When it comes to discovery, the legal industry remains largely penny-wise and pound-foolish. Initiatives such as the American Corporate Counsel’s Value Challenge demonstrate clients’ desire for innovation, efficiency, process improvement and cost control. However, unless clients demand it, attorneys rarely seek to maximize the use of technology to facilitate efficient and cost-effective discovery. There is huge potential today for cost saving through the use of simple, easy-to-understand technologies aligned to proven workflows and appropriate resources.

The Early Solution: Contract Attorneys for Review

Seventy-three percent of all discovery costs are incurred during document review, according to a 2012 Rand Study. Long ago, corporate clients began to push for a different way of handling document review that did not involve the use of costly associate attorneys. Agencies that specialize in document review on a contract basis emerged across the country and, eventually, across the world. At such agencies, large numbers of contract attorneys spend 8-12 hours a day staring at computer screens as they review and code documents – at a significantly lower rate than the billable rates of law-firm associates. As the sheer volume of data grows exponentially, however, the industry must do more than throw contract attorneys at the problem.

Today’s Simple Technology Alternatives

As the electronic discovery industry has matured, a wide range of tools have entered the market – offering benefits such as time and cost savings, and more consistent, accurate work product. These tools range in sophistication and in the amount of planning and commitment required to make them successful.

At the most sophisticated end of the scale, there is predictive coding. Predictive coding is the use of machine-learning technologies to categorize an entire collection of documents based on human review of only a subset of the document collection. Discussion of predictive coding has dominated trade shows, educational forums and industry publications for the past several years. In reality, the industry’s current appetite for predictive coding is limited. Attorneys struggle to understand how predictive coding works and how to incorporate it into their practice.

Luckily, a number of technology alternatives are less complex and effective. These tools simply organize data making document review dramatically more efficient. And they are simple to understand and explain. Three are worth highlighting here: E-mail Threading; Near-Duplicate Identification; and Language Detection.

1) E-mail Threading

E-mail threading technology presents all e-mails in an e-mail chain together. When used correctly, e-mail threading eliminates the need to review each message in a chain on its own, isolated from the others. When e-mails are grouped together, attorneys can make more consistent coding decisions. The use of e-mail threading increases document-review efficiency by 15-20 percent. When legal teams take the additional step of suppressing  individual e-mails and reviewing only the longest, most comprehensive threads (and any unique attachments), the sheer volume of e-mails requiring review can be reduced by 40-60 percent. This results in significant cost savings in document review.

2) Near-Duplicate Identification

Efficiencies can also be created when similar loose documents (non-email) are grouped in order to expedite the review process. It is much more efficient for reviewers to work with groups of similar documents at one time rather than random documents presented in an unorganized fashion. Use of near-duplicate identification can expedite document review rates by 20-25 percent.

3)  Language Detection

It is increasingly rare to have only English documents in a document review set. Foreign language data require resources with experience in the appropriate language. The use of language-detection tools group foreign-language data together for efficient review by resources with the appropriate skills. This is much more efficient than having foreign language data mixed in with other documents during review.

Investments in Technology Produce Significant Savings

Will you pay more for technologies to facilitate efficient and effective discovery? Yes, they require an additional up-front investment. But don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I contend that there are cost savings to be had on almost every document review applying one or more of these technologies. Indeed, forward thinking law firms and corporations have begun making them part of their workflow on all matters. I urge you to take time to analyze the return-on-investment of these technologies and the significant impact they have on the total of discovery. They more than pay for themselves — yielding a 20-40 percent reduction in total document review costs. Moreover, these technologies add strategic value by providing faster access to key, critical information.

For more information on how Discovia can help your organization discover smarter, please contact me at Paige Hunt Wojcik.