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By Susan Ethridge.
For anyone involved in the legal industry, it’s no secret that selecting the right eDiscovery services provider can pose some major challenges – especially if you’re new to the effort.
Here are some basic guidelines to help you wrap your arms around key decision points.
The Do’s when Choosing an eDiscovery partner
More than anything, evaluating potential partners is about asking the right questions, defining your own expectations, and clearly communicating your needs. The following tips will help you get started down the right path.
Envision the firm as partner
Explaining your expectations, your organization’s driving factors, and the nature of the litigation you typically face is time-consuming.
More than that, between data transfers, software licensing, and related costs, moving from one company to another can be expensive and complicated.
So look for a company that can meet your needs for the foreseeable future, and work towards developing a relationship in which they function as an extension of your own team.
Focus on the nitty gritty
Ask for specific details about experience in similar matters. If your matter(s) involve unusual, legacy, or proprietary data types, ask about the firm’s experience with them.
Even if written case studies aren’t available, your contact should be able to describe past successes in detail – and if it sounds like everything was sunshine and roses, proceed with caution.
eDiscovery is rarely perfect, error-free, or easy, so ask how the firm resolves problems, and request documentation regarding turnaround times for questions and issues. Firms should be willing and able to commit to specific metrics for acceptable levels of service.
Consider pricing – and beyond
eDiscovery pricing has long been a contentious topic in the industry, because historically, models have been complicated and costs have been difficult to predict or control.
Newer, managed services models offer better results and make it easier to compare vendors and understand the value they provide.
Ask for a thorough explanation of costs, but more than that, ask about techniques the company uses to save money or drive efficiencies.
Ask the firm to explain what technologies they’ll use for your case, and why. In many situations, eDiscovery technologies are “one size fits all” – to wit, any one of a dozen platforms is suitable for email processing – but your vendor should still be able to make a solid case for the platforms they use. And that case should be more detailed than “it’s the gold standard.”
Talk to references – and ask pointed questions
This one should probably go without saying, but so often in the rush of daily operations, we neglect to do the most basic due diligence.
Call, email, or connect on LinkedIn – it doesn’t take long to reach out. Once you connect, don’t just ask what they think of the firm.
Ask what they wish the firm had done differently. Ask about the pain points. Even if you ultimately aren’t concerned about whatever went wrong, the goal is to find out what the problems were, and how the firm handled them.
The Don’ts when Choosing an eDiscovery partner.
Failures in the evaluation process, more often than not, can be attributed to things that are overlooked or assumed.
Avoid pitfalls by focusing on fact-finding, eschewing bias, and prioritizing objectivity.
Don’t take what’s on the tin at face value
Just because a company says they can provide the services you need doesn’t mean they’re experts.
Don’t assume that the company is experienced and capable in all of the services they list on their website.
Ask specific questions about their work in areas that are relevant for you. Legal tech moves fast, and the firm may have only recently added a given service or technology to its lineup. There’s nothing wrong with that – but if that’s the case, you want to know about it.
Don’t get bogged down in paperwork
Organizations often assume that they need to send out a lengthy RFP in order to properly understand an eDiscovery firm’s strengths and weaknesses.
However, RFP processes are typically complex, time-consuming, and expensive, and the responses can be difficult to interpret, much less evaluate.
Instead, try a short questionnaire to narrow it down, and then have one-on-one conversations with key players.
You can gain a great deal of insight in a half-hour phone call with an Account Executive – and even more in a conversation with the leaders of Project Management, Information Security, and Data Services.
Don’t forget to ask your network
Your peers are an invaluable source of information when it comes to technologies, best practices, providers, so don’t rely solely on what the firm says about itself.
Ask colleagues if they have insights into the capabilities and reputation of firms you’re considering.
Pro tip: conferences (even virtual ones) and other networking events are a great way to engage with people you don’t routinely talk to and get fresh perspectives on the state of the services industry.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon
It’s easy to assume that the biggest, most popular firm must be the way to go – after all, if everyone uses them, they must be good, right? But just because they’re good doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good for you.
A small or mid-sized firm might be better able to provide the kind of personalized service and attention you need, or more interested in committing to a long-term relationship.
That’s not to suggest that large firms don’t provide great service – they do. It’s just a reminder that more isn’t always better.
Don’t rush it
Once you’ve selected a potential partner, it’s important to allow both parties to get to know one another.
If possible, take some time to engage in a “dress rehearsal” by starting with a small, simple case.
Or send some sample data for processing and ask your partner to treat it like a real project. This will allow your team and the vendor’s to get used to working together and iron out any issues before the work begins in earnest.
Approach with caution
Choosing an eDiscovery partner requires diligence and careful consideration, but it doesn’t have to be an agony. As in so many things, where partnerships are concerned, a little bit of research goes a long way.
Final thoughts on Choosing an eDiscovery provider.
Focus on data, facts, and real-world insights from trusted sources, and take the time to audition potential partners with a test project. In the long run, it’s an investment that’s well worth making.
About the Author
Susan Ethridge is a writer, editor, and marketer with more than 15 years’ experience in the legal technology industry. A co-founder of OnCall Discovery, she writes blog posts and articles that explore the nuances of data and discovery management, legal marketing, and relationship nurturing.