Interview with Alisa McLellan / Inventus
Alisa McLellan, a licensed attorney, is the director of project management for the Chicago and New York offices at Inventus. She and her team work with inside and outside counsel to manage large data-collection projects for both litigation and internal investigations. In this interview, Alisa shares strategies for managing highly effective and cost efficient e-discovery initiatives. Her remarks have been edited for length and style.
The legal field is constantly evolving on multiple fronts. Please tell our readers how updated billing tactics relate to how metrics and data have evolved in the legal technology field.
Alisa McLellan: When I was working as a paralegal there wasn’t as much concern, or focus, on e-discovery spending specifically. We absolutely had a budget to work with, but within the budget there wasn’t much attention paid to where every dollar was going. The primary focus was on the necessary outcome, and you spent what you needed to get that outcome.
Fast-forward to today, and we’re seeing that our clients are a lot more budget-driven, and not just on the total spent, but they’re also looking for details on what they’re actually getting for their money. They are asking, “What are we spending on, specifically?” As technology evolves and we’re able to do more with our clients’ data, they are naturally expecting to get more for each dollar that is spent.
Inventus launched Spotlight last year. How does Spotlight help with this change?
McLellan: Spotlight is a business analytics tool that gives clients real-time access to a variety of case metrics, including detailed information on their e-discovery spending. They can see collection statistics, processing metrics, how much data they have collected for custodians and the date ranges of that collection. Spotlight provides more robust review statistics and hosting metrics than hosting applications themselves. Spotlight reports up-to-date production metrics, as well as a holistic view of their spending with Inventus. Nearly any metric related to collection, processing, hosting, review and production can be reported in Spotlight.
Clients also have the ability to see the actual value of reusing data with Inventus. They can see how much they saved when data are reused during collection, processing and review. All of this information is available right at their fingertips in Spotlight.
Finally, Spotlight can report upon external data sources as well, such as what clients are spending on outside counsel. This information can be imported directly into Spotlight and integrated with other data points. Spotlight users can get a project-level summary as to the amount and distribution of spending. Even better, they’re able to look at what their total spending is for their legal department on an enterprise level.
We are increasingly seeing that our corporate clients are hiring business analysts, and they are looking for us to provide metrics to them in a way that’s easy to digest. They need to analyze what they’re spending their money on and Spotlight does exactly that. Spotlight is also very customizable, and so we are able to build dashboards and reports for clients that show the data in the way that they want to see it. This helps the business analysts in the cost analysis phase to determine if a corporation will pursue litigation or settle.
Do you have any examples of how data analytics have helped legal teams that you’ve worked with?
McLellan: Definitely. Our clients who are reusing data are able to see how much data they’ve collected for a custodian, and what the date range of that collection is, without having to manage a separate spreadsheet. That helps them with making decisions on reusing data. It saves money since we already have the data, and they can just push it into a new workspace for review.
Additionally, in fast-paced litigation it’s helpful that clients are able to see where data over-collection may occur, and where data volumes exceed budget. They’re able to see that mounting total in real time, and if they feel like it’s becoming overwhelming, they’re able to step in and say, “OK, let’s rein this in. Let’s think about what our strategy is. Do we need to develop additional culling methods because this is going to be too much data to review in the short amount of time we have?”
During the review phase, if you’re not mindful as to the speed, effort and pace of the review, then the costs can add up quickly and become astronomical. If you’re able to keep an eye on what’s happening in terms of your progress on the project, how the review hours are accruing and daily productivity, then you can set and manage against specific goals.
With Spotlight, you can see your progress toward that goal. So if you have a limit that you want to set for data processing, hosting, review hours or production spending, you can actually create a meter that shows you how close you are to getting to that goal. It used to be that outside counsel could use whatever strategy they thought was best and the general counsel didn’t really get involved. Now they’re getting more involved because every decision that’s made on a project or lawsuit really affects the bottom line.
Typically, who does the Inventus team work with in the legal department? Is it the legal operations professionals? The technology professionals? Can you tell us a little bit more about what it looks like in real life?
McLellan: We work with a number of individuals, depending on who we are contracting with. There are times when we’re working directly with the corporate legal department (the general counsel’s office), and other times we work with outside counsel, which could be partners, associates, paralegals or litigation support personnel through the law firm.
Spotlight is a great tool to have at our disposal because we’re able to give our clients, whether they are corporate clients or law firms, insight into what is happening with this project – or even better – what is happening holistically with their enterprise of projects. We are able to provide complete transparency about all kinds of metrics and partner with our clients to best manage their data and spending.
Our goal is always to become part of the case team. Our project managers are highly skilled experts that consult and guide our clients through the entire e-discovery process. The majority of our project managers are attorneys; many have document review backgrounds and all have passion for using technology in the smartest way possible. They’re really looking at the metrics and what the goal for a specific review or project is, so that they can help lead the attorneys and paralegals to that goal, using technology along the way to reduce their cost and total legal spending.
Is there anything else our readers should know about the data they can take advantage of by using Spotlight?
McLellan: There are a lot of companies out there that say, “We can save you money.” That’s not enough anymore. Legal technology professionals want proof, and they want to see how you can save them money. Spotlight is not your average dashboard because it gives you insight into all of the different processes in your project at the same time. Most products that use dashboards are specific to what’s happening with that singular product. If you have a dashboard on your processing tool, you’re getting insight into processing. If you have a dashboard on your review tool, you’re getting insight into your review. Spotlight gives you the whole picture and can even pull in data from external data sources. It also has an enterprise ability that can roll up statistics and metrics for all of your projects into one dashboard, giving you one place to go to see what’s going on with all of your projects. There’s no longer the need to keep tabs on separate dashboards for projects when you’re able to get a holistic view of what’s going on with everything.
Will someone using Spotlight be able to predict future costs based on the analytics?
McLellan: When I went through law school, I was promised that there would be no math, but now I spend a lot of my day looking at data and using analytics to predict what’s going to happen. By having very specific data and metrics about a lawsuit, or about the discovery portion of a lawsuit, business analysts within a legal department can more accurately predict how much money they would spend on the discovery phase of a similar lawsuit. Depending on how long certain lawsuits last, you’re also able to more accurately predict data sizes, or how much review will be needed, based on trends. As a result, you’ll be able to create benchmarks and more accurately predict how much money you’re going to need to spend on discovery.
We’ve always had the ability to collect metrics about what goes into e-discovery. You can always look at numbers and pull from various tools you’re using. The ease of doing it – and the scope – is the advantage Spotlight provides.
Alisa McLellan is the director of project management at Inventus. She has more than 10 years of experience in the legal and e-discovery industries, and holds a J.D. from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. She is a former litigation paralegal with over five years of experience managing electronic discovery collections, reviews and productions for a large, multinational law firm. She can be reached at AMcLellan@inventus.com.