Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Greg Buckles. Published: 2010-04-15 04:00:22Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. In Part 1, I outlined the typical litigation profile questions that would support a realistic needs assessment for a solo attorney or small firm. From a the set of requirements, we explored the basic software packages through the EDRM lifecycle while calling out small firm perspectives. In the intervening weeks, I have tried to track down and get hands on new applications and SaaS offerings that might meet my challenge criteria. The nice folks at QD Documents got me a trial license for their $500 package. The product definitely gives a solo attorney the basic organizational space to code in documents, exhibits, transcripts, filings and all the other working pieces of a matter. Unfortunately, it is really just a nice, clean document tracking and management space, rather than an eDiscovery processing platform. I suppose that you could put URL links in field for native files, but that just feels too much like Concordance. So a good, cost-effective case management tool, but not an answer to my challenge.

One would think that the hosted/SaaS providers would be the perfect solution for the solo attorney. Most hosted platforms have a mature interface and workflow because they have been honed on large litigations over many years. Unfortunately,  that also means that they are addicted to the large case profit margin based on the $300-700 per GB price to process, review and produce ESI. My challenge scenario specified no volume based solutions, so that knocks out all the Relativity, Ringtail, CaseLogistix, iConnect and other hosted review platforms. Small SaaS providers like earlyCASE have popped up onto the radar, but most are point products that do collection, search, load file creation or other ECA features. The price tag can be right, but they do not cover the essential process-review-produce lifecycle that meets the critical needs.

The flood of new culling-first pass appliances like Clearwell, Kazeon, StoredIQ, Stratify eVantage and Nuix cover most of the needed functionality (although not all have Production features). But all seem to come with up front fees to cover the hardware and/or volume based fees that put them out of reach of the small firm. There are new players like Tunnelvision that are undercutting the appliance market with lean ingestion, search and culling features, but even $30-50 per GB is too much out of pocket when receiving large opposing productions on contingency cases. I did get an interesting ping from the folks at Superior Document Services with a new SaaS ECA package called CaseMine with fixed fee pricing. I will follow up if that seems to meet the challenge requirements for the front end of the lifecyle (index, analyze, profile, search, cull and export).

So what options does that leave a small firm? My answer is based on the overall technology comfort level of the eDiscovery point person, whether that is the attorney or a sharp paralegal. Even though the current list pricing on Summation iBlaze breaks the arbitrary $1,000 software budget of my challenge, it does deliver all the basic functionality needed by a sole practitioner, as long as they understand their volume limitations and are willing to call in a provider when appropriate. You have to push the reps, but the LG Gold license is significantly under the premium iBlaze product. Before you think that I have just dropped back and punted, consider the alternatives. The new Concordance subscription pricing meets my budget, but only for the first year and it grates to pay per year on a software that you have installed on your own hardware. It will do the job, but the tech savvy required to run CPLs for basic functionality is a good indication that the practitioner could use a collection of utilities instead.

In that vein, I got a couple recommendations for Adobe Acrobat Pro($499) with plug-ins like EverMap to handle image collections and rough database functionality. For years, folks have coded in Excel, Access, Sharepoint and other Office-style products. For small collections of scanned images with OCR text files, this still works. But what about the client’s PST and Office files? A good inventory tool like Directory Lister Pro($29) will handle the Office files, but you will still need to explode/extract the container and email files to get all the header and metadata fields. OutIndex currently has an offer of one license of their OutIndex Express free per firm.  If you can organize all your exploded collection into a couple directories with links from your table/database, then all you really need is a single license of dtSearch ($199), X1($49.95) or Isys ($99) search to index all the OCR and native files. Conversion to tiff can be done via Adobe, but it is worth every penny to have a good provider do the format and QA unless the collection is tiny and homogeneous. Basically, if you are willing to manually print them then it is an in-house job.

Overall, I come out of this exercise depressed that the software providers have chased the biglaw and corporate dollars while ignoring the needs of the solo and small firm practitioners. Before you think that I am recommending that anyone piece together their own eDiscovery toolkit, understand that I am merely trying to identify every option. Anyone who understands the fundamentals of evidence preservation and chain of custody should be able to manually review and produce small native file collections. It is not easy or simple, but civil discovery should not require an expert on every case. I will continue to look for a good software or SaaS solution that meets my challenge criteria and keep you informed of the progress.  In the meantime, keep sending me your solutions, recommendations and experiences at Greg@eDiscoveryJournal.com.

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