"Bad E-Discovery Costs $60 Million Per Year."

That was the comment that got the most gasps from attendees of Discovery Symposium 3.0, our annual event for general counsels, directors of litigation and e-discovery managers.

The select group of attendees – approximately 50 senior attorneys from 40 corporate legal departments – come together to discuss the challenges they’re facing involving e-discovery, solutions we’ve collaboratively executed, and share stories about technology tools in the marketplace and different approaches with outside counsel, among other topics. The full agenda can be seen here. It’s a highly engaged and interactive group that has proven to consistently identify numerous best practices in the discovery realm and truly cares about seeing one another succeed.

Now, back to the byline… one of our attendees, from a Fortune 100 company with an extremely knowledgeable legal department that has taken the majority of its e-discovery work and processes in-house, shared with the group that the company conducted an in-depth study on the true costs of e-discovery. The report included issues such as outside counsel and vendor costs, retention and collection policies, internal resources and technology, the possibility of sanctions, and many other factors. The attendee’s full quote is this:

“For a $25 billion company, handling e-discovery very well costs approximately $3 million annually. Average e-discovery costs $10 million. Bad e-discovery costs $60 million per year.”

While results may vary for corporations, those are eye-opening numbers and we're glad we're helping them get on the right side of those numbers. It led the discussion about how a department can’t just let outside counsel handle all things e-discovery anymore (even though most are past that) and it’s now so much more – there has to be process at every stage, there has to be real management and monitoring, there has to be a real dedication to quality control, and IT and Legal must be on the same page. All help build a “great” process. If a company isn’t focused on these things, one attendee shared, it’s “borderline negligence. At best you’re costing your company millions of dollars a year.”

The attendee went a step further, saying that "this data shows that Legal can be a revenue generator, so to speak. We can stand there and make a very strong argument as to why we need to spend money on certain software, or why we want to partner with certain companies... or even not work with certain law firms or vendors."

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the numbers above. The legal industry certainly isn’t averse to hyperbole, but this report holds up against much of the client data and results we track and report. For instance, it’s not uncommon to save clients in the eight figures over the course of a year compared to previously utilized models that didn’t focus on eliminating data, experienced project management or incorporating client-dedicated teams of Counsel On Call attorneys.

We’ll also follow up with thoughts and quotes from some on the different DS3.0 sessions.

Consider "One-Stopping" Project Management, Not Technology

Imagine a world where the one-stop shop exists for all things discovery. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s easy. It’s predictable. It’s cost-effective and so ultimately it’s desirable. With all this I agree. One recent article explores this in greater detail and makes a very compelling case for Why One Stop Shops Will Rule The World.

One difficulty, however, in implementing a one-stop solution is that technology, in particular, is so incredibly mobile and forever changing. It’s a target that never settles long enough for you to really hit it dead on. Experience has shown that one vendor may be really good at a single component of the technology puzzle but not so good at another. For example, one technology vendor may be really good at culling data, another at hosting and review, another at clustering and searching, or another part of the process. Finding the one-stop shop for all of these functions is not only difficult but it also is hard for a technology vendor to maintain it once they achieve it. Someone smaller or quicker to innovate will likely supersede its competition in one area or another pretty quickly. If you become completely vested in one technology, you will find it very difficult to transition to another. That reluctance or inability to change ultimately limits the opportunity to continually reduce costs, and in today’s e-discovery of millions of documents and hundreds of gigabytes, the additional cost savings can be significant.

One example is the law firm that has certain in-house technology solutions that their attorneys are familiar with -- and is already paid for -- that they can provide to the client at a reduced cost. The problem lies in the fact that many of these ‘free’ technologies are much slower and contain less functionality than the more up-to-date technologies that are available and cost more to the client overall. If the law firm’s technology solution is two or three generations old – very common this day and age as quickly as the tools improve – there could be millions of dollars in efficiencies and data reductions left on the table.

To be technology neutral -- while vetting the many great options in today’s marketplace -- means that you look at each step of the process and find the best technology solution for that particular technology problem, and then piece it together in the best package possible. That’s really one major component of project management. Knowing what is best in the client’s particular situation and then putting it together in the seamless manner that provides the ease, predictability and cost-effectiveness that everyone ultimately wants is the goal.

Don’t settle for a one-stop technology shop or you may find yourself behind the technology curve pretty quickly. Instead, look for a one-stop project management shop that can bring the technologies all together for you that meet your particular requirements for your type of documents and budget for that particular case.

Understanding the client’s needs, the client’s documents, the client’s budget and timetable all play into the best possible technology selection -- and these are areas in which great project managers excel.