Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2010-12-23 10:26:46Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. We’ve been writing about the issue of “ownership” in eDiscovery lately and it’s prompting some good discussions.  Earlier posts about general ownership of eDiscovery and ownership of document review have led to various debates such how to best implement eDiscovery processes and solutions within corporations and the potential change of business models for law firms.  Only one thing is clear – that there is little clarity in our market.  These debates will continue to rage for near-term because most organizations are still fairly low on the eDiscovery learning curve.

The small polls we ran in our articles didn’t produce statistically significant results, but the results do provide some insight into how the market sees eDiscovery evolving.  In response to the question about who “owns” eDiscovery in general, just over half (55%) picked legal as the primary owner.  Records management was in second place with 15%, and IT a surprising third with 12%.  I say surprising as I thought there might be a more even split between legal and IT.  I also thought that more people would say they didn’t know who owned eDiscovery (9% indicated that in our poll).  Perhaps in a larger sample size, the results would play out more as I expected.   However, I do like that more than half point to legal as the owner – hopefully, this will be the start of a trend of legal departments really setting up good programs for more proactive eDiscovery management.

The question of eDiscovery ownership was interesting, but it made an assumption – that corporations are accepting accountability for eDiscovery.  Certainly, most are implementing programs for more efficient identification, collection, and preservation.  Many are also bringing certain elements of processing, analysis, and review in-house.  What the question didn’t get to is ownership of the actual document review process.  Some companies do this internally, but the vast majority rely on law firms.  So, we asked the question of who owns document review.  Again, not statistically significant results, but definitely an indication of a split in the market, with a small majority (56%) indicating that corporations own document review and the rest voting for the law firm.

My belief is that corporations own document review, even if a law firm actually conducts the review.  But, some law firms would probably like to argue that they own document review.  The outcome of this debate could be significant for solution providers in the space.  If the trend becomes that corporations own document review, will law firms stop buying review platforms and simply use what their clients buy?  Not likely in the near-term, but it certainly will affect buying patterns of law firms.  If corporations continue to take more and more control and ownership, providers that sell mostly to law firms will need to shift focus a bit – not an easy thing to do.

The ownership issue in eDiscovery is a long way from being solved.  We are diving into more granular research on who owns what in eDiscovery.  If you’d like to participate in that research or have questions you’d like answered, shoot me an email.

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