Organizations are always looking for ways to save – and predict – costs.
Even in normal times, most organizations strive to operate as efficiently as possible – and that goes for the legal department as well, who are often under pressure to do more with less. And in 2020, while the entire world is feeling economic pressure, that counts for double (at least). Despite the commercial motivation, low-cost legal services that appear too good to be true are often worth a deeper examination – because sometimes, they may in fact be too good to be true.
Falling prices have led to some eDiscovery vendors quoting low costs before projects begin – costs so low that they may not accurately reflect the final, true “all-in” cost of the project. Once the project begins, clients may often discover that not all services they need are covered under their contract, or that their vendor has taken a lax and dangerous approach to data security, or noncompliance with swiftly changing global regulations. Even a few delivery delays here and there – while seemingly minor – can lead to a price tag much higher than what a legal team has budgeted for any particular matter.
To limit risk exposure and ultimately save more money in the long run, it's important to be aware of the risks in choosing cost savings over quality:
Lack of Experience, Preparation, or Expertise
Budget eDiscovery providers are often inexperienced, and unprepared for the types of complications that regularly arise in litigation. When complications inevitably arise requiring specialized expertise, clients of these providers must often hire additional providers to complete the necessary work – quickly multiplying the costs and delaying project completion while new contracts are negotiated, and a new team is brought on board.
Savvy organizations are beginning to recognize they can consolidate by engaging one eDiscovery managed services provider: Rather than managing several transactional contracts and vendors for each matter, organizations can look to a holistic provider to deliver services from “soup to nuts:” from consulting, information governance, and forensics & collections through to processing and hosting, managed review, and trial preparation. A single provider delivers continuity, reduces switching costs, streamlines operations, and reduces costs over time.
Litigation Beyond Borders
Cut-rate vendors often also underestimate the realities of the global marketplace – while litigation may arise in one nation, any given matter may affect data residing in any number of locations all over the world. Business knows very few borders – and discovery projects often require knowledge of multiple jurisdictions and legal systems.
A typical example might involve an American company manufacturing parts in Asia, assembling them in Europe, and selling their products globally. That company’s litigation profile is likely to involve data residing on three – or more – continents; all stored in multiple languages and subject to several sets of regulations in each region – and sometimes each locality. It’s important to contract with providers who have locations and personnel stationed in each locality – who can speak the local language, are familiar with the regional regulations governing data use, and have the local relationships necessary to manage matters efficiently.
Avoid Capacity and Resourcing Risks in eDiscovery
Small or cut-rate eDiscovery providers often operate close to the bone, and are only able to properly manage a small number of projects at a time. That may work when everything is going smoothly – but what happens when one of their clients discovers several hundred thousand previously unresponsive documents? Or, something goes wrong with a data delivery, or perhaps a large number of additional files need to be retrieved – in person – from an office located somewhere remote? Or, what if a regulator suddenly moves a deadline up?
The reality is that in these situations, the vendor may drop the ball entirely. Or, they may attempt to move personnel around - shifting specialists from one matter to another – to try to cover the emergency. Even if your particular matter is straightforward, you may have to deal with a lengthened timeline to completion should something go wrong with any other client and resources are pulled from your project to manage complications with theirs.
What to Look for in an eDiscovery Provider
Those looking to save costs on eDiscovery projects should consider these risks when assessing eDiscovery partners. A good rule of thumb is to look for a provider that can manage unexpected project surges and extraordinary requests, has in-place multinational presence and expertise, is experienced in delivering eDiscovery managed services, and offers diversified services across the legal spectrum. To avoid these pitfalls, many choose to partner with a holistic managed services provider, which can limit risk exposure and help clients save money in the long run.