Is it Time for a Discovery Health Check?
The world of eDiscovery is in a constant state of change. Modern data sources expand the pool of relevant information and may warrant special collection techniques. Court decisions and rules create new precedent and can alter deadlines. Emerging technologies warrant new ways to manage eDiscovery workflows. Client demands may call for unique processes or outside expertise. Whatever the obstacles may be, many legal departments have a fragmented eDiscovery program. Developing a long-term strategy can close operational gaps and uncover cost-savings opportunities. This is where performing a discovery health check is transformative. Organizations can make foundational and sustainable changes by implementing documented workflows, using advanced techniques, and developing trusted partnerships.
In the 2023 State of the Industry Report, eDiscovery Today and EDRM surveyed a mix of law firms, corporate counsel, service providers, consultants, government entities, and other legal professionals. When asked what eDiscovery challenge not enough people in the industry are talking about, the top response at 23.4 percent was lack of eDiscovery competence within the legal profession. Other top challenges included in-place indexing and the move to the left of the EDRM Model, discovery of collaboration app data, increased compliance activities resulting from data privacy trends, and increased cybersecurity to support more dispersed workforce.
Implementing an operational and financial assessment of a legal department’s discovery processes and procedures can bolster eDiscovery competence and help teams tackle other obstacles with confidence.
Performing the Assessment
Just like going in for a yearly physical at the doctor’s office, legal departments should be periodically checking on the health of their discovery program. In a dynamic industry, it is crucial to assess how programs are faring comparative to market conditions. This calls for consultants who can leverage field expertise and proprietary data models to identify specific action items, timelines, cost-saving strategies, and budget expectations. The result? Legal departments will be able to optimize in-house time and resources, reduce eDiscovery spend, and create long-term sustainable strategies to continue building upon for years to come.
Such an evaluation will require upfront investment and time, kicking off with strategy and planning to align expectations. A good place to start is connecting consultants with the legal team and other key stakeholders within the organization. Expect staff interviews, outside partner interviews, AI-driven billing analysis, and metrics analysis during the assessment. This will require collaboration between the organization and consultant in order to develop appropriate and meaningful insights.
Here are five examples of what legal teams can gain from diving deep into their discovery program:
1. A consultant that can provide an action memo with recommendations at the end of the health check and a roadmap to guide future decisions is valuable. Legal can review and factor in their own perspective to account for costs, budgeting constraints, ROI, case priorities, and other variables. This will also illuminate pain points so the legal department can strategize what issues to tackle first. Having a roadmap leads to long-term benefits including better control over eDiscovery processes, enhanced cost predictability, risk mitigation, enhanced defensibility, informed decision-making driven by legal business intelligence, and much more.
2. Legal’s goals will align better with the company’s business goals and requirements, which helps manage internal buy-in for investments by illustrating long-term ROI. This strengthens relationships and develops trust with internal stakeholders.
3. The opportunity to re-evaluate current technologies comes to the forefront and it may become apparent that an alternative technology is better suited for a specific process. This can shine light on functions that should stay in-house or be outsourced. It also provides an opportunity to update and enforce outside counsel guidelines so the right tasks are getting in the right hands. All of this allows legal teams to work as efficiently and cost-effective as possible.
4. Consultants can advise on the appropriate metrics to measure in order to bring true value and cost reduction to the business. Getting more granular is key to demonstrate the need for change, such as looking at cost expenditures before and after utilizing new legal technology and benchmarking against industry data. This can also uncover opportunities to work differently, such as reusing work product or developing portable AI models.
5. Having a better view into the health of the legal department’s discovery program develops and strengthens partnerships with consultants, outside counsel, and other provider partners. This fosters better collaboration and a more seamless way to tap into outside resources when necessary.
The goals set for an assessment will look different for everyone, which is why customization and flexibility are key. The underlying focus will be to receive a holistic view of the program from both an operational and financial standpoint. This information allows teams to bring business concepts to the legal department, set a range of goals with timelines, optimize human and technology resourcing strategies, determine ways to use discovery workflows outside of litigation, and reduce eDiscovery spend.