Big or small, if your company faces litigation, you need an eDiscovery preferred provider list.
An eDiscovery preferred provider list is not only for large corporations. Any company, regardless of size, faces litigation risk. The time to select a preferred provider is not when you face a legal disaster, but rather right now, before a crisis occurs.
eDiscovery can be a disruptive, expensive, and time-consuming process, especially when you haven’t prepared and established a relationship and clear workflow process with a preferred provider in advance. If you are unprepared for eDiscovery when a lawsuit strikes, you will face higher costs, substantial business interruptions, and avoidable anxiety and stress across your teams.
Desperately vetting and selecting an eDiscovery provider after a legal event occurs significantly reduces your ability to fully vet potential providers. It also takes up critical time and resources that you should be spending on data identification, preservation and collection efforts. Your company and legal team need those resources to meet critical early discovery requirements and deadlines.
So before you find yourself in a last-minute crunch, start vetting and selecting preferred eDiscovery providers now, to make your eDiscovery experience much more manageable. Here are three reasons why:
1. Cost Control
eDiscovery pricing is often confusing, and there is no clear standard for pricing models across providers. When approached for an individual, immediate need, most providers will provide an estimate based on the type of litigation you face and how much data they’ll review for your one project. On a transactional, one-off basis, those costs will almost always be higher compared to the pricing available to you when entering a long-term preferred provider relationship.
If you speak with three different providers, you’ll likely get three different pricing formulas. Pricing is usually difficult to compare directly, so try to avoid the temptation to focus only on getting the lowest bid. Shopping around will give you an idea of what eDiscovery services you need and help you budget for the service.
Once you compile a preferred provider panel, you can use your knowledge about each provider’s strengths and offerings to leverage your buying power. Since you took time to research and understand this industry, you can use the information you gained to negotiate a comprehensive eDiscovery package with your preferred provider. Sometimes, to edge out the competition, a provider may offer you a discounted package deal or add services to make their proposal more appealing, especially when the opportunity for a longer-term preferred provider role is on the table.
In the end, it shouldn’t come as a galloping shock to anyone in the corporate world that establishing a long-term, preferred relationship with a supplier of any type will result in lower, more manageable, and more predictable costs overall. eDiscovery is no exception.
2. Ample Time for Vetting Qualifications
If you choose an eDiscovery provider out of desperation, you will never have enough time to truly and thoroughly vet their experience, their data security practices, or their overall solutions. Rushing that process increases the risks to your organization—risks related to the litigation at hand as well as broader security risks.
You need to gain an understanding of each potential provider’s expertise, specialties, and weak points. Most competent providers can handle plain-vanilla computer and email collections and processing. But you’ll want to vet any potential provider on their ability to handle any custom, alternative or specialized data solutions used by your organization, as well as any cloud systems or solutions. Potential providers often come from referrals from trusted associates, but most competent providers also have extensive online blogs, articles and other resources evidencing their capabilities and experience.
Your search for providers to add to your eDiscovery preferred provider list should be informed by your known eDiscovery needs. Those needs may come from experience or you may have corporate needs overall. Focus on those providers who clearly show that they can handle your needs. For example, if you expect HSR Second Requests or other such due diligence efforts, you’ll want to vet potential providers on their experience in those especially demanding environments.
Besides general qualifications, you also want to know how an eDiscovery provider handles data security. During the vetting process, you can ask about and review their IT and cybersecurity policies. Take time to ask questions about how they proactively protect against data breaches and whether they carry cybersecurity insurance that covers data breach remediation. One data breach can drastically impact your public reputation, especially if your data involves customers’ personal and private information. You must ensure that any eDiscovery provider you select has a clear and comprehensive commitment to cybersecurity.
3. Repeated Workflows & Other Benefits
The benefit of an eDiscovery preferred provider list is not just about having that resource ready when needed. It also allows you to create a clearly defined, repeatable and defensible workflow that in turn will help you drastically control your costs and reduce chaos and risk. Repeatable workflows are the key to a defensible, predictable and non-chaotic eDiscovery solution, and a trusted eDiscovery partner helps you get there. Without that, each incident resembles a chaotic fire drill; you’ll start from scratch each time as you familiarize yourself with yet another new provider and process, desperately hoping they handle your data and eDiscovery needs correctly.
A competent, preferred provider should also help you understand how your eDiscovery requirements and workflows impact your compliance-related data retention and overall data storage efforts. An eDiscovery provider you’ve worked with will come to know and intimately understand your data resources and retention policies. They can help your compliance team navigate the intersection between your data retention requirements in the regulatory world and your eDiscovery-related data preservation obligations.
That guidance alone can reap significant cost savings and efficiencies. If you retain too much unnecessary data, when a legal event does occur, you may find yourself dealing with terabytes of data and significant costs that could have been avoided altogether. By looking at your data retention and eDiscovery obligations through the same lens, you can decrease your overall risk and increase your ROI by leveraging the spends across both efforts.
Take the First Steps
Hopefully, you see the benefits of an eDiscovery preferred provider list and feel ready to start compiling one. While you may wish to put out a Request for Information (RFI), you need to know what you require first from providers. Here are some preliminary steps to help you assess that:
- Evaluate past eDiscovery experience. Take a hard look at your prior eDiscovery processes. See what went wrong, what went right, and how it affected your legal matter. For example, if excessive data retention exposed you to additional claims or raised damage amounts, you may want a provider who can help you prevent this mistake in the future.
- Create a steering committee. Gather your organization’s experts and place them in a steering committee. Include individuals like your head of the legal department, eDiscovery managers, data analysts, managers of litigation support, and anyone who supervised past eDiscovery experiences. These folks may have the best understanding of your internal systems and which ones are implicated in a legal matter.
- Contact providers. Review LinkedIn, ask for referrals, check in with past providers, and start contacting them. Set up meets with the steering committee and invite potential providers to introduce you to their offerings and explain differentiators. You can take this step even before an RFI to confirm what you need and pre-filter the list of providers that you’ll involve in the full RFI process.
- Selection process. Once you’ve conducted your RFI process, you may then want to do a proof-of-concept (POC) with your top 2-3 choices before making your final selection. After all, a lot of things that look good on paper don’t really translate into the real world, so if you can, take a breath to vet potential providers with real-world experiences first. Depending on your needs, you may want to ultimately select more than one provider, but you’ll be in the best position to make that decision at the end of your vetting process.
- Manage your provider(s). Once you’ve selected your preferred provider, you should plan to review their performance and ask for new proposals every year or two. This way you can evaluate their performance and to consider new, alternative, or cutting-edge solutions and workflows. You need to routinely assess both your company’s needs and your provider’s performance to establish whether your provider remains a good match as your organization grows and changes over time.
Unfortunately, eDiscovery is episodic, and you never know when a need will arise. But by planning ahead, you can make the process less strenuous, less chaotic and more cost-effective. The best way to start is by selecting a preferred provider.
BIA’s eDiscovery managed services has earned the trust of Fortune 500, AmLaw 200, and Forbes Global 2000 organizations. We offer experienced services that reduce legal costs and risks while ensuring confidentiality and data security. Contact us today to learn how we can help or to add us to your eDiscovery preferred provider list.