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The naked truth: eDiscovery and the expensive price tag

There’s an old saying in eDiscovery: “Projects take twice as long and costs twice as much.” Cost was, and still is, a major concern in the eDiscovery industry. Although we’ve come a long way from 2007 when processing was $1,200 per GB, the explosion of data has kept costs steady and sometimes increasing. As components of eDiscovery continue to commoditize in the coming years, the biggest gains in cost savings will still come from efficient process management.  

Controlling costs in eDiscovery is a constant effort of evaluating people, processes, and technology.  Earlier this year, Bloomberg published an article titled “On Samsung’s eDiscovery costs” which suggested that Samsung spent close to $44 million for eDiscovery in 2014. The article also highlighted that Samsung only produced about 10 percent of the documents that were processed and spent a great deal of treasure on an army of attorneys to sift through an expansive universe of documents.  This example alone highlights two important strategies in reducing eDiscovery costs which are (1) active budgeting and (2) reducing review volume.

Active Budgeting

Costs add up quickly, so it’s important to set an appropriate budget and work hard to adhere to that budget.  Understanding individual costs paired with weekly reporting on project budgets helps remain within the budget and anticipate overages before they occur.  The last surprise you (or your client) want is a large invoice.  

Keep your eye on review

The RAND Corporation conducted a study in 2012 concluding that document review was the most expensive step in the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM).  In fact, the study found that over 70 percent of EDRM-related costs were concentrated in the review phase.  With this in mind, the goal throughout the entire eDiscovery process should be to defensibly reduce the number of documents in the collection and processing phases, so only a minimal set is reviewed. Here are three ways to reduce review volumes:

1. Thoroughly interview custodians and IT management during the collection phase.  This will ensure only the documents relevant to your matter are captured.  If everyone acts in good faith, this should help narrow the universe of documents on the front end.

2. Smart filtering can reduce document volumes dramatically. Some of these are: (i) strategic date ranges, (ii) well thought out search terms, and (iii) and de-duplication.  All three of these should substantially limit the documents that ultimately make it to review.  

3. Lastly, technology-assisted review can significantly reduce review volume. Some analysis by the E-STET Academy found that using predictive coding for review can cut review costs by 78 percent.