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Many established litigation support vendors (both national and regional) have set their scopes on electronic data discovery (EDD), and now offer data conversion services — and in some cases, consulting and forensic advice. Other companies have entered the legal marketplace, to offer only electronic data discovery conversion services — without previous experience in the traditional “code-and-scan” business. But EDD does not necessarily mean you have to outsource. A third service also has been launched: “do-it-yourself” EDD conversion tools, to help law firms and corporate law departments control their electronic data. These tools offer the ability to do in-house what the service providers can do on a larger scale: convert electronic data into TIFF images with database records, cross-referenced files and the full text of the electronic data. It may not make sense in all cases, but it can be a viable option in those instances involving manageable amounts of data. So when should you outsource, and when should you keep EDD under your own roof? There is no easy rule-of-thumb, but there are two major threshold factors firms need to consider: 1. Does your organization have the culture, philosophy and personnel infrastructure compatible with an in-house EDD undertaking? For organizations with existing litigation support departments (scan operators, coders, project managers and network administrators) the answer is likely to be “yes.” For firms without such resources, ad hoc assignment of existing personnel to electronic data conversion projects is likely to result in failure, for the same reason that ad hoc in-house litigation support usually fails: Staff don’t have sufficient training and experience and will be distracted by competing priorities. 2. Can the firm’s technology infrastructure handle the additional activity? This is less of an issue for combined hardware-and-software products, as they will not place demands on existing network resources because they already have a dedicated machine. For EDD tools that are software only, appropriate hardware must be available. Because electronic data will come from a variety of outside sources, it is safest to perform EDD conversions on stand-alone machines or a dedicated network. Assuming the threshold factors favor in-house EDD, here are the next set of questions: Volume: What is the volume of data to be converted and how quickly does it need to be completed? EDD workstations have a certain capacity of pages they can process per day. Be sure your system can process your anticipated volume in the time needed. Personnel Costs: What is the cost of the labor to operate workstations, supervise operators, manage the project and administer the network — over the time it will take to complete this project? If the in-house system is difficult to use, these costs can quickly add up to more than the outsourced price. Media: How will you get the data? (What media?) Will this present any technical issues that are beyond the capabilities of the firm? CDs and Zip disks may not be problematic, but electronic data can arrive on backup tape (DLT, etc.) that must be restored to a server, requiring hardware and software not normally on hand. File Types: Can you handle all the file types you’ll receive? While most in-house conversion tool providers claim to be able to convert different file types, some — such as Microsoft Corp.’s Excel spreadsheets — require special capabilities to produce usable images, while others can’t be processed without skilled operator intervention. Duplicates: Will you receive many duplicate documents? Some tools can “de-dup” at the individual source level, but de-duping globally across an entire electronic data collection may require service bureau capabilities. Reside: Where will the converted data ultimately reside? If on an outside ASP repository, you’ll need to deliver the database to that ASP’s specifications. Attorney Cliff Shnier is western region sales manager for Daticon Inc., and is based in Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz. Attorney Daryl Teshima is a consultant for SV Technology, based in Los Angeles.

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