One of the great things about managing a syndication feed is that we get to see virtually everything written about eDiscovery on a daily basis. Granted, only about 5% of what comes through is truly newsworthy, but the constant reminder of what is happening is very valuable. For example, I came across a blog by Christopher Spizzirri that presented some data I otherwise would likely not have become aware of – that 75% of General Counsel rank outside counsel not providing adequate support for eDiscovery requirements as a top frustration of the past year. And, 63% of GCs rank the same issue as a top concern for the next year.
This data crops up at an interesting time. I have always been fascinated by how eDiscovery will fundamentally change the way corporations and law firms do business. The need to control review costs forced corporations to take in-house much of the Early Case Assessment (ECA) functionality (collection, preservation, processing, analysis, first-pass review) that otherwise would have been outsourced to law firms and service providers. Several years ago, I even asked the question of whether eDiscovery would force a change of business model for law firms.
The answer to that question is clearly yes. There are many more alternative fee arrangements than there were five years ago. And, like Christopher Spizzirri points out in his post, many law firms are creating specific eDiscovery groups to better support clients. I spoke to one such firm a few months back. The firm is committed to alternative fee engagements; understanding budgets and what goes into a matter is critical. As a result, the firm chose to begin using predictive coding. And, the firm manages the whole project internally. This firm built a technology team and a robust staff attorney program and an eDiscovery attorney team. All staff are located in the same city and office. For this firm, the key driver was clients – the clear message from clients was that the cost of document review is too expensive and unpredictable.
Based on the survey numbers, either not enough firms are going in this direction or they are not doing it well enough to satisfy GCs. This is interesting because we are at a cross-roads in the eDiscovery market evolution. The market is still immature, but old enough that expectations of performance are rising. As a result, there is a business opportunity for training and certification programs – eDJ happens to be doing a survey on this right now. We are getting proactive inquiries from law students and young eDiscovery professionals about what programs they should be enrolled in. It will be important for law firms to make sure that associates get the right training in order to meet GC’s expectations.