Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Michael Fluhr. Published: 2013-01-21 04:00:14Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. In my last article, I covered the costs and potential savings associated with bringing eDiscovery software in house. This article will continue my analysis on whether or not bringing software in house is the best choice for most firms.

How Do I Use It?

Another consideration when deciding whether to purchase eDiscovery software is expertise.  Using eDiscovery software isn’t like using iTunes or Microsoft Word.  It often requires significant expertise, both to use and to maintain.  Just by way of example, it requires knowledge of database administration just to maintain the software (which generally runs off of a relational database).  It requires an understanding of how ESI processing and analytics work, to ensure that data is processed properly (e.g., the appropriate metadata extracted, the appropriate indices created, the data appropriately deduplicated, etc.).  It requires an understanding of how to create and optimize a review editor (i.e., set up the check boxes, radio buttons, text forms, etc. to allow for review of documents).  It may require knowledge of advanced text analytics (including email threading or predictive coding).  And it requires knowledge of how to leverage all of this technology in the context of litigation (i.e., how to design effective searches, ensure defensibility of results, negotiate protocols with the opposition, etc.).

Very often these areas of expertise lie in different individuals.  One guy or gal knows how to maintain the database.  Another guy or gal knows how to process data.  Still another guy or gal knows how to perform statistical analyses on potential search protocols.  Maintaining and using eDiscovery software effectively isn’t something you can just throw at IT and expect results.

Vendors tend to have the advantage here.  Again because eDiscovery is their core business, they are more likely to hire or train individuals necessary to perform all of these tasks.  A law firm or client considering whether to purchase eDiscovery software should honestly assess whether it has the current expertise to maintain and use such software or whether they are willing to make the investment in personnel to do so.

That said, the vendor advantage isn’t insurmountable.  While maintaining and using eDiscovery software isn’t a trivial matter, nor is it rocket science.  In my experience, a combination of smart IT personnel and some technologically inclined legal personnel can get the job done.

Furthermore, bringing eDiscovery software in-house to a law firm or client provides an invaluable opportunity for education.  In the process of mastering the use of eDiscovery software, a lawyer will receive exposure to an education about how and where data is stored, how it can be manipulated and searched, how it can be preserved, how it can be produced, and other useful information.  This education can significantly improve an attorney’s ability to locate relevant data, to design effective searches, to create review protocols, and to perform a myriad of other eDiscovery tasks.  As discovery of ESI in litigation continues to grow in importance, firms and clients might consider the educational benefits of bringing eDiscovery technology in-house.  That said, this education requires a commitment that a firm or client simply might not be willing to make.

Advantage: Vendors (just slightly)

So Should I Take the Leap?

So should your firm or business bring eDiscovery software in house?  As any lawyer would do, I answer “It depends.”  Shocking, I know.  Undoubtedly bringing eDiscovery software in-house can result in cost savings (albeit not without adding some hidden costs).  But you get what you pay for, and the up-front savings on an eDiscovery platform might result in cost increases throughout the eDiscovery lifecycle.  Furthermore, not all law firms and clients have or will obtain the expertise needed to maintain and use eDiscovery software.

Ultimately, bringing eDiscovery software in house is a big decision.  Hopefully, these considerations will help you make the right one.

eDiscoveryJournal Contributor Michael Fluhr

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