

Leadership on a Matter -- It Matters

The main subject matter of this blog is to discuss best practices or recognize innovative happenings in the legal profession; despite our best efforts, it’s sometimes difficult to stop for a second to write about something or want to write about it when it seems promotional of our company. I considered this yesterday as I was reviewing the status of an interesting new assignment we’re working on, and there are a couple of items I felt were worth discussion here. So here we go ...

Just last week, a team of approximately 20 Counsel On Call attorneys and paralegals -- working remotely from five different cities across the country -- began a project in which they are assisting a corporate client by reviewing and updating all of its vendor contracts before the end of the fiscal year. Each is a great attorney with significant contracts experience in the client's industry (I think the average is around seven years of experience), but what is especially noteworthy about this matter is that several boundaries have been knocked down. It truly is about good lawyers wanting to work with good lawyers, trusting a process and not necessarily taking the road most traveled. The focus is on communication, not location; the qualifications of the attorneys, not the name of the place where they work; and the track record of the leadership and management of the team, not just the bullet points on a resume. This results in the client's ability to get the work done efficiently, access a much larger talent pool and keep a tight hold on costs.

Specifically to the latter point – and we have certainly learned a lot from our work in the world of e-discovery in this regard – good project management and team leadership are essential. Anytime there are this many people on a team, multiple work sites, and tight deadlines, it is imperative to have a strategy in place and implement it. That sounds easy, but I think anyone who has been involved in team-based assignments understands that it takes a great project manager and/or team leader to pull this off. There are always changes; there is always troubleshooting; it is never a completely smooth ride. You need to be able to have a core strategy that can move forward without getting derailed when adjustments are needed. The leadership on the matter matters, and that’s why I'm very proud that we have a great group of leaders who can handle these types of assignments and make our clients’ lives easier.

There’s certainly more than one way to skin a cat, and it’s exciting to be a problem solver in that regard.


In the summer of 1986, Congress found itself in the grip of confirmation hearings for a new Chief Justice and a new Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States. Warren Burger had retired to (ostensibly) serve as chair of the Constitutional Bicentennial Commission; Justice Rehnquist was nominated to move to Chief and Antonin Scalia to take the junior-most position on the Court.

I watched those hearings with much interest, not knowing at the time that later that year I would become one of the Court’s newest hires. I would assume the role of Staff Counsel shortly after Chief Justice Rehnquist took on his new position.

In times like these, I’m often asked about the confirmation process and what I remember of those “battles” in the mid-80s and about the atmosphere in the building (“Was it abuzz? Was it the only topic of conversation?”). During my three-plus-year tenure in the Staff Counsel role, I witnessed two additional battles – calling them “hearings” is a misnomer – that of Robert Bork (unsuccessful) and of Anthony Kennedy (successful). If I remember correctly, Douglas Ginsberg (poor guy) never made it to the hearing stage. Anthony Kennedy is sworn in as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court on February 18, 1988. Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the oath and Kennedy's wife Mary holds the family Bible as President Reagan looks on.
Of course the justices never said anything about the hearings or the nominee; even Justice O’Connor, who often rode to work with me because we lived near one another, was mum on the topic. The closest I ever got to a statement about the hearings was a comment on Bork’s notoriously scraggly beard. The court staff, exhibiting its historically insular nature, was similarly quiet. No one wanted to be on record commenting about a potential new boss, or probably more accurately, you simply did not discuss those matters at work.
Judge Robert Bork
Law clerks were another matter entirely and the regular Thursday evening casual get-togethers were often filled with analysis and opinions when a nominee was being vetted. I also attended an anti-Bork rally – solely to observe – and stayed out of sight in the back for fear of being seen or worse appearing on the news, a potential employment-ending event I'm sure. (The button I snagged at the event remains one of my favorite political mementos, however.)

Since my years there, the Court has almost completely transformed. Judge Sotomayor’s hearings are the ninth confirmation event since my time there and I have been caught up in the drama and pathos of each one. Here are a few things I’ll be looking for during the hearings:

  • Will anyone ask questions about any of the thousands of decisions she has authored or is this all about speeches, personal matters and grandstanding?
  • How she will explain the statements that are currently all over the mainstream media?
  • What role, if any, will her ethnicity and gender play in the hearings?
  • Will any of the senators discuss her diabetes and other potential health issues?
  • How will the Committee function without the normally verbose Joe Biden?
  • I just want to watch Arlen Specter. From top dog to lowest-ranking democrat, there has got to be something of interest there.
  • Sen. Sessions was passed over for the Federal Bench in 1986, in part for being “racially insensitive.” Will this shape his questions? Will we be able to tell?
  • What will be the most asinine line of questions and the easiest lot?

I’m ready for this bit of political theater and suggest you soak it in as well. We could see a couple more opportunities in the next few years, but who knows? I say don’t miss the chance.

It seems, if you believe the pundits, that Judge Sotomayor may soon be Justice Sotomayor. No one can predict what kind of Justice she will be and those who try may be surprised (see: Blackmun, Stevens, Souter et al). One thing is certain if she is confirmed: she will be assuming one of the most select and revered positions in our nation. I wish her Godspeed.