By Brian Schrader
In part one of this blog, we looked at BIA’s journey to where it is today. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Approaching eDiscovery Services differently than most
The technology we developed over the years allowed us to create efficient, comprehensive eDiscovery services that others just couldn’t match. We set about leveraging that technology, along with the knowledge and insight we had gained, to transform eDiscovery from a chaotic, transactional disruption into a standardized, efficient and everyday business process.
Early on, we recognized that even when corporations had multiple litigations pending, they were still treating each litigation as an entirely new process. They were repeatedly performing data collections on the same custodians and reviewing the same documents in multiple cases. In one case, I recall an employee who had his computer taken for forensic imaging nearly every month over a six-month period, all in relation to different lawsuits.
Companies, law firms and even other vendors were reinventing the wheel on each new eDiscovery project. It didn’t take us long to realize that technology was only part of the answer to the industry’s woes. It was time for a wholistic approach that took off the blinders and looked at creating solutions that could be leveraged across matters.
To combat the chaos, we developed an enterprise approach to eDiscovery. We built features such as data reuse into TotalDiscovery as far back as 2004. On the services side, we started to work with our clients to create standardized workflows, develop defensible processes and reuse everything we could at every possible step, from collected data to attorney document review and coding work product.
We helped our clients create detailed, written plans with workflows and checklists to ensure every matter was treated consistently. We helped them see that by not thinking of eDiscovery as a reactionary process, but instead as something to prepare for ahead of time, not only could we eliminate the chaos and disruption that came with the traditional approach to eDiscovery, but we could truly tame the beast. Costs would become entirely predictable, not to mention much lower. Risks could be practically eliminated. In short, order could finally reign over the entire workflow process.
We used that same approach when, in 2008, we filled in the last gap in BIA’s offerings by creating our Document Review Services team. Instead of hiring temp contract attorneys on an as-needed basis as other vendors did, we hired a dedicated core team of full-time attorneys and opened a document review facility in Michigan. We knew from experience that a dedicated, full-time team of professionals working for clients on matter after matter would increase efficiencies and accuracy, save time and money and provide many other benefits that the traditional approach simply couldn’t beat. Even the most skeptical of clients became quickly convinced.
We have since brought the lessons and much of the same approaches to law firms seeking to likewise standardize their eDiscovery processes. From dedicated project managers to comprehensive systems and expert workflows, we have transformed the eDiscovery services tradition of chaos and created the most efficient, effective and professional eDiscovery services team in the industry.
How the industry has changed in those 15 years
We’ve seen significant changes in the industry over the past 15 years, with one of the biggest being that attorneys have a better general understanding of and communication about eDiscovery’s terminology, technologies and workflows. This may be the most crucial element in the industry’s growth. Now, I’m sure some of this is attributable to generational changes, as younger attorneys were born into a world in which technology is taken for granted. But having people talk knowledgeably about eDiscovery, and demystifying it in the process, has unquestionably made everything else much easier.
We’ve also seen the data collection process transform. Before we developed DiscoveryBOT, even we relied on forensic hard drive imaging, but today we perform targeted, remote collections in a fraction of the time. Data processing engines are also more powerful, functional and scalable than ever before. Early processing solutions were little more than automated TIF converters, while today they are often powerful data analytics platforms. And as data sizes grew, processing capabilities had to increase to handle the ever-increasing volume of data.
In the early days, culling data and early case assessment didn’t really exist except for date ranges and basic keywords—and not all systems even supported that. Today, there are much more effective technologies, methods and protocols that help eliminate useless data even earlier in the process, which greatly reduces the cost of eDiscovery.
Most of the original review tools had a database, a document viewer and some tagging capabilities, but today’s tools have analytics, robust back-end databases, technology-assisted review (TAR) technology, review team management functions, performance metrics, QA processes and document production modules.
Fifteen years ago, people were paying hundreds of dollars per hour for document review. It was first revolutionized by outsourced contractors and eventually by TAR solutions. Today it’s about 75-90% cheaper, and thanks to having more people dedicated exclusively to eDiscovery, better training and better tools, the work product is far superior.
While those tools have made eDiscovery significantly easier, some changes have made it more complex, such as the explosion in data sources. Back in the day, identifying sources was pretty simple— there were primarily computers, servers, backup tapes and the occasional odd archive, legacy or other system. Today, most custodians have a plethora of data sources to consider, many of which might only be known to the custodians themselves. A defensible approach requires more thought, investigation and understanding of the custodian’s daily work than ever before.
And with more data sources comes much more data. When we started in 2002, the most common hard drive size was 20GB or 40GB, and most users had around 1GB of data or less. The occasional user might have 10GB, but those were the outliers. Today, it’s not unusual to find a custodian with 50GB, 100GB or more of data. That increase in data size has probably been the single largest factor in pushing every innovation. It has led to more targeted collections, better culling, lower prices, outsourced review—and most notably—technology-assisted review technology. None of that likely would have happened if the volume and demand didn’t drive everyone to focus on how to cut costs—from processes to technology to analytics and TAR.
How BIA is different than what we originally envisioned
BIA has grown up a lot since its start in 2002. At the beginning, we were a small group of people in a three-room office trying to create a better solution. Today, we’re a national company, with offices across the country and over 50 employees, even after TotalDiscovery was spun off into its own company.
If you look at our history, it actually follows the EDRM. We started with creating better solutions for identifying and preserving data, expanded into data collections, then data processing and ECA, then to review hosting and finally to developing our own very effective approach to attorney document review. At each step, we didn’t look to replicate what others were doing. We were, and still are, constantly developing a better way.
BIA was founded as a software company, and we developed some incredibly powerful, cutting-edge solutions. But we came to realize that great eDiscovery technology must be matched with excellent eDiscovery services for clients to realize the best value, which is why we have grown BIA’s eDiscovery Services to cover the entire EDRM.
So, what do we expect in the next 15 years…
Looking ahead, we see a stronger convergence of eDiscovery, information governance and cybersecurity, which makes sense as we try to streamline how we work with data while we protect it from increasingly sophisticated digital threats. We’re also seeing an increased usage of AI and improved analytics and technology, which will give us better insight and intelligence from the data we have.
Here at BIA, we’re working to make eDiscovery more of an automated process to yield greater efficiencies and cost savings for our clients. We don’t always know what lies ahead, but as our past can attest, we’re always up for a good challenge, and we are always striving to be out ahead of the curve. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, the best is yet to come!