Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Greg Buckles. Published: 2017-07-16 20:00:00Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. 

Life as a consultant means following client trends and hot topics. This year has pushed me to get more hands on with client provider and invoice management systems as some of my favorite clients work their way down the eDiscovery lifecycle. Provider billing practices and the lack of supervision by retained counsel never cease to astound me. Clients negotiate hard for competitive processing and hosting rates only to discover that their PM and miscellaneous tech charges had gone through the roof. They saved money on the data, but lost the budget as both provider and firm burned hours planning, managing and training the review. I am the last person to discount the value of a sharp PM and lead paralegal guiding contract reviewers through complex relevance and issue coding. But is it ethical for providers and counsel to bill for their personnel to learn the technology before using it? Too many times I have dug into large bills only to determine that personnel had been put in the position to ‘learn on the job’. Even before the bills, I get red flags when key players start to push back on proposed tech for more ‘traditional’ systems. Our industry makes it hard for professionals to admit that they don’t know every new system. No one wants to tell the attorneys ‘no’ or I don’t know. If you are an expert in one collection or review platform, you can probably figure out how to run the competitive packages. While this is true, is it ethical to bill your client for the time you wasted digging through manuals and watching downloaded training videos?

As I recently observed about the DTI v. LDiscovery fight, things in eDiscovery are rarely clearly black or white. For instance, what if your firm has invested heavily in training staff and contract reviewers in Xera or IPRO, but your client’s GC insists on using Relativity because he does not want to admit to his golf party that his company is the only one who has not standardized on Relativity? Your team can run Relativity, but it will take refamiliarization, new protocols, new QC steps and retraining your semi-permanent contract reviewers. Should you bill the client for all that time? How can you write off that much without drawing the ire of the partners? Should you get the client’s managing attorney to approve it first?

What about our provider borgs moving into managed service contracts? They have bought up eDiscovery shops with professionals who have deep expertise in their companies favorite collection and processing tools. But now they are assigned to remotely manage the tools that corporate clients have implemented within their environments to minimize the transfer and exposure of sensitive data. Can they bill the hours spent learning new tools, new data systems and even new custom data types? I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer to these questions, but I am sure that transparency is the key to navigating them. So take my two question poll on this topic and shoot me your best war stories.

Stay skeptical my friends!

Greg Buckles wants your feedback, questions or project inquiries at Greg@eDJGroupInc.com. Contact him directly for a free 15 minute ‘Good Karma’ call. He solves problems and creates eDiscovery solutions for enterprise and law firm clients. His active research topics include analytics, mobile device discovery, the discovery impact of the cloud, Microsoft’s Office 365/2013 eDiscovery Center and multi-matter discovery. Recent consulting engagements include managing preservation during enterprise migrations, legacy tape eliminations, retention enablement and many more.

Greg’s blog perspectives are personal opinions and should not be interpreted as a professional judgment. Greg is no longer a journalists and all perspectives are based on best public information. Blog content is neither approved nor reviewed by any providers prior to being posted. Do you want to share your own perspective? eDJ Group is looking for practical, professional informative perspectives free of marketing fluff, hidden agendas or personal/product bias. Outside blogs will clearly indicate the author, company and any relevant affiliations. 

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