YourABA April 2012 Masthead

Six tips on reducing the cost of

The high cost of e-discovery is an ongoing concern of lawyers, but through a combination of good strategy and use of appropriate tools, Bruce Olson, founder of an e-discovery and computer forensics consulting company, says that lawyers can lessen the overall cost.

In his article for Law Practice Magazine, “Making E-Discovery More Affordable,” Olson shares tips that include:

Think before you act. Instead of casting the widest net possible, make your e-discovery request specific enough to elicit just what you think you really need for a case, advises Olson. Doing so often persuades the opposing counsel to do the same, thereby lessening your client’s cost in responding to requests.

Use the “meet and confer.” In federal court, many states require at least one meet and confer, but Olson recommends meeting more often—and early on in the process. “If you meet early with your opposing counsel, you can take steps to define what they have, let them know how to preserve it and determine the most cost-effective way to collect it,” says Olson, emphasizing that doing the same may limit clients’ preservation expenses.

Minimize collection costs by stipulation. There are relatively inexpensive options available without hiring expensive outside consultants, says Olson. Self-collection methods are an option, as well as using software tools to collect electronically stored information, if the other side is in agreement to do so.

Use phased discovery. “Agree to limit initial collection efforts to the key custodians that you want, and agree that if discovery of their ESI proves fruitful you can move on to collection from other more peripheral players,” Olson recommends. Even with key witnesses, lawyers should narrow the type of information they seek. Instead of demanding an individual’s full file shares from a company server, consider first reviewing certain files, and if that analysis turns up relevant data, then move on to the file server.

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Get help. Attorneys with limited experience in e-discovery should consider getting help from a consultant—the earlier the better, advises Olson, elaborating that help in developing a streamlined plan may cost money up front, but can pay off by alleviating attorney frustration and reducing errors. When seeking help, look for vendor-neutral consultants who typically do not have a vested interest in a particular product or procedure.

Use free or low-cost software tools. Not every case demands an expensive, full-fledged litigation support program to handle evidence, Olson says. Some of his recommended tools include:

  • FTK Imager (free) – An ESI viewer that displays data in an explorer tree, offers a built-in viewer to view selected documents and allows copying of pertinent files for later use.
  • Quick View Plus (less than $50) - A program that allows the viewing of documents without the need for the native applications to open them.
  • dtSearch Desktop (less than $200) – A program that creates an indexed, fully searchable collection from raw data.
  • TrialDirector (about $800) – A trial presentation program that can also be used as a basic litigation support database that offers searchable document management.
  • Cloud-based litigation support tools – For cases large enough to warrant a litigation support database, lawyers should consider vendors that now offer cloud-based support tools, storing up to 10GB of data for a monthly fee. Olson recommends Lexbe Online and Nextpoint’s Discovery Cloud and Trial Cloud.

Law Practice Magazine is a publication of the Law Practice Management Section.

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