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Evaluating eDiscovery Providers: 10 Essential Considerations 

Litigation teams frequently re-evaluate eDiscovery providers due to evolving needs. Burgeoning technology, financial stability, ongoing quality issues, mergers and acquisitions, capacity limitations, security concerns, and cost pressures are all potential triggers that initiate a formal RFP or other evaluation process.

Whether managing new matters, handling overflow work, or migrating ongoing cases, specific considerations arise. The needs of the organization as a whole must be balanced with the unique requirements of each matter.

While these triggers may initiate a formal proposal request (RFP), there are key factors that should be included in your evaluation process. Here, we discuss them:

1. Financial health and stability

The eDiscovery landscape is a dynamic mix of niche solutions, emerging startups boasting AI capabilities, and established players undergoing consolidation. While new contenders enter the market every year, long-term sustainability is still a challenge for many.

Similarly, mergers and acquisitions can leave larger providers with significant debt burdens, affecting their ability to invest in innovation (to the detriment of clients), infrastructure and global service delivery.

In both scenarios, clients face potential risks. Service levels could decline, or in extreme cases, the provider might cease operations altogether. Therefore, carefully evaluating a provider’s financial health is crucial. Some key questions to ask might be: What is the plan should your business be unable to support us in the future? Can we see your P/L report? Can you make a guarantee of financial soundness for the next 12-24 months?

2. Migration expertise: a must-have

When you’re considering a migration to a new provider, it’s important to have a plan in place to move your data securely and efficiently. The new provider should help you with this process and identify any potential challenges (including security risks) and develop a plan to mitigate them. They can also help you decide which data needs to be migrated and which can be decommissioned. This can save you time, money and reduce risk in the long run.

The ideal provider should possess:

  • Migration specialists: A dedicated team with experience handling migrations of various complexities.
  • Proven track record: A history of successful migrations, with details including the number of matters, case complexity, and data volume handled. A vendor that has handled thousands of migrations might be better suited to handle this work than a vendor without this experience.
  • Migration expertise: over various platforms, including leading solutions like RelativityOne, Relativity, Reveal, Brainspace and lesser-known options including KLDiscovery’s Nebula, Consilio’s Sightline, DISCO, and Everlaw,

A critical step in migration planning is evaluating each matter individually and creating a tailored approach in collaboration with your provider. For example:

  • Low-risk matters: For matters with minimal impact on business operations (e.g., HR cases), a simplified migration approach might suffice.
  • High-risk/complex matters: These matters require a more cautious approach, weighing the migration benefits against potential risks considering upcoming deadlines and/or data complexity.
  • Nearing disposition: For matters nearing closure, the cost-effectiveness of migration needs to be assessed.
  • Long-term matters: For ongoing matters with established processes, migration complexity should be carefully evaluated.
  • Offline storage: The provider and client should evaluate the pros and cons of migrating offline (or old) storage and should have a plan for migrating data from offline storage, ensuring defensible destruction if needed.

By addressing these factors, you can ensure a smooth and successful migration process with minimal disruption.

3. Client-centric focus

Service level agreements (SLAs) clearly define the work to which the provider has agreed—and are essential to confirming the services, deliverables, performance levels, pricing, customer support, quality assurance guarantees, and so on.

However, client centricity is the backbone of a smooth eDiscovery experience. Responsive and knowledgeable experts can significantly improve your team’s efficiency and outcomes by:

  • Resolving issues quickly: Prompt attention to problems, technical or process, minimizes downtime and keeps your workflows on track.
  • Guiding you through challenges: Experienced support staff can offer valuable guidance in navigating complex eDiscovery processes and features, proactively identifying issues and developing solutions or workarounds.
  • Optimizing your use of the platform: Support can help you use the platform’s capabilities to their fullest potential, maximizing its value to your team.
  • Partnering to develop innovative solutions: The best ideas often come from clients and those working on solutions and service delivery day in and out, accelerating innovation and client value.

4. Global operational excellence

Fully integrated global teams

In today’s global legal landscape, achieving operational excellence is key for successful (and reliable!) eDiscovery projects. For global providers, this means an approach that seamlessly integrates U.S. and India operations into a cohesive team—rather than “add-on” India resources for managed document review and/or other litigation services.

Look for providers 24/7 availability to accommodate various time zones and urgent needs. Across time zones and geographies, the teams should have standardized, consistent processes and playbooks, and seamless handoffs for hybrid matters, allowing for a true “follow-the-sun” delivery model. Finally, consider team composition, including whether managed review staff, for example, are licensed U.S. attorneys or LLB graduates (licensed to practice law in India), their proficiency in U.S. law pertinent to document review, subject matter expertise in your industry, GDPR, privilege review and logging, and other eDiscovery tasks, review manager and project leader qualifications, and average leadership tenure.

Industry certifications and ongoing training

It’s important that you have confidence in the provider’s areas of expertise—and understanding which certifications its employees hold and maintain. For example, CEDS, PMP (Project Management Professional), Relativity, Brainspace, Reveal, and other-industry leading certifications (including digital forensics and collections) will ensure your team is highly trained and qualified in the respective technologies it deploys and has the knowledge to meet your specific needs.

5. Multifaceted change management plans and support

The best intentioned plans can fail without adequate change management. Look for providers that offer multifaceted plans encompassing both internal and external stakeholders. This should include communication protocols, comprehensive training and onboarding programs for your team to ensure everyone is prepared for the new platform and workflows.

Additionally, the provider should demonstrate a smooth integration process for outside counsel, minimizing disruption to ongoing projects and ensuring deadlines are met. By prioritizing a well-structured change management plan, you can guarantee a seamless transition, high degree of adoption, and maximum benefits from your chosen eDiscovery provider.

6. Innovation: a key driver of litigation practice modernization

Many legal departments and law firms leverage eDiscovery providers for access to advanced features, including AI and Generative AI. Modern eDiscovery providers, where AI is complemented by deep legal expertise, analytics, and automation can offer significant advantages:

  • Streamlined document review and privilege logging: AI assists with tasks like responsiveness categorization, redactions, and privilege logging, saving time and resources.
  • Enhanced accuracy: AI can improve precision in finding relevant documents.
  • Reduced processing times: Automation can speed up data processing and turnaround times.
  • Automation of routine “run the business” tasks:  Your provider should be able to minimize or completely absorb the burden and time of routine tasks—such as a first draft responses to pleadings and discovery demands for volume-driven, repeatable matters—by automating these tasks, handing drafts off to in-house and outside counsel to complete. You’ll benefit from significant cost savings while freeing up resources for higher value work.  

It’s important to acknowledge that AI technology, while powerful, is still evolving. Consider these points when evaluating a provider’s AI capabilities:

  • Specific features: Ask about the provider’s specific AI functionalities and how they can benefit your unique needs—whether it be document review, privilege logging, or other needs.
  • Potential biases: Be aware of potential biases inherent in AI algorithms and inquire about the provider’s mitigation strategies.
  • Transparency: Ensure the provider’s AI solutions offer features that can be explained and defended if necessary, allowing you to understand the processing and reasoning behind its recommendations.

By partnering with a provider dedicated to continuous innovation, legal teams benefit from staying competitive with access to cutting-edge technology—without having to invest in off-the-shelf or niche solutions, data science expertise, and more.  

7. Cost transparency and predictability

In eDiscovery, unpredictable litigation demands can easily strain budgets. Understanding a provider’s pricing structure is crucial to ensure it aligns with your financial goals and promotes efficient resource allocation.

Look for providers offering:

  • Transparent pricing models: Clear and easy-to-understand pricing structures minimize the risk of unexpected fees.
  • Flexible options: A mix of pricing models, including fixed fees for specific services (e.g., document review) allows you to tailor costs to your needs.
  • Cost predictability: Identify potential triggers for added charges to avoid budget surprises.
  • Lower-cost capabilities: Providers with significant operations in locations outside of the U.S., such as India, can result in lower overall costs.

8. Robust security measures are foundational

eDiscovery involves handling sensitive client data, making robust security measures non-negotiable. Here’s what to consider when evaluating a provider:

  • Industry certifications: Look for providers with relevant certifications like ISO 27001:2013, SOC 1 & 2 Type 2 compliance, and GDPR adherence. These certifications show a commitment to robust security practices.
  • Ongoing audits: Ensure the provider undergoes regular independent audits to verify their ongoing adherence to security standards.
  • Comprehensive policies and procedures: Inquire about the provider’s data security policies and procedures, covering areas like access controls, encryption, and disaster recovery.

Finally, it’s important to consider security measures that go beyond industry standards. For example, physical and logical separation to divide a network into segments creates stronger security zones and effectively separates data (corporate from client) in case of a cyber incident or breach.

9. Scalability: growing with your needs

As your legal matters grow in volume and complexity, your eDiscovery needs will evolve. A critical factor in choosing a provider is their ability to scale alongside your demands.

Here’s why scalability matters:

  • Large datasets: The provider’s platform should be able to handle increasingly large data sets without performance issues.
  • Adaptability: Look for a solution with flexible features that can accommodate changing requirements as your eDiscovery workflows adapt.
  • Long-term growth: A scalable provider can support your organization’s growth strategy by ensuring your eDiscovery needs are met efficiently.

By prioritizing scalability, you can ensure your eDiscovery solution grows with your organization, providing a reliable foundation for future success.

10. Shared values

Don’t just settle for functionality – choose an eDiscovery provider that reflects your values. Look for a partner that prioritizes trust and transparency, constantly looking to improve service delivery through open communication, challenging the status quo, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Collaboration is key, with a focus on fostering a “single team” mentality that embraces accountability and knowledge sharing. Additionally, see if their values align with yours in areas like corporate social responsibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). By choosing a values-driven partner, you create a stronger foundation for a successful and ethically aligned eDiscovery experience.

The decision to switch eDiscovery providers can be a strategic investment, unlocking significant performance gains and cost savings for your legal operations. However, careful planning is crucial to ensure a smooth transition. By conducting thorough research, assessing your organization’s current and future needs, and evaluating potential vendors based on key factors such as migration, capabilities, commitment to innovation, and more, you can transform your legal operations and position your organization for success in today’s dynamic legal landscape. If you are considering a new provider and would like to learn about UnitedLex, contact us.

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