Everyone is familiar with the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, or more commonly referred to as the EDRM, whereby the treatment of electronic data throughout the pre-litigation and litigation lifecycle is illustrated. The EDRM is an iterative process. You might not make it through the entire cycle before a matter is settled; or you might find that you kep repeating the same step over and over. It can be a frustrating cycle, but it is a necessary framework in the increasingly data driven world we live in.
The most costly phases of the EDRM are arguably processing and review, with review being the single highest expense in most instances. Law firms are constantly in a battle to control costs, but at the same time ensure consistent, accurate, and re-usable work product. Having been part of countless eDiscovery projects that range from just information governance consulting or collection jobs to full-fledged managed review/production/trial prep, the one constant that I’ve seen ensure over-arching success is the utilization of an end-to-end solution by a single strategic partner.
What is an End-To-End Solution and Why Should You Be Looking For It?
Not every client’s needs are the same when it comes to eDiscovery. In fact, the needs of a client can be narrow and straightforward at the outset of a project, but then evolve into a more complex and large-scale engagement as the litigation progresses. With the realization that client needs are unique and ever-changing, it’s often difficult to define an end-to-end solution and what it ultimately really means.
In my experience, I would define an end-to-end solution as one where technology and people play the most vital roles to achieve seamless transitions and continuity throughout the EDRM. In other words, a strategic partner that offers a comprehensive and flexible suite of solutions backed by premier technology and experts.
Depending on whether you are a law firm or corporation, your incentives for desiring an end-to-end solution might be somewhat different. For example, corporations are looking for one-stop shops that can survive an intense and demanding RFP process to become approved providers; simple, transparent and accurate billing; predictability; stability; and a single point of contact. Law firms, alternatively, are looking for reliability and integrity; strategic partners with the same sense of urgency and proactiveness; timeliness with an ability to successfully perform under pressure with an around-the-clock mentality; and, most importantly, a partner that props them up to the end-client. Only a trusted advisor with proven capabilities to provide a seamless and structured suite of services can achieve all these goals for both corporations and law firms.
What Benefits Come with an End-To-End Solution?
It may not sound groundbreaking, but at its core an end-to-end solution will provide dedicated personnel, experienced talent, centralized communication, speedy turnaround, custom technology solutions, trust, unified billing and a consultative approach. It might sound like these attributes should come standard with any partner or solution, but with new eDiscovery companies popping up year after year, these seemingly basic requirements can be lacking.
Take for instance the following scenario I see all the time:
One vendor to collect; one to process and host; a third vendor to review; and a fourth for trial prep (printing/court reporting/etc.). With this siloed approach, as you can imagine, dedicated personnel with applicable experience and expertise in designated practice areas is unlikely; communication between all these vendors will never be seamless; minimal accountability all around; lack of transparency and certainly lack of context hinders overall success and requires clients to vendor manage versus doing what they do best, their actual job. So why do so many clients do it this way? The only reason I can imagine: the perceived cost savings.
What kind of Cost Savings Can I Expect to Realize with an End-To-End Solution?
As in so many other industries, volume and multi-service based discounts are standard. However, beyond the status quo, there are options for truly creative pricing that flexes to address pain points and meet direct client needs. Concurrently, these alternative pricing options offer predictability and stability in pricing, which is a constant request from clients, especially corporations.
Whether you’re looking for an On-Premises solution, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or an All-In Subscription model, taking advantage of predictable monthly or yearly pricing; seamless access to industry-leading solutions and experts; and total customization and scalability throughout all phases of the EDRM does positively impact the bottom line. eDiscovery can be an expensive endeavor, even on a small matter, and with the risk of hidden costs or costs you just don’t quite understand, you can find yourself with monthly bills in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Managed Services solutions can be a unique option to ensure budget consistency and predictability.
A unique offering I’ve seen being used more and more is a bundled approach when using the same partner for processing, hosting and review. Discounting processing and hosting costs once a matter transitions to managed review can reduce overall costs and unloads the lengthiest part of the EDRM, the review, to a partner that can scale to meet what are often tight deadlines. A bundled approach ultimately puts the onus on your strategic partner to develop and implement the most efficient approach for executing on a project.
Alternative Fee Agreements
Alternative Fee Agreements, or AFAs, are probably the most creative and out of the box pricing options because they can piece together all different types of pricing scenarios into one customized pricing model. Ranging from flat fee agreements to bundled/managed service hybrids, these types of pricing options are specifically tailored for the unique needs of the client. The real impetus here is the realization that no two clients are the same, and no two clients will have the same approach to eDiscovery, so no two pricing offerings can ever really be the same. AFAs are fantastic, and you’d be surprised how much cost savings you can negotiate, but transparency in the expectations and work to be performed will be critical in actually taking the leap into this truly unique pricing option.
In a broader context, having a single strategic partner offer an end-to-end solution provides the capability to craft sweeping custom workflows and project setups specifically tailored for your organization and specific practice areas; the ability to re-use data and work product across multiple matters; build upon institutional knowledge through a dedicated delivery team and reap the benefits of streamlined communication, execution, and billing. From one end to the other, the benefits of a strategic relationship with a trusted partner are countless.