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The Ultimate Guide to Switching eDiscovery Vendors

The Ultimate Guide to Switching eDiscovery Vendors

Switching eDiscovery Vendors Smoothly and Successfully: How to Address that Itch to Switch

Switching eDiscovery vendors is one of those things that nobody wants to talk about, but everyone secretly wants to do. Let’s face it, not all eDiscovery vendors are created equal. Most are ill-equipped and not as competent as the profession requires. If you’ve become frustrated with the costs, quality of service, general lack of expertise or have experienced other serious issues with your current provider, it’s time to listen to that nagging feeling in your gut and consider switching eDiscovery vendors.

Switching vendors for any service can engender anxiety, fear of unknown risks and more, but in the case of eDiscovery vendors, the long-term costs and risks are much higher when staying in that unhealthy business relationship compared to the temporary hurdles of switching to a new and healthy partnership.

Fortunately, over the past twenty years, the legal technology and litigation support services industries have significantly matured, making it easier than ever to switch eDiscovery providers.

Several factors, such as improved eDiscovery processing and legal technology, and better, more attentive customer service, are key differentiators when considering a change in providers. Working with your eDiscovery vendor should not feel like managing a circus or herding cats.  More attentive service, more competitive pricing and newer technologies are only a few of the building blocks that form a new and improved partnership for years to come.

In this post, the BIA team discusses key signs that it may be time to switch eDiscovery vendors, what to look for as you evaluate alternative eDiscovery providers, considerations to contemplate before making a change and the steps you should take to execute a smooth transition when changing providers.

Recognizing the Signs that it’s Time to Switch eDiscovery Vendors

The decision to change eDiscovery providers is not one that companies and law firms make lightly. Typically, legal departments and law firms arrive at that conclusion only after giving their current provider many attempts to correct mistakes and improve, only to see that the vendor repeatedly fails to deliver. From cost disparities to service issues, here are 4 signs that you should consider changing providers:

1. Your Costs Routinely and Repeatedly Exceed Expectations

Unfortunately, some eDiscovery providers routinely and purposefully underestimate the true costs of a case, or worse, purposefully design their pricing models to make it very difficult to understand or play a game of bait-and-switch.  Others simply don’t have the necessary competence in their sales and support teams to fully understand and scope correctly from the outset.

At BIA, for example, all of our Project Managers, Advisory Experts and even the majority of the Sales Team members are certified eDiscovery experts, helping ensure that every matter is fully and properly evaluated and scoped correctly early-on to deliver the best value possible.

Whether it’s known items exceeding the budget, additional add-on services that weren’t originally discussed or pesky hidden charges that appear out of nowhere, you’ve likely experienced more than one case where costs vastly exceeded the vendor’s estimates. Even though cases are dynamic and every aspect and need may not be known at the begining of the matter, if you find yourself routinely paying more for even those scoped services, it’s time to consider a change.

2. Your Current Vendor is Not Fulfilling Its Promises

While much of the technologies used in eDiscovery have standardized, the skills, capabilities and quality of eDiscovery vendors have not. If your eDiscovery vendor does not live up to its own hype in terms of service, capabilities, cost savings, quality deliverables or the like, then it’s time to consider a change. 

Your eDiscovery’s services and offerings should also reflect your overall litigation portfolio. Too often eDiscovery vendors treat each new matter as an island, reacting to each new case by creating new processes, varying methods and practices between cases, and generally creating chaos in your legal practices and budgets.

For some companies, that chaos is further complicated by a decentralized approach of using multiple providers, each with their own methods, processes, pricing and practices which results in you losing control of your overall eDiscovery and litigation strategy.

Running your eDiscovery and litigation strategy as a reactionary process like that leads to disruption of your business, increased risks and higher costs. Plus, with no advanced planning, eDiscovery will likely be handled differently by different people for each matter. So the wheel is continually reinvented – the opposite of efficiency.

For companies with larger litigation portfolios, that constant plate-spinning quickly becomes a nightmare, racing to keep each case moving in the right direction. That results in vastly increased internal costs while creating hard to track tasks and responsibilities among counsel.

The good news is that eDiscovery doesn’t have to be that way. Competent and experienced eDiscovery vendors treat eDiscovery as a standardized, efficient routine business process, and with some basic planning, they can help your company do the same. All you need are the right people, the proper workflows and top-of-the-line technology to support it. 

If your current eDiscovery vendor has not standardized your process, then it’s time to look for a provider that will act as a true partner, creating a standardized approach. Whether that is for your eDiscovery matters, internal investigations or regulatory needs, a consistent and auditable process is the key to success.

In other words, you need to switch eDiscovery vendors to one that will follow your real-life needs and experiences.  Such an approach will not only eliminate the chaotic fire drills and errors you may be encountering today, but it will help you leverage your overall legal spend and the institutional knowledge gained by the vendor working across your entire legal portfolio, thereby reducing your risk, increasing efficiencies and quality and lowering your overall costs.

3. You Don’t Trust Your Current eDiscovery Provider

Whether it’s vague pricing models, surprising costs, inexperienced or unqualified support staff, inadequate or outdated technology, inability to fully support the most modern and advanced eDiscovery solutions, or a general failure to follow eDiscovery best practices, you’ve come to feel that you simply don’t have confidence or trust in your current provider. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed a continually rotating mill of sales personnel or project managers. You might routinely receive vague answers to seemingly clear questions, or their promises to “get back to you” never get fulfilled. Maybe their professional services team is anything but professional, leading to fears of competency. If you have misgivings about your provider and how they respond to your inquiries, chances are your gut is correct and the provider is hiding any number of internal problems, e.g. poor internal practices, a revolving door of staff, insufficient training, or a weak business foundation.

It is not an unreasonable expectation to want a partner that provides consistent, quality support. You should have access to dedicated project managers and always-available experts. Your vendor should be transparent about their pricing, capabilities, processes, technologies, and data security practices.  And they should be meeting your needs while helping you maintain strict, standardized protocols. If that sounds appealing but foreign, then it’s absolutely time to consider switching eDiscovery vendors and finding a true business partner that can live up to your expectations.

4. Your Data is at Risk

The security and privacy of your corporate data (or if you are a law firm, your corporate client’s data) are of paramount priority. Security issues alone are grounds for switching eDiscovery vendors as soon as possible. Unlike pricing inconsistencies or customer service headaches, the longer you wait to address security concerns, the higher your risk.

Data breaches are becoming more commonplace, and in the modern world of remote work, your data is more at risk than ever before. Your eDiscovery provider may well be maintaining the CEO’s most sensitive emails and other highly confidential data for ongoing legal matters.

A system breach or ransomware attack means major problems for that vendor’s entire client list. As a law firm, your ethical and fiduciary responsibilities to your clients, as well as your firm’s overall reputation, are at stake. These security and privacy considerations should never be taken lightly.

The unfortunate reality is that many providers simply do not have the tools, skills or experience to ensure that your data is secured and protected. Certification in one area does not mean that a vendor has the requisite qualifications in other areas as well.  For example, just because your current vendor uses multi-factor authentication for logging in to their eDiscovery hosting platform does not necessarily guarantee that they are also using encryption at-rest for your data, or that they operate intrusion prevention for their networks.

The right eDiscovery vendor will apply a holistic approach to security to ensure that your data is fully protected.

Dependable security and privacy measures are vital to data integrity but not easy to implement and usually are expensive for vendors to maintain. If your eDiscovery vendor cannot show the highest standards of data security and privacy compliance in all relevant jurisdictions, then it’s time to switch eDiscovery vendors and enlist one that will protect your critical data the right way.

Ready to Switch eDiscovery Vendors?

Here’s How to Spot the Right Vendor

The increasing speed and complexity of legal technology development demand that providers manage their eDiscovery software solutions with the same level of agility. Dramatic industry shifts and improvements in available technology are common today making it nearly impossible for companies and law firms to stay abreast of new advancements.  Your eDiscovery provider should be on top of every new change and advancement—so that you don’t have to.

The success of your eDiscovery strategy and your overall litigation management depends on your selecting a vendor that supports your needs.

Don’t settle for just any generic service provider. Instead, look for a true partner — one who has the mission, vision and guiding principles to help you and your legal team succeed. That may mean assisting counsel to win an important case or supporting your strategy to achieve optimal results in settlement negotiations.

To achieve this idyllic relationship by switching eDiscovery vendors, you should assess the vendor’s capabilities based on these 7 key factors:

1. Project Management

Competent project managers are incredibly vital to a successful eDiscovery process. Make sure your prospective provider’s project managers are experienced, certified, and responsive. Inquire as to the turnover rate among the vendor’s project management team. It’s nearly impossible to build a competent team if you can’t count on your team to be consistent, and so a high turnover rate is a big red flag, especially when it comes to the critical, central project manager role.

Your ideal provider should offer both primary and secondary points of contact to prevent bottlenecks from unexpected absences or planned vacations. Before switching eDiscovery vendors, ask the prospective vendor about vetting and hiring practices for project managers and whether they run comprehensive background checks (which should be performed on all their staff). If that vetting process is not thorough, or if they do not require an adequate level of experience and certifications, then their project managers are unlikely to perform at the level you and your counsel will expect from a top eDiscovery provider.

2. Support Staff

Besides excellent project management, your eDiscovery provider must have a deep bench of skilled support and technical staff on their team. When a case becomes complicated, you want to know that you have access to prompt, reliable, certified, and knowledgeable people available to you as needed.

A provider might offer the most cutting-edge machine learning and other advanced eDiscovery solutions, but without a certified and skilled team of technical professionals and experts to back them up, you won’t be able to leverage those often cost-saving advanced solutions to the full extent possible. Or worse, those solutions become expensive wastes of time and money.

Support staff includes subject matter experts that can handle all manner of legal matters and issues and offer their expertise in a practical and cost-effective way. When switching eDiscovery vendors, look to see whether the new vendor has experts that take a practical problem-solving approach and who can be leveraged only when a case calls for them.

Many litigation support service providers tack on expert services to every case just to rack up billing but that is a sure sign that the vendor is not taking your needs into consideration. Further, those eDiscovery experts should be ready to assist in early related areas such as legal holds and litigation strategy, helping you design and implement comprehensive eDiscovery and production protocols.

3. Proven Processes and Workflows

An eDiscovery services company is only as good as the people who make up that company but another critical component to a good eDiscovery vendor is the processes and workflows used by those people.

eDiscovery vendors that employ mature and known processes and workflows for project and data handling are a cut above the pack. But many vendors do not. Instead they rely on ad-hoc processes and workflows grown through organic means without testing those against indsutry standards.

It is important that when considering switching eDiscovery vendors, you question the vendor about what processes they use for activities such as data ingestion, processing and review. Making sure that those processes follow known industry standards is key. That can be accomplished by asking about the vendor’s process testing mechanisms and change control policies.

Consistency of process is a foundational element to successful eDiscovery and proven, repeatable processes and workflows are how that consistency is manifested by the vendor.

4. Social Proof

When considering switching eDiscovery vendors, make sure to request client references from the prospective vendor, then contact those references. If a vendor is willing to offer references, that alone is a sure sign that it is confident in their abilities and reputation. Take the time to review the vendor’s website to see if it contains rich content beyond simple marketing hype.

Are there case studies that exhibit clear proof of successful services for their clients? Are the vendor’s employees routinely published and quoted in industry blogs, newsletters and magazines?  Does the prospective vendor have a clear mission, vision and guiding principles statement — and do they live up to it? Finally, check that the vendor offers resources, such as templates and protocol examples, webinars, and other educational materials.

If you don’t see anything on a potential provider’s website beyond what you might see in a basic marketing brochure, then you should ask yourself whether the company truly has the experience and expertise needed. Many times, it may just be all smoke and mirrors.

5. Capacity

Speed and capacity can mean everything in eDiscovery, often determining whether critical deadlines will be met, timelines kept intact, and overall eDiscovery processes successfully executed. It is vital to understand the full capabilities — including the overall capacity — of a potential new eDiscovery or litigation support services provider.  You should ask about how the vendor handles its larger customers and request references from customers with especially challenging or larger caseloads.

Make sure to examine the prospective vendor’s IT and eDiscovery software infrastructure as well.  Modern eDiscovery solutions often leverage expansive and quickly scalable cloud platforms and require similar significant scalability in their data center-centric solutions.

If you have international operations, it’s critical that when switching eDiscovery vendors, the new vendor can meet the often-unique needs of the various jurisdictions and countries in which you operate. It’s imperative that you know from the outset of the relationship with the new vendor whether a prospective provider has the wherewithal to meet your needs, no matter the size, complexity, or geographic requirements that your next case may throw at them.

6. Quality Control

As part of your checklist to use when switching eDiscovery vendors, make sure to ask a prospective vendor about their quality controls and related processes and practices across all nine phases of the EDRM including data identification and eDiscovery collection, file processing and culling, early case assessment (ECA) capabilities, advanced searching and analytics, legal document review, redactions and productions. A competent vendor must have quality controls at every phase and across all services lines. 

But even in the best-designed systems and processes, mistakes can happen – we’re all still human.  So, don’t just stop at confirming proper quality controls because that’s only half the picture. Go further in your assessment and ask the prospective provider how they identify, correct, and prevent future repeats of past errors and mistakes.  If your vendor claims to have never made a mistake, run away fast.

An honest and competent provider should be able to outline exactly what they do when a mistake is discovered, explain how they correct it, and offer concrete, real-world examples of how they encountered and successfully resolved such errors or mistakes in their past. 

BIA has been in this business for nearly two decades. We’ve made some mistakes during those many years supporting tens of thousands of legal matters. But we’ve always protected our clients from any harm whatsoever and learned from the experience. Your prospective provider should be just as honest and forthcoming in addressing quality control.  It’s not just about their plans and protocols, but about how they handle such events and still achieve a successful outcome when those plans and protocols don’t go as expected.

7. Total Cost

As mentioned earlier, the unfortunate reality is that many eDiscovery vendors are not always accurate or forthcoming in their pricing discussions.  Looking at an advertised price is often misleading too. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

If a provider offers rates substantially below market trends or less than the typical fees of other providers, then be wary! Sub-optimal support, limited solutions, and other common problems that can accompany cheap offerings will generally result in extraneous work from either outside counsel or internal staff to complete the solution or fix errors, all of which will increase that advertised, too-good-to-be-true pricing.

If you have any doubt, ask your potential vendor to compare and contrast their offerings head-to-head against other bids you’ve received.  Any competent and confident provider will be transparent about their pricing and will take the time to help you understand their differentiators to fully justify why their bid is more realistic and comprehensive. 

Even if it appears that all potential new vendors use the same tools and platforms, it is important to take a critical look beneath the surface. When evaluating total costs, focus on making sure that whomever you choose has the best skills, offerings, customer support, and overall value for what you need rather than honing in on individual line items.

Checklist: Initiating the Transition for a Smoother Process

If you feel dazed and confused by the prospect of switching eDiscovery vendors, consider the opportunity cost of not making the switch. Instead of viewing the change as an impossible, monumental task, take it one step at a time.

When you find the right provider, your new team will help you address any lingering concerns. Indeed, that new vendor’s ability to smoothly transition your existing matters should be key in your decision to make the switch.

Here’s a basic step-by-step outline of what your transition process should look like:

Step 1: Communicate with Management and Stakeholders

Facilitating a transparent and open discussion must be the first order of business when it comes to switching eDiscovery vendors. A lack of critical managerial or stakeholder buy-in can sink any change process, so start by getting your entire legal team on board with the change. That includes both inside and outside counsel and any experts that you use.

Then keep senior managers and law firm partners informed of your progress. Position the shift as intentional and focused rather than pessimistic or adversarial. If you have not done so already, communicate clearly how the benefits of switching eDiscovery vendors will outweigh any perceived costs.

Step 2: Create a Transition Team

Assemble a group of key team members involved in the transition to help keep information and efforts organized and to make sure all those involved are kept on the same page.

Create a diverse group of individuals from any departments that may be impacted by the change, such as support staff, IT, management, Risk and others.

Step 3: Accurately Assess Your Current Position

Once you have developed your transition team, it is now time to audit and assess the current state of your situation. Answering the tough questions during your vetting process for a new provider will help you ensure success while also weeding out the bad apples.

Depending upon your needs, it may help to answer the following questions:

  • What types of data does the current vendor possess, such as original collected data, processing system and hosted data?
  • How can the new vendor help ensure that all your data is captured and transferred successfully?
  • What is the current eDiscovery hosting platform used?
  • What is the current phase of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) for each matter?
  • Which active matters may be especially affected by the change?
  • In what stage of litigation are these matters?
  • What are the implications of switching vendors mid-matter?
  • What technical options are available for transferring data?
  • What are the risks, and are they defensible?
  • How will data be secured during the transition and transport?

Using these questions as a jumping-off point will help your team work together to address additional concerns and generate answers that will help define the process you can use to switch eDiscovery vendors in the most efficient and positive way.

Plus, knowing where you stand with respect to these list of issues formed as questions will help you find an eDiscovery vendor that clearly understands your wants and needs.

Step 4: Select a New eDiscovery Partner

Once you have a full understanding of your eDiscovery landscape, only then can you truly vet and select a new eDiscovery vendor who will act as a partner to your overall litigation strategy. Looking beyond technical capabilities is an integral part of the selection process. The potential new vendor’s history in the market, services focus (i.e., verifying that eDiscovery is a major component of their offerings), client load and experience are all critical indicators in determining whether switching to that vendor is the right choice and to make sure that it will be around for the long haul.

Nothing is more frustrating than hearing that your new vendor suddenly wants to get out of the eDiscovery business, especially because your litigation and eDiscovery needs are not going to end anytime soon and likely will grow over time as your business expands. A company currently making meaningful contributions to the industry is less likely to bow out when the going gets tough.

You can develop a robust set of criteria that addresses both subjective and objective qualities that you seek in your prospective new vendor when going through the process of switching eDiscovery vendors. As noted above, throughout your selection process, stay skeptical of cheap vendors and those without longevity.

Step 5: Planning for Transition and Transferring Your Case Load

The cost, complexity, and risk of transitioning your cases that comprise thousands of gigabytes of data of sensitive legal information require a strategic approach. Your new vendor should take the lead in transferring your data to your new team and platform. That new vendor should have experience in these types of transitions, assuming they are top of their field and thus have been involved in transferring data from a previous vendor.

Using the information contained in the steps above, your new vendor will be able to create a comprehensive, written plan outlining each step. That plan should address each of the questions presented above and much more — details that may be specific to your cases and business needs.

For those systems where the backbone technology won’t change, the transfer process should be relatively straightforward. Where the transition also includes moving from one software solution to another, the plan must also address how that will happen.

It may seem simple, but anyone who has ever experienced a move from one software platform to another will understand that the transition and data migration plan must specifically consider and resolve how the different platforms may impact the transition, and how data will be successfully migrated in its entirety including having a predefined set of error capturing rules and considerations for user account transition.

The transition plan should take into account activity levels on projects. If you’ve got a large number of matters, don’t try to bite off the entire portfolio at once. It’s best to start with smaller projects or less active projects first, as that will help vet the actual application of the transition plans and give your entire team more time to adjust to the new environments and solutions. If a particular matter is in an especially active phase (like active document review, for example), wait for a break in the activity to move that matter over to the new vendor’s platform.

In the end, if your selected new vendor has experience in moving projects, then they should know from their prior experiences when and how best to move your projects. Indeed, as part of the vetting, you should make sure they cover some of the recommendations outlined here.

Step 6: Document and Quality-Check Every Step

Documenting your plans for transition and tracking essential metrics along the way will make the overall eDiscovery vendor transition process complete while establishing a clear record for review later if needed. There should be quality control checks at each stage and for each data type outlined above; and, those controls must be documented throughout the changeover process.

Documenting the entire process not only will help the process go much more smoothly, but it will help you gather and record critical institutional knowledge from the provider you are leaving. An experienced and trustworthy new provider will understand the impetus of this need.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

Clearly, there is much to consider when switching eDiscovery vendors. The most vital element to the process is finding a new provider that will not only eliminate the worries with your current provider, but that will become a true partner — and not just an order-taking vendor.

Throughout this post, we have propounded the need to find a qualified, capable, and experienced partner because your success is your vendor’s success. The reason for our zealous advocacy of that element is that your efforts here should focus not just on solving problems with your current provider, but on choosing your next one — one who will be there, whenever you need them, for the foreseeable future. 

Finally, take your time. Perform your due diligence and go with the team that makes you feel understood and confident throughout the entire vetting process, and who will help you acquire measurable savings over the long run. You do not want to have to repeat this process anytime soon.

Ready to Take the Discussion a Step Further?

There’s no need to feel panicked or overwhelmed. BIA will help you break this massive problem down into bite-sized steps.

We will start by establishing the outcome you want to accomplish, and we’ll keep that outcome in mind every step of the way.

Reach out to BIA to vet our team and address your most pressing questions about switching eDiscovery vendors (and more) by calling 1 (888) 338 4242 or sending us a quick note.