Whether you’re in-house or work at a law firm, if you have any experience with e-discovery, you know the most expensive part of the process is document review. It typically consumes around three-quarters of e-discovery budgets, so if you’re looking to save money, reducing review costs is the key to reducing e-discovery spend. And today, more than ever, controlling legal costs is on legal leaders’ minds. Case in point: in the 2023 ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey, our recent report polling almost 900 CLOs and general counsel, the top three strategic priorities all had to do with saving money and creating efficiencies–legal operations, right-sourcing legal services, and cost minimization.
While in-house teams have increased their investment in technology for tasks like document review, they still need to collaborate with outside partners to complete document reviews on time and on budget. Understanding what’s happening when you pass documents over to outside counsel for review can give you the information you need to make sure you stay in control of your e-discovery projects and their budgets. To help you do so, Exterro and Today’s General Counsel recently partnered to produce our 2022 Law Firm Benchmarking Report: Trends in Document Review Services. Representatives of 44 law firms averaging 75 review projects per year responded—and this is what we found out.
Prepare yourself for more document review projects.
Civil litigation is still the bread and butter reason why organizations turn to law firms for document review support, but other use cases are increasing in importance. Looking at the current environment, 77% of respondents ranked it as the top type of document review project. But looking to the future, law firms recognize that other types of document review projects are likely to become more frequent, with 68% expecting internal investigations (for HR, fraud, or cybersecurity incidents, for example) to be the most or second-most likely type of review projects to increase in frequency.
Considering that other reasons for document review projects (civil litigation, data breaches, and criminal investigations) aren’t decreasing either, make sure you have repeatable, defensible workflows in place to manage the preservation, collection, and delivery of documents. They’re table stakes—but they’re not enough to unlock significant savings on their own.
Reduce data volumes before you send documents to outside counsel.
It’s rare that the saying “time is money” is as obviously true as it is in document review. Estimating the cost of a review project is pretty easy. Divide the number of documents you send by the amount of documents a reviewer can complete in an hour, then multiply by the hourly rate your outside counsel bills for document review. Halve that number, and you’ve saved 50% off your budget already!
You might think, “if only it were that simple.” It actually is. Simple data processing—such as eliminating duplicative documents—can reduce costs of document review by close to 40%. Add in some basic screening for key search terms, date ranges, and key custodians and you’re likely there already.
Our survey data validates this point. Law firms that frequently conduct document review projects for their clients aren’t focused on “sexy” technology features like AI. They want to streamline their processes and reduce duplicative efforts, favoring features like reuse of work product (59%), automated redaction (41%), and automated workflows (36%) as most valuable to them.
Make sure sensitive documents being reviewed are secure at all times.
Ransomware attacks, malware incidents, and data breaches happen every day—and cybercriminals are increasingly targeting law firms, as a recent Exterro infographic demonstrates. As caretakers of their clients’ sensitive data, there’s no excuse for law firms being unprepared to respond to a data breach. Thankfully, law firms are increasing their cybersecurity measures. Law firms responding to the survey are employing, on average, between four and five different tactics to protect client data and minimize the risks of cyber-incidents.
Minimizing process handoffs and data transfers between software suites can reduce the potential for human error and accidental data loss. In fact, in a survey of in-house teams, we found that almost half were having outside counsel work inside their document review platform to reduce the risk of data breaches. (And of course they get the additional benefit of keeping a closer eye on project timelines and budgets!)
To better understand the data around how law firms are managing document review projects, download the full report, Exterro’s 2022 Law Firm Benchmarking Report: Trends in Document Review Services, today.