Budgeting, Part 1: Cost Benefits of ESI Management (By Carla Bauer, PMP, RCA) The idea of discovery has radically changed over the past 15-20 years. When I first began in the legal industry, working on a major case handling discovery meant that there were going to be boxes and boxes of paper that were going to need to be reviewed page by page. However, we have had a major paradigm shift since that time. Now, when people refer to discovery, the mind of legal workers shift and images of e-discovery and soaring costs begin to bounce around.
1. The Myth. There are many myths about e-discovery and one of the biggest myths is that e-discovery is more expensive than “the way we did it before.”
That’s just not true anymore. Paper was a process that was accepted and understood; E-discovery has been a mystery unraveled by only a few. When examined and added together as an entire unit of cost, e-discovery can be far less than paper discovery. With ESI, law firms have access to industry leading software, strong project management professionals, and combining people, processes and technology, can save clients’ money.
2. The Cost. To truly appreciate the costs associated with e-discovery, one must first understand the costs associated with paper discovery and the entire process. For instance, the next time you receive an email PST file from your client, inquire more about how much time and effort it will take to print them versus contacting an e-discovery consultant to help guide you through making the most efficient and cost-effective e-discovery decisions.
a. Paper: There are several direct expenses and indirect expenses involved in printing. i. The cost of paper; ii. The cost of toner; iii. The cost of the workers that are assembling the printed documents; iv. The cost of binders and/or boxes; and v. The storage costs of maintaining the paper.
b. ESI: There are other cost and case saving measures that electronic documents provide. i. Searching for Privileged Documents and immediately setting those aside so there is no chance that they are produced; ii. Using Email Threading to link together emails in the same conversation group and finding the “most inclusive” email that contains all the prior communications; and iii. Using Concept Searching to quickly find documents with similar content is all lost when the documents are reduced to paper. I have personally analyzed the costs associated with printing documents for review and production and compared that with the costs of producing the same documents in electronic format and found that it is more cost effective to keep their electronic format when done with the proper knowledge and information.
3. The Acceptance. Understanding and leveraging the information that accompanies e-discovery is one of the areas where many attorneys and paralegals need to accept and grow. Information such as the filename, folder name and email subject can contain treasure troves of data.
Q: Do you remember our Tuesday Trivia on January 17, 2017? A: Attorneys often do not even ask to see a list of the folder names in the person’s email or hard drive collections. Often the reports that prove the case are in folder called “Reports,” which you might never even know about in a paper production. 4. The Happy Place. While there are times that it may be more comfortable to review documents in a paper format, one should understand that these two worlds can exist together. For instance, by keeping the electronic data in electronic format in a database, you can search, locate and code documents of interest in a timely manner. Then you can decide if some of those documents need to be printed for further analysis and reference. 5. The Client. Clients may not tell their counsel that this is the type of cost controls they desire because they do not understand e-discovery any better than their attorney.
a. Understand the data received. b. Know the cost for printing data. c. Analyze the information that will be lost by printing. d. Estimate the cost of maintaining data in an e-discovery platform. e. Make the decision that is most beneficial for the case.
Upon comparing the costs and demonstrating to the client that you have taken every effort to control costs and build in efficiencies, clients understand that you are the expert and they can trust and support you through the discovery process. Embracing electronic data is tough, but you and your client can benefit from electronic data in many ways that are not possible with paper. Keep this in mind the next time you receive client data and ask someone to press print—perhaps viewing the data in its electronic format before printing might help you locate the information needed to win the case.