PRODUCT REVIEW: eDiscovery Point

Vol. 34 No. 2

By

Jeffrey Allen (jallenlawtekblog.com) is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo eReport and a member of the Board of Editors of Experience magazine.

Thomson Reuters’ (TR) eDiscovery Point (EDP) provides a cloud-based e-discovery solution for attorneys. TR designed EDP to help solo and small firm attorneys deal with the demands of e-discovery in a way that puts the user in control of time and costs, a refreshing change for the e-discovery process and its supporting technology. Thomson Reuters released EDP last year, and it received accolades such as the 2016 New Product of the Year from Legaltech News in its annual innovation awards. TR has advised that in the product’s first year approximately 75 percent of its customers came from the ranks of solo and small firm attorneys (TR used 29 or fewer attorneys as the cutoff for small firms in this calculation).

TR has had a long-standing sponsorship relationship with the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division of the American Bar Association and has taken advantage of this relationship to augment its knowledge of what solos and small firm attorneys need to support their practices. TR developed EDP to facilitate the work done in solo and small firm law practices.

EDP is browser-based. It works with the more recent iterations of both the Mac and Windows operating systems; it also works with mobile devices such as tablets running Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating systems. Although TR reports that it works with almost all browsers, I am advised that insiders recommend using Chrome (available on most platforms), as it provides the best experience. Because it lives in the cloud, you can access your data anywhere that you have a reliable (preferably, high-speed broadband) Internet connection. This feature poses both a benefit and a detriment as the flip side of the coin means that if you have no reliable Internet connection, you cannot access or work with your data.

You can directly upload your documents to TR’s secure servers (drag and drop and then wait for your broadband to get the documents up there), or you can send your documents on a storage device to TR for uploading. Either way works and ultimately provides the same result, but if you have a large quantity of documents, you may find it faster to overnight a drive to TR and have the staff there upload your data directly to the servers. Once you have the documents online, TR automatically processes them to make them usable by the system. “Processing” the documents means that EDP converts them to HTML5, scans them for virus infection, de-duplicates them, and runs them through an optical character recognition process. It reads and records the documents’ metadata as well. Once you have the documents uploaded and processed, you have the option of simply storing them there or reviewing the metadata and sorting them into such groups as the metadata makes possible. Surprisingly, this status, called “pre-review” does not cost you anything. You pay no fee for the storage or the processing of these documents at this stage. Payment is based only on the documents you to choose to place into “review” (i.e., submit to be fully processed and accessible for discovery production). Until you put the documents in “review,” you cannot access content other than metadata or create a production file.

Other features that TR built into EDP include the ability to Bates stamp the pages in review (called “Document Processing Number” in EDP-speak). EDP also allows you to produce a file of some or all the documents in review for discovery production. It also gives you the ability to redact those portions of the documents necessary to protect confidentiality or privacy. The redaction does not obliterate the redacted material to you, but it blocks the information completely in your production files. It also allows you to produce a file of some or all the documents in review for discovery production.

TR built EDP using the NUIX data system. For those of you unfamiliar with NUIX, it offers one of the most highly respected and strongest data-processing software programs on the market. As a practical matter, other than by adoption of a system such as EDP, most solos and small firm attorneys would not have the opportunity to use and benefit from NUIX. The NUIX system costs more than most solos and small firm attorneys can (or will) justify. The software also requires some very high-powered hardware to run. Purchasing and installing the hardware represents only the beginning of the process, as someone must maintain the hardware. Most solo and small firm practices do not have the financial resources to do those things, and, accordingly, NUIX has generally served only the larger firms. EDP gives solos and small firm attorneys access to the same tools used by many larger firms, without the investment otherwise required.

Support and Training

TR has set up access to EDP to coordinate with your access to the TR research features you likely already have for your firm. You use the same log-in information (your “one pass” log-in) to make it as easy as possible. As you would expect from TR, the service has solid customer support and very capable trainers that will take whatever time you and your staff require to learn how to use EDP efficiently and competently. When you start using EDP, you will want customer support to give you and your staff a training presentation to teach you how to use the program. With a little practice, you should find the process relatively easy. If you need a refresher or encounter a problem, TR has expertise available for you to access by phone 24/7/365. Most significantly, TR has adopted the model of providing a dedicated case manager to work with you and your staff on all your EDP cases. Notably the model is firm rather than case based, so you get the same case manager assigned to your firm for all cases, rather than a different manager for each case or a random assignment that may or may not give you the same manager for more than one case. The system also provides for backup support should your case manager not be immediately available when you call.

The case manager will provide technical support to you and your staff, but (and this is extremely significant in my book) the case manager will also help you set up e-discovery demands to help ensure you ask in the right way for the right things. For those of you relatively inexperienced with e-discovery, this can prove extraordinarily helpful in complying with the “meet and confer” requirements imposed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and by some state discovery rules.

For some time, the federal courts have expected counsel to have a working knowledge of technology and the pieces of the production and e-discovery process. More and more state courts have moved or are moving in the same direction. If you do not have that knowledge, do not expect the court’s sympathy. More likely they will say that you have an obligation to learn it or to hire someone who can provide that help to you. Such consultants generally do not come cheaply, but you likely can get a great deal, if not all, of the help you need from your EDP case manager.

Pricing

TR bases its pricing structure on volume, and, as noted above, limits that volume to the documents you choose to place in “review.” TR has adopted two pricing models: One charges on a per-case basis, the other on a general subscription structure. The subscription model aggregates all your documents in review for all your cases and charges based on the storage of those documents. Unless you have a minimum of 10 GB of documents in review, however, you will pay a premium for use in the subscription model. Even though you pay more per GB of documents in review using the per-case model, you only pay for what you use. Accordingly, if you expect to have a total of less than 10 GB on a regular and persistent basis, you will save money by opting for the per-case method of payment.

The 10 GB subscription will cost about $48 a month per gigabyte. You will pay about $55 to $60 per gigabyte for actual usage on the per-case method. Accordingly, if you have a base-level subscription, you will pay about $480 per month, whereas if you have 5 GB of data in review in your cases on a per-case charge basis, you will pay about $300 a month. Although $300 a month may sound like a substantial charge for document storage (and it is), remember that the charge reflects not just the storage but also the processing of all the documents and their storage in pre-review, the ability to sort out the potentially good stuff from the dreck, the ability to work with the documents in review and Bates stamp them, and access to the help of the case manager (all of which comes with no additional charge). Another advantage of paying on a per-case basis is that, because you pay per case, you have a relatively easy way to bill the cost through to the client. Should you choose to bill the charge to the client, it would be prudent to disclose this intent in your representation agreement with the client.

You do not pay until you put documents in review; then you only pay for the storage of and access to the documents in review. You cannot see the entire document unless you move it to review; so, if you want the full text and not just the metadata information, you need to move documents to review. The beauty of the pre-review process is that you can separate the wheat from the chaff (so to speak) and only put the documents that you consider usable into review. Given that often more than 90 percent of the documents produced in e-discovery have no significance to the case, the pre-review process can result in a considerable savings compared to a billing process that charges for everything you put into the system at the entry level.

The image here graphically depicts the structure of the pricing model. For more, see legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-products/solutions/ediscovery-point.

Security

TR understands the need for data security and the legal and ethical obligations that attorneys have respecting client information. TR went to great lengths to ensure the security of the stored data. The data resides on TR’s own proprietary servers located in a bunker (literally) in Minnesota. TR automatically backs up the data to ensure that if the primary server has a hiccup, it can quickly shift to a backup system, giving you continuing access to its applications and your data while TR corrects whatever problem exists with the primary system. Data on the server automatically gets encrypted with bank-level security, and physical access to the servers is restricted with appropriate security measures to protect the servers and the data. Because TR stores the data in the United States, you do not have to worry about the possible effect of the laws of a foreign country on your data’s security. TR built the bunker to securely withstand a serious attack. I have no way of verifying the accuracy of this, but the folks at TR like to brag about the strength of the bunker and its designed ability to withstand the impact of a 747 jet crashing into it.

The Conversion Process

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that you simply flip a switch and instantly use EDP effectively and efficiently. Like any other useful tool, it has a learning curve. If you and your staff go through the training process and spend a reasonable amount of time with it, you will acquire the knowledge and skill to use the tools effectively. You will also need to invest some time and effort (or pay someone to do it) to convert your existing data for use in EDP. That process will vary in terms of time and effort depending on the current form of your data and the software you currently employ. This is certainly not an indictment of EDP, as you would also need to go through the same experience with any other program that you might choose.

You may have to change the way you handle e-discovery. Many firms deal with documents production in smaller cases simply by scanning all their documents into a single PDF file, Bates stamping the file, and producing it to the other parties. Sometimes, when firms cooperate in the process, they agree to a common depository and everyone deposits the documents to the same depository, which then applies Bates stamps to each of the files and concatenates the files (strings them together into a single file) for use by all sides. The problem with this process when used with EDP is that EDP treats this file as a single document, rendering it useless to you.

Instead, to work with EDP, you will need to convert this file into separate files for each document (or require each party to produce its documents as separate files). Files can be in their original or native form (e.g., Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, .jpg, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.) or converted to PDF files; you will probably prefer them in the native format as it will likely contain usable metadata. If you send all these files (separated into groups by producing parties) to EDP and put them in review, TR will process the documents, including applying unique identifying numbers (the equivalent of a Bates stamp), on each document. EDP can also generate a complete file of all the documents for use by all parties and exchange and production. Once this has been done, you can take the documents out of review and put them back into the pre-review stage if you wish, thus cutting off the charges for having these documents in review until you sort out what you want using the metadata and put this group back into review for further use and analysis.

The process of converting your firm to EDP as your primary discovery tool should not take any more time or effort than any other conversion. It has the advantage, however, of integrating so many functionalities for you that, at the end of the day, you should anticipate operating more efficiently going forward, resulting in savings of time and money in your e-discovery activities. While not yet perfect, EDP is already quite good, and it continues to get better as TR invests more resources in its evolution. I have not found any other package that does all the things EDP can do for you that I like as much, or that I think of as similarly cost-effective.

Conclusion

Large firms regularly use computer document processing for discovery analysis. eDiscovery Point gives you the opportunity to choose whether you need that service and apply it only when you think it will help, and only to the documents that you expect will prove it useful. EDP effectively and economically allows solos and small firms to compete with the larger firms in the e-discovery forum.

Thomson Reuters is a corporate sponsor of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This review should not be construed as an endorsement. The authors of these reviews receive complimentary access to the products being reviewed for the purpose of enabling them to complete the review.

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