Low-cost e-discovery services target small firms, simpler cases

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hands in the clouds


As e-discovery becomes more firmly embedded in the practice of law, inexpensive cloud service providers are springing up to bring it to law firms that don't have the coin to buy and maintain such systems in-house.

Entry level e-discovery—basic keyword searches through documents and files that use search engines—can be had for as low as $15 to $30 per gigabyte, according to Greg Buckles, co-founder of eDJ Group, an e-discovery consultancy. That's not bad, considering 1 GB of text is about 100,000 email files, according to estimates from LexisNexis.

The learning curve for the entry-level systems (also known as self-service e-discovery) is a snap, says Brett Burney, founder of Burney Consultants of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. "If you can use standard tools found in any law firm—Google, Facebook, Microsoft Outlook, Westlaw, Lexis," Burney says, "then you will be comfortable using these tools with little training or introduction." Logging on to the e-discovery results in the cloud is also painless. Just about any PC, laptop or tablet will do. "All you need is a Web browser," Burney says.

Of course, with entry-level e-discovery you can forget about the sophisticated analytics and predictive coding found in higher-end packages, which target attorneys who are searching for meaning and context in documents—at least so far.


If your needs are simple and a keyword search will do, there are plenty of service providers ready to help. Barebones services like Lexbe, Nextpoint and Logikcull are good places to start, Burney says. Similar services include CasePoint from Legal Discovery, Z-Discovery, Cicayda and CS Disco, he says.

Typically, this level of e-discovery involves uploading collections of data files like MS Word documents or a PST (personal storage) file—which stores all Outlook email—to a service provider in the cloud, and then combing through those files with the provider's search engine. The pertinent documents are generally served back to you as image files, which you can print out or store.

And many entry-level service providers have experts on staff who will help design a search. The best providers offer staff that has a deep understanding of search technologies and the law, according to Gabriel Krambs, director of operations and training at CS Disco.

"It's important to work with an e-discovery firm that's driven by attorneys who know how litigators think and know what litigators want," Krambs says.

As e-discovery needs grow more complex, or you happen to be faced with a project that from the beginning involves millions of data files, you may want to consult with an independent e-discovery adviser before making any moves.

"A few hundred dollars for project management meetings with a provider expert can save thousands in processing costs and review hours," says Buckles.

Indeed, attorneys often create more work for themselves when it comes to e-discovery, given that they're not always thinking digital.

"Lawyers sometimes tell clients to simply forward emails or print documents, which actually complicates the process and certainly removes the easy aspect of these services," Burney says. The better approach is to request the storage file for Outlook email or make a digital copy of all MS Word documents, he says.

"Get at least three different bids on the same project," Buckles says. "And carefully define potential up-charges for exception handling or support services."


There is a new twist in the market: On Jan. 20, 800-pound gorilla Microsoft scooped up midmarket e-discovery provider Equivio with plans to bolt Zoom—its text-analysis software—onto the cloud-based Office 365 suite. Zoom is capable of searching for meaning and context in a document, in addition to being able to easily handle keyword searches.

While pricing is still being worked out, Microsoft's plan is to offer Zoom as part of a monthly subscription to Office 365, according to Warwick Sharp, co-founder of Equivio. At today's rates, that would mean an attorney subscribing to Office 365 Enterprise E4 at $22 a month would have access to Zoom and all its advanced analytics and predictive coding capabilities at no extra charge.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “eDiscovery on a Dime: Low-cost services target small firms, simpler cases.”
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