When the challenge is time, the key is to optimize the tasks the team is already doing. Software that works for you, not against you, can do just that. 

CCBJ: In-house law departments are putting a higher emphasis on efficiency. How does e-discovery software impact that goal?

Jennifer Bantelman: It really depends. In certain cases, such as highly regulated or litigious companies, e-discovery software is really part of business as usual. Legal hold software, collection software for common data sources…these days it’s the norm to have systems like this already embedded within the legal department. So the question becomes, “What is the most efficient way for a team to leverage all of their resources?” That includes time as well as money. If the challenge is time, as it so often is, it’s about enabling people to do more with less time, so the key is really to focus on optimizing the tasks the team is already doing through more efficient systems and processes.

If the challenge is more on the cost side, then the way to increase the efficiency of your legal spend through technology is by taking more in-house. An amazing ROI is typically to focus in-house review efforts on culling large data sets, so that the outside spend can be dramatically reduced. That way, the spend reduces, but the amount of effort required of the team doesn’t increase dramatically, since there’s no increase on tricky collections or review, only on basic deduplications and high-level culling.

With security an ever-growing concern, there’s a priority on data safety. How does cloud-based software ensure security, and why is it safer than on-premise options?

From an architectural standpoint, cloud software has the ability to layer defenses, which is important from both the obvious security standpoint, but also important for reliability and data integrity, because it allows systems to be incredibly accessible and robust, so even when bad things happen, they don’t affect the data. But what I get most excited about is the additional control, flexibility and power that cloud systems give the user. When a team uses a cloud system, they get to control the copies of their data. Instead of handing it over wholesale to a service provider and ending up with multiple copies across systems, everyone can work in the same set of data, even when they are geographically dispersed, not on the same network, or working with different companies. The in-house team gets to control the uploaded data, the users that get access to it and when the data gets deleted. All that comes essentially out of the box with cloud applications, and because the infrastructure is entirely maintained on the provider side, that means the Legal/Legal IT/IT folks no longer have to shoulder the maintenance, monitoring and updating burden, nor the risk.

For Zapproved clients that have made the switch to in-house e-discovery management, what’s their feedback on how it has affected their processes and productivity?

The most important feedback I get is that we improve the defensibility of in-house teams’ processes. With our ease of use and reportability, it’s straightforward for the team to learn how to use the applications, and then they can easily show their work if need be. Our applications are intuitive and they just work. That sounds so basic, but it’s really important, because you need that reliability so that you can focus your efforts on your process and productivity, instead of constantly having to validate things that should validate automatically.

We get a lot of feedback from our customers, but I often hear that the most valuable interactions are within the larger e-discovery community, where different users, who are all struggling with the same challenges, are able to come together and share best practices, tips and tricks, lessons learned and success strategies.

Productivity within our user base is generally experienced across three main areas:

User efficiency: This can show up in a couple different ways. Either the users are able to accomplish their tasks faster, more users are able to contribute so that the workload is spread out (i.e., the applications are sufficiently intuitive so that users can easily expand from just one or two super users to 10-50 general users) or in many cases, both.

In-house capability increases: Teams that used to have to outsource everything are now able to perform many more tasks in-house, being able to bring in end-to-end small matter tasks, and data culling for large matters. This also usually results in faster time to insights, because the team is able to access data almost immediately.

Cost reductions: When you move your downstream processes in-house, even just partially, that typically results in a substantial reduction in your matter costs.

Are there types of matters that are more advantageous to handle in-house?

It changes the further down you get in the process. While I’ve met folks that outsource their legal hold management, that’s exceedingly rare, since, especially with modern software, you’re usually well-poised to do that in-house. The same holds for your initial custodian interviews and standard collections. Now, for specialized collections, eyes on review and production, that tends to vary more, but broadly I think most companies have better success when they don’t try to handle the peaks. What I mean is that the most advantageous way to go is often hybrid. If you currently partner with outside counsel and a team of attorneys for large class-action matters, it’s unlikely you want to have to staff up to run those end-to-end in-house, but that doesn’t mean you need to outsource everything.

It tends to work great to manage early stage matters, like internal investigations, initial data set culling, and smaller, straightforward matters in-house from beginning to end. You get more control over your data and your process, and you’ll typically see a major reduction in your spend as well.