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7 Questions you need to ask before buying an eDiscovery solution

Jeffrey Wolff
Jun 11, 2020 4:00:00 PM

When selecting an eDiscovery software solution, law firms and corporate legal operations departments are liable to face seemingly endless options.

The eDiscovery solution landscape is filled with a variety of vendors: everything from decent all-rounders to highly specialized solutions. These options are offered by corporate giants, start-ups, and everything in between. For those on the demand side, this abundance of supply is both a blessing and a curse: any specific need can be fulfilled, but how to make a choice when presented with so many options? Well, that’s why you’re here.

So, let’s say a regulator has come by and requested information, or your employer is embroiled in a legal dispute and needs to provide information relating to the case, or the company is performing an internal investigation for compliance reasons. Whatever the situation, you've come to the conclusion that a dedicated eDiscovery tool is the way to fix it. Here’s seven questions that will help you find the right on

1. Do we really need a dedicated eDiscovery solution?

At the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot, do consider whether or not a dedicated tool is really what you require. While SaaS availability has removed a lot of the upfront costs associated with eDiscovery tools, there’s no way around the fact that eDiscovery isn’t free.

Sure, pay-as-you-go pricing models remove up-front costs and minimize the investments necessary, but any solution worth using means having people in-house that know how to use it, and maintain that knowledge. Modern eDiscovery solutions are more versatile and flexible than ever before, for instance perform information management, enabling you to keep better tabs on compliancy issues and risks. The great thing about modern pay-as-you-go eDiscovery solutions is that as they cost money, they save money. 

2. Does implementing a solution make business sense for us? 

Once a practical need has been established, the next step is to make business sense of the decision to procure an eDiscovery solution. When a practical need exists, this should be fairly straight-forward: numbers talk.

Past costs for eDiscovery can be pulled up and compared to prospective costs of a solution, showing the value of a tool by comparing it to the company’s past investments in labor (both outsourced and in-house). Manual review will always be more time-consuming and labor-intensive than using a tool, especially moving forward as data volumes grow. For any business case, cost analysis should be the place to start.

In some cases, the current state of affairs can also be used to illustrate the need for better tooling. After all, nothing shows the added value a dedicated solution can bring better than that solution’s ability to reduce costs and risk than a live test. Leveraging ongoing projects to demonstrate the use of a solution is great, since the benefit provided is immediate. Creating a stress test for the current processes would be much preferred: addressing a real-world issue with insufficient tools is far from ideal.

3. Do we need a vendor able to handle large matters? 

This seems obvious, but it’s vital to understand what the exact discovery caseload is you’re dealing with. Not all discovery-related costs are created equally, after all. Variations of data requirement varies wildly across the corporate landscape, from businesses that see a few major discovery cases a year to others that have dozens of minor requests every quarter.

Knowing where you fall on that spectrum, what your ratio of small to large cases is, and how often cases come along, is key to assess vendor compatibility. What’s more, while virtually every vendor known to man is able to process smaller datasets, large ones can pose problems for some. If you have some idea of how big a worst-case scenario could be, make sure your selected vendors are able to handle a case of that size comfortably. There’s no point in spending the time, effort and money on obtaining a solution if it isn’t able to help you when it matters most.   

4. What do we need this solution to do? 

Applications for eDiscovery solutions can be as modest as workflow management and as in-depth as advanced AI-assisted deep search. The sky is the limit; through the limit should be set by the need of the business. So, what do you need this solution to do?

Sometimes, the requirement goes no further than automating and managing the classic EDRM workflow. If your operation would benefit most from better workflow management, seek out solutions that offer the best version of that core functionality.

However, there is often real progress to be made in the realm of discovery for many businesses seeking solutions. In virtually every industry, the amount of data is exploding both in raw volume and complexity. Manual review is obviously not obsolete, but is becoming increasingly unrealistic as a way to comb through these ever-increasing mountains of data.

It’s no coincidence that AI-assisted solutions and automation are on the rise– you may have mountains of data to sift through, but the right tools let you make a molehill out of that mountain, while creating an automatically generated and legally defensible record of selections made. To err is to be human, but when it comes to discovery there’s often little to no room for error, and nothing makes humans more error prone that boring, repetitive work like document review.

5. Can we rely on our prospective vendor in terms of security?

This seems obvious, but bears repeating: if you’re going to be entrusting some of your most sensitive data to a vendor, make sure that security is a top priority for them. For vendors, security can be a costly process, requiring significant investments in both time and money. Luckily, in the eDiscovery space there’s no need to take anyone’s word at face value.

With a number of highly respected security standards available (like SOC 2, ISO 27001, FedRAMP, etc.). Earning such certifications is a long, arduous process. Any prospective buyer should take a close, hard look at the security credentials claimed by possible vendors.

That means asking vendors questions about their security standards and/or certifications, and verify their credentials: contact the organizations providing the prestigious certifications presented. Doing your homework about security shouldn’t worry any vendor that places the appropriate amount of emphasis on making sure your data is safe with them. Simply put, make absolutely sure that the solution you find is actually a solution, not a potential new problem.

6. Is the vendor innovative enough?

Technology is always moving forward, and the eDiscovery space is especially fast-moving. Vendors that focus on innovation continuous development can stay ahead of the technology curve, allowing users to make continued use of the latest and greatest eDiscovery solutions. So, ask prospective vendors about their product roadmap and update release schedules.

The more facts a solution is able to search, process and assess, the better your chances of coming out of a legal dispute with a positive result. So look for a vendor who makes the effort to keep themselves, and their clients, on top of the pile.

In terms of things to look for, aside from a forward-looking roadmap, is what the current capacity is with regards to deep processing, source potential, and analytics. Is a vendor able to process the data contained in compressed files (.zip, .rar, .7z, etc.)? Is it possible add social media sources in a search batch? And how much can the solution tell you about the data you feed it once it’s completed the processing?

7. Are we able to be independent in using the solution? 

Do you need a degree in Data Science to operate the solution? A significant part of any business case regarding eDiscovery will be based on potential savings made possible by the solution, so a solution can only be as good as it is user-friendly. How intuitive is the user interface, is searching manageable with common expressions and wildcards?

Back when eDiscovery was in its infancy, the first eDiscovery solutions were immensely complex pieces of software, requiring vendor specialists to operate them. Nowadays, many vendors have made considerable efforts to enable users to use their solution by themselves.

On the front end, clear presentation makes rifling through submenus (and sub-submenus) a thing of the past. Behind the scenes, the intelligence that interprets and executes user input has come a long way, allowing users to use simpler queries to get results.

Accessibility is key to keeping usage cost down: cost savings are directly linked to how much work a user can do without external assistance. As you’ve noticed, outsourcing is expensive, as is bringing someone in to help. So keep an eye out for solutions that emphasize user friendliness, and make sure to appraise how much work can be done independently without needing assistance from the vendor.

Okay, I’ve answered all those questions, what now?

First off, thank you so much for choosing ZyLAB as your eDiscovery partn—I’m kidding. Once you’ve answered all the questions listed above, it’s time do your due diligence to find vendors that meet your needs. Starting off looking to fulfill your security requirement is typically a good start, since vendors that have achieved high security standards are typically very proud of this and showcase it prominently. Once that’s done, checking reviews on trusted and verified review sites can be really helpful: any solution worth its salt will have users championing it. Review sites may also give insights into the innovativeness and DIY-friendliness of a solution.  

Once you’ve made a preliminary selection, arrange demos with your shortlist if you can, and don’t be shy to ask the questions relevant to your use case: a demo is only successful if you come away with a sense of how the solution can help you (If you’d like a demo of our solution, you can reach out to us here). By asking yourself and prospective vendors the right questions, you’ll know what you need and what they can offer. Once both those things are clear, it’s hard to make a wrong decision.

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