Legaltech News recently held a webinar to educate legal industry professionals about the benefits of streamlining the e-discovery review process. Titled “Time is Money: Streamlining the E-Discovery Review Process,” the discussion aimed to help companies take an honest look at the efficiency of their own processes and determine the best way to gather and present accurate data while engaging in effective handling practices.
In her opening remarks, LTN Editor-in-Chief Erin Harrison noted that this isn’t an easy process, describing a history where IT, legal and vendors were at odds. This, she said, presented a “cantankerous atmosphere” where discovery became a well-known “cost increaser.”
“To say that it is a challenge for legal firms and corporate counsel to streamline their approach to the e-discovery process with the goal of efficient yet still comprehensive review at the forefront is what I would call a drastic understatement,” Harrison said. “One software vendor recently claimed that e-discovery is so expensive that it has been weaponized to drive opposing parties into submission, claiming it forces swift settlements, delays justice, cheats clients and enrages judges.”
“The problem is we don’t talk—the various members of our team aren’t talking enough and aren’t talking about the right thing,” said panelist Geoffrey A. Vance, partner at Perkins Coie and head of its discovery service group. He suggested that collaboration needs to begin at the start of the discovery process, whether within the firm to pair the right person with the right task, or with government agencies and others on both sides of litigation proceedings. The goal, he said, is to get everyone to apply their expertise and come up with the best, cost effective plan.
Vance outlined “five cost-saving e-discovery lessons”: collaborate and listen; review less; increase review rate; make better decisions; and enact efficient quality control.
Vance said that e-discovery accounts for at least 25 percent of litigation budget. The lesson, he says, is, “to do whatever we can to significantly reduce the universe of what will be reviewed by lawyers.” Vance said that by employing early case assessment (ECA) tools, analytics and “common sense,” firms can reduce their review materials by 80 percent, thus reducing costs.
As for expediting review, Vance said clients equate this idea to sacrificing quality. However, it allows for better, faster work.
“We’re putting our reviewers in a better position to understand the context of what they’re reviewing so that they will spend less time figuring out whether that information is relevant, or responsive, or privileged, or whatever we’re asking them to determine,” Vance said. Suggestions for simplifying review included using email threading and near-duplicate identifiers so reviewers have context, allowing them to make more decisions with better consistency.
Speaking on his firm’s own enhancements, Vance said, “[We’re] not at a point where people can weaponize discovery and use it as a sword. Rather, it’s back to where it should be … it’s just a manner to exchange information so we can figure out what’s going on and ultimately a jury or a judge can figure out who should win and who should lose.”
“I’m very excited about where the industry is,” said panelist and Ipro president Kim Taylor. “I do believe that there are very progressive companies out there … really trying to truly make e-discovery simple, automated and affordable.”
Taylor elaborated on automation benefits: “Just like that, we would eliminate all these starts and stops, we would reduce the chances per error, and the humans can then be consulting and having a live chat versus doing these mundane tasks.”
Using the example of technology assisted review (TAR), he illustrated how technology could enhance data processing, review and analysis. He cited getting data into the review process is the “biggest culprit” to efficiency.
“What we’re looking for is maybe a modern factory … How can we do more with less? How can we have workflow and automation helping to remove those starts and stops?” Taylor asked.
Panelists agreed that to handle the expected increase in data—there will be enough data to fill over a half-trillion 32 GB tablets—companies must streamline their e-discovery process.