One of the biggest challenges facing law firms and legal departments isn’t gaining knowledge around technology, it’s the overwhelming amount of technology to choose from. This technology landscape is confusing at best, but at worst, it’s creating decision paralysis as law firms and GCs struggle to determine what’s right for them.
The LegalTech sector has exploded over the past five years as software vendors design programs and offer services that do everything from finding documents to data analysis to case outcome prediction. And litigation support, especially eDiscovery, is a particularly dense sector with many choices. And it’s not just about choosing a vendor, there are also options around outsourcing, which has become even more prevalent as litigation and eDiscovery become more about data knowledge than legal smarts.
With all these vendors and outsource service providers offering so many different features you might be fooled into thinking the provider with all the bells and whistles is the one to opt for. But, many of those features will go unused, and simply become expensive shelfware. Instead, focus on your business needs and the business outcome you’re looking to drive.
But once you understand what you’re trying to achieve, how do you decide which vendor to choose from, who will give you the right technology, the most bang for your buck, and most importantly, help solve those eDiscovery challenges?
Before you start signing purchase orders, it’s worth asking your vendor or service provider these five questions to make sure you’re getting the deal you deserve:
1. The importance of security protocols cannot be overstated – what does your vendor have in place?
Almost a third of law firms have experienced a data breach. According to the ABA’s annual survey, 26% of law firms experienced a security breach in 2019, up from 23% in 2017. More worryingly, 36% have had malware or other virus-infected on their computers.
Several months ago, 190 law firms had their data stolen in the UK, when an old database was left unsecured belonging to a third party used by all the firms. Staff information, as well as sensitive client data, were left exposed.
Law firms are only as secure as their weakest partner. In eDiscovery, ensuring the security of your data is business critical. It’s worth asking your vendor what policies they have in place, what format they are in, how often they are reviewed, and what employee education is in place. Check whether responsibility for security is at a senior level – this will give you a good indication of how seriously your vendor takes security.
It’s vital to also ask in detail about the testing procedures, technology vulnerabilities, and stress testing – how often does this happen, who performs these tasks, and what have the results concluded each time? Things such as encryption, cloud security controls, and a security-first mentality can be ensured through accreditations or certifications such as ISO, SOC 2 Type 2, HIPPA, etc.
2. Cloud strategy
Security and cloud are intrinsically linked but understanding your vendor’s cloud strategy will ensure you’re more confident with the parts of service that seem invisible but are essential, such as storage and backup, for example.
It’s worth asking who their web service provider is and if it a public or private cloud. For inhouse GCs within a retailer, AWS (Amazon Web Services) probably wouldn’t be a viable option, for others, Microsoft Azure might be better suited, or vice versa. If it’s a private cloud, what policies and procedures do they have that ensures their security is above standard practice?
Asking how quickly data can be moved from backup to live, whether history on revisions is included might also be something that your company requires for certain litigation cases.
3. Practical information about the software – size, speed, accuracy.
While tech specifications are necessary, comparing one vendor or service provider to another via this method can be a minefield (and laborious). Essentially there are three core practical attributes you need to question from a legal/business outcome standpoint.
The first is around the repository/archive – how many files can be stored before a new repository must be created? Several million documents is a good number to check for. What file formats can the repository handle? Does the firm offer a de-dupe process, whereby duplicated documents are discarded saving storage space?
Speed can be the difference between winning and losing a case. Speed is required throughout the process – ingestion, finding documents, and searching – without a strong search engine within the software, it shouldn’t make your shortlist. Ideally, it should be able to locate what you’re looking for by phrase or keyword within seconds or minutes.
The idea of reviewing thousands of false positives negates the point of eDiscovery. You need to be confident that the technology is delivering accurate results – and in context if possible. It’s not just about the specific search term, but also elements such as word order, misspellings, and context around that term that should be validated and returned.
4. How does the company innovate?
It isn’t that companies need to be constantly changing their technology or the processes they have for onboarding customers or managing their employees. It’s that they need to be open to new ideas, new methodologies and keep pace with what else is in the market.
For most eDiscovery vendors this innovation is inherent within their organization – they’ve chosen to work in a crowded category, and therefore to rise above the rest must have a high base level of innovation. However, those that can keep pace and improve their technology at regular intervals are more likely to be able to stay ahead of the market, ensuring the longevity of the company.
Innovation around file format, for example, is essential – clients have a constant wave of new formats to be archived and ingested – being able to cope with not just email, voice, and data files, but also more industry-specific file formats are crucial if you work within those sectors.
5. Integration and additional services
The last thing any organization needs is to have finally selected a vendor or service provider, and then have integration take two years or more to complete. By then your case is over, your competitors have already won, and they’ve moved on.
You need to examine what features and functions your eDiscovery vendor or service provider offers – does it include storage, archiving, file organization, compliance, and records management for example? If you require these services, it’s worth checking the integration between those elements and your existing systems. The more software that needs to be installed, the more likely you are to incur integration issues.
When it comes to additional services, some organizations will charge extra, so awareness of pricing will ensure budgets aren’t busted and expectations are managed carefully. Having a vendor who is transparent with their pricing structure and invoice time, as well as whether they charge for elements such as support services and training is a must.
This list is far from exhaustive – we haven’t covered any options around AI or analytics which many eDiscovery software vendors are now offering. But what this list gives you is a comprehensive place to start, that will help you devise a shortlist of vendors or outsourced options that should at least be in the running.
As we noted earlier this year, the litigation floodgates are opening, and as firms scramble to meet client needs, as well as drive new business, using new technology or an outsourced service provider may be the answer due to alternative different pricing, scalability, and expertise.
Whatever option you decide upon, the specific details should be worked out in collaboration with your IT, finance/procurement, and legal teams to ensure you get the service or software that’s going to deliver the outcomes you need and help you drive successful case outcomes.
For a reliable, innovative litigation support partner contact us and see how we stack up against your shortlist.