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Leveraging the Pandemic Pause to Control eDiscovery Costs

When COVID-19 hit the U.S. last March, a large proportion of legal proceedings were put on hold by courts and corporate legal departments as they struggled with safety and financial issues. Six months later some courts are testing out their first remote trials as legal proceedings slowly restart. The economic impact has put corporate legal departments under more pressure than ever to cut the cost of discovery.  Bringing more of their eDiscovery in-house can reduce the cost and risk associated with the traditional ad-hoc reactive discovery workflow with the right technology.

Assessing your eDiscovery workflow

Corporate legal departments have traditionally ‘managed’ the litigation and discovery being performed by their retained counsel and providers. Although some serial litigant global corporations built out in-house litigation support teams, it has always been challenging to ‘right-size’ those groups to meet the burst capacity of large matters without wasting productivity during your steady-state discovery demand. Until relatively recently, enterprise-scale legal technology was built for service providers rather than corporate enterprise workflows. The good news is that corporate data sources are much more accessible now that legal hold and collection features are built into your Office 365 and archived content. So how much of the eDiscovery lifecycle should you take ownership of?Blog-5_Leveraging-Pandemic_Graphic-1.jpg

Microsoft Legal Example - $4.5 Million Annual eDiscovery SavingsBlog-5_Leveraging-Pandemic_Metrics.png

Microsoft’s recent white paper details the average annual savings achieved by taking ownership of their legal holds, collections, and processing. Hidden within those metrics are key strategic decisions that corporations can leverage when restarting to transform their eDiscovery fire drills to standardized business processes. Below are some of the Microsoft process assumptions and decisions.

  • Broad in-place custodial holds are placed. Microsoft does not specify but hold scoping is probably done by Microsoft legal with retained counsel input and approval.
  • Non-Microsoft 365 data sources must be manually collected and imported into SharePoint managed Azure file shares or Microsoft 365 mailboxes. This is how Microsoft minimizes hosting costs.
  • The refined custodial collections must be processed/indexed in Advanced eDiscovery to run selective search criteria and analytic deduplication/threading. This requires a relativity expensive enterprise E5 license ($57/month per custodian).
  • The key point here is that Microsoft mandates selective searches be run by in-house legal. This strategic decision accounts for the vast majority of their $4.5 million in processing and hosting savings. They are only exporting highly relevant data sets for retained counsel to review.
  • The Microsoft 365 eDiscovery and Advanced eDiscovery workflows are not optimized for typical corporate litigation demands. Microsoft legal uses complicated spreadsheets and PowerShell scripts to compensate for the user interface issues of their own technology. Despite these custom tools, Microsoft’s legal department has roughly 500 attorneys and 1,000 support staff to manage 850 annual matters.

Microsoft’s savings on attorney scoping and review time are many times their processing and hosting savings. Despite the availability and efficiencies of Technology-Assisted Review and clustering analytics, too many retained counsel will insist on some kind of the first-pass review of most data exported for them. In-house teams typically understand their own data better than a first or second-year associate. The ownership and expertise in developing and running in-house searches are the key to Microsoft’s 96% culling rate.

In-Sourcing eDiscovery Without A Giant Legal Department

Most corporate legal departments function with a fraction of Microsoft’s 1,500 staff headcount. Despite recent growth, 95% of corporate users are on the F1 or E3 license instead of the E5 license required for Advanced eDiscovery processing and analytics used by Microsoft’s legal department. So what tools can enable a typical small corporate legal team to take ownership of their eDiscovery and control the volume and cost?

  • eDiscovery Platform Legal HoldsBlog-5_Leveraging-Pandemic_Graphic-2.jpg
    • Centralized automated legal hold management
    • Legal hold notification with questionnaires, reminders, escalations, and full audit tracking
    • Custodian management and reporting across matters
    • Legal Data Map to track sources
  • eDiscovery Platform Identification and Collections
    • Self-service scoping, search, and collections across all enterprise and custodian data sources
    • The legal team can sample key custodians and data sources to test scope criteria and give retained counsel remote access.
    • Immediate collection set metrics and analytics
  • eDiscovery Platform Processing & Analysis
    • Advanced analytics and
    • Full-featured processing of 500+ data types and 80+ data sources with deduplication, threading, and bulk redaction
    • Visualize collection sets with automated workflows to develop and report on potential selective search criteria
  • eDiscovery Platform Review, Export & Production
    • Machine learning review workflows support in-house subject matter experts instead of large firm/contract reviewer teams
    • Remote review access for retained counsel to collaborate and validate relevance development
    • Mature security and group-based workflows to deliver partitioned access controls to protect sensitive executive data and internal investigations

To achieve or exceed Microsoft’s eDiscovery savings you must take ownership of scoping and processing raw corporate data.  To accomplish this without Microsoft’s large legal team requires investment in efficient, automated technology solutions that reach beyond Microsoft 365 repositories.  The Veritas eDiscovery Platform   provides typical legal teams with a tool  they need to take control of their eDiscovery and legal cost.  

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