Hybrid e-discovery gives corporations more flexibility when it comes to managing complex data and mitigating risk.

Growing data sizes and new file types continue to be one of the biggest challenges for corporations, particularly for in-house legal teams that are tasked with mitigating the risk involved with enterprise data. To be successful, the ability to manage data in a flexible and scalable manner is key.

Gartner’s 2019 Market Guide for E-Discovery Solutions identifies “hybrid e-discovery” as a future trend in e-discovery, pointing out that “organizations are looking for greater cloud flexibility where capabilities can be ‘dialed up’ and ‘dialed down’ as needed. Established processes, methods and technologies may not be enough.”

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. For many years, people have touted end-to-end solutions, including the notion that an in-house legal team can handle anything that comes their way with the right software. But there are a lot of stakeholders involved in the e-discovery process, which makes the idea of a single team doing everything extremely complex. Consider the following:

-Corporate counsel and internal investigation teams need data to reach resolutions.

-Legal ops directors and e-discovery managers have to actually get that data and put it into a usable form so that attorneys can review it.

-Information technology (IT) has to work with all parties, collecting, managing and hosting the data in a secure way while the legal team does its work.

Similarly, there are a lot of components that go into to ensuring e-discovery happens:

-Software is needed to process, cull, search, review and produce electronic information.

-Services are needed to do the work of e-discovery, either through utilizing in-house personnel or looking to outside service providers.

-IT infrastructure is needed to host the software and enterprise data in a secure and accessible way.

What Is Hybrid E-Discovery, and How Is It Different Than Current Models?

As a concept, hybrid e-discovery combines the best aspects of powerful in-house software, an outside service provider, and a specialized cloud environment and IT department dedicated to e-discovery and bundles them into a solution with a single technology partner. Hybrid e-discovery gives you the confidence that no matter what type of issue falls into your organization’s lap, you will have the flexibility, scalability and support to handle it, either in-house or by utilizing your technology partner’s services.

The Right Software

In a practical sense, it’s a nonstarter when managing e-discovery if you don’t have access to a robust e-discovery tool that can handle any type of data (including new file types), while utilizing the latest innovations in early case assessment, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, in order to get to the facts as quickly as possible.

Some software in the industry claims to be “easier to use” than others – and there’s no doubt that is an important quality – but what matters most is whether the software can handle the needs of high-volume, complex e-discovery. A drag-and-drop, single-click process doesn’t mean anything if you’re constantly having to send work out to someone else when things get heavy. It also gets costly. Add to that the flexibility to deploy software in whatever way works best for you – on-premises, in the cloud, or switching between the two environments when necessary – and you have the foundation for a hybrid e-discovery solution.

More Than a Service Provider

Having a technology partner to help out when necessary allows your organization to increase or dial back resources depending on your workload and data needs. And unlike alternative legal services providers (ALSP), a hybrid e-discovery technology partner is the creator and owner of the technology, as well as a user of it, so they can adapt quickly to better support your organization. Whether they’re helping with strategy, doing data imports, setting up custom searches, or assisting with exports and/or productions, they can be as hands-on or hands-off as you’d like.

And because you’re partnering with the technology vendor – rather than a service provider – you’ll work with the same case managers, who will come to know your workflow and act almost as an extension of your case team, oftentimes giving around-the-clock support in order to meet tight deadlines. Long story short, they are prepared to handle the technical aspects of a matter, thus allowing the in-house legal team to focus on risk mitigation, investigation and other more pressing issues, rather than learning a new technology.

Hybrid E-Discovery in the Cloud

For corporate legal teams, the question used to be “on-prem or in the cloud?” But the answer to that question is more complex than it may seem. For starters, a lot of people think of “the cloud” as a singular place, but there are many types of clouds. Here are the three that are most often used in e-discovery.

Public Cloud (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure):

-All infrastructure exists in the data centers of the provider.

-Users have a private environment within the larger ecosystem.

-Cloud host is responsible for data security, IT management and support.

Sounds good, right? The catch, however, is that these public clouds aren’t just used for e-discovery, and they may be high-profile targets for hacking. Public cloud providers are experts in data security and IT management, but they aren’t specialists in e-discovery.

Private Cloud (a.k.a. “On-Prem”):

-Provides more control over the data and the environment.

-Dedicated private network is located either on-premises or at a remote site.

-“On-prem” e-discovery deployment often means a private cloud.

In this scenario, control of e-discovery data is fully with the user, which is an added benefit from a security and control standpoint. But the burden of maintaining an in-house system is heavy: It requires managing hardware and software upgrades, maintaining an IT team that understands the needs of the legal department, securing the environment against hacks and data breaches, while trying to recover costs and scale in the face of ever-growing data sets.

Hybrid E-Discovery:

-Provides the scalability of a public cloud with the data control of a private cloud.

-Hosting team speaks the same language as your legal team and acts as your dedicated e-discovery IT department.

-State-of-the-art data center, with limited employee access to sensitive data and a lower profile for targeted hacks.

-Hosting fees are a fraction of those of public clouds. And because you’re charged flat rates only for the data that’s processed and hosted, the cost is not only reasonable but also predictable.

-If you choose to deploy on-prem, with a hybrid approach, you can scale up using your technology partner’s cloud at any time, then scale back to avoid ongoing data-hosting fees.

A Growing Trend

As Gartner stated in its 2019 Market Guide, hybrid e-discovery will continue be a growing trend in legal tech. Software alone isn’t enough. Data continues to grow in size and complexity, and the need for that data in investigations and litigation is now a daily occurrence. For an agile response, innovative approaches to e-discovery are necessary, and rather than trying to go it alone, forward-thinking legal teams will likely look toward a hybrid approach.