eDiscovery in a Pandemic (Part 2): How to Cut Costs While Working Remotely
Takeaway: Law firms can cut costs by (1) Switching to minimal-but-powerful eDiscovery software without ‘extras’ you’ll rarely use, and (2) Making sure the software also has transparent upfront pricing.
What can law firms do to cut eDiscovery costs while working remotely?
In part one of this pandemic series, we covered how we can adapt to working remotely by shifting our data to the Cloud. That way, you can access it from anywhere and collaborate with your team remotely in real-time. Our next step, though, is to start cutting costs. Most businesses are streamlining their processes and rethinking strategies. So, how can we apply this ‘trimming the fat’ to eDiscovery?
Step 1: Switch to minimal-but-powerful eDiscovery software
It’s tempting to buy the most advanced eDiscovery software available, but that’s not necessarily the smartest thing to do.
Don’t invest in advanced software features designed for larger law firms
Many eDiscovery applications come with advanced features like technology-assisted reviews (TAR)–a.k.a. computer-assisted reviews (CAR). Here, your software uses complex algorithms to ‘learn’ which files interest you and then starts pulling up other similar ones. We see this kind of ‘machine learning’ with apps like Netflix – where your software figures out your taste and suggests movies you might like. With eDiscovery, machine learning is applied as ‘predictive coding,’ which means you can review thousands of GBs of documents quickly, accurately and efficiently. The thing is, features like these are built for larger law firms with massive volumes of data. That’s why this sort of eDiscovery software is so expensive.
Instead, just make sure your software can do these essential things:
- Scan paper documents using automatic Optical Character Recognition (OCR) You’ll mainly collect electronic data (Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, email, etc.), but you’ll still have to scan some paper documents. The thing is, scanned documents aren’t stored as ‘text’ files. They’re more like ‘photos’ of text. Which means you can’t edit them like you would a Word document. For that, you’ll need to convert them into regular documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. You can get free OCR software, but they often make annoying errors. So, try and find eDiscovery software with an inbuilt OCR feature.
- Open any kind of document, email or image. Documents, emails and images are all stored in different ‘formats’. Your computer sees them as zeroes and ones – i.e., ‘bits.’ And it encodes these bits together into a ‘file’ that’s opened by specific ‘parent’ software. So, for example, the bits may be encoded as a DOCX file. This tells your computer to open it with Microsoft Word. If the file was encoded as a PDF file, your computer would use Adobe Acrobat to open it. The challenge with eDiscovery is to design software that can open these files without their parent applications. So, before buying eDiscovery software, make sure it can open your most common file types.
- Quickly find the files you need to build a defensible case. With ‘paper’ discovery, you’d have to read through hundreds (or thousands) of documents. With ‘electronic’ discovery (eDiscovery), you use a search engine. The best eDiscovery applications let you give highly specific ‘advanced search’ commands like, “Find all emails John Anderson sent Sally Nedry, which mention the Pfizer meeting. And which were sent before 2015.” And the software will let you search file metadata. I.e., information about a file – like when it was created, who created it, etc. Need to find emails that were sent to your client John Anderson (and also know when John read them)? Your software will use email metadata to give you this sort of information. Learn more about metadata.
- Thoroughly redact sensitive information. Many of your documents will have privileged information that needs to be kept private. Redacting this text might seem straightforward: Just draw a black box over the sensitive paragraph, right? This is what your eDiscovery software does, but there’s a bit more to it. For example, it can’t just ‘place’ the redaction box over the sensitive text. It needs to anchor it securely. Otherwise, someone could just ‘cut and paste’ the box out of the document and read whatever is underneath. Also, are you using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on a PDF? If so, you’ll need to redact both the original PDF and the newly generated text file. And there are so many more examples of how a faulty redaction tool can lead to serious errors. So, test out your eDiscovery software thoroughly.
- Make ‘producing’ your files easy. Good eDiscovery software will let you produce and share files quickly and easily. You’ll be able to choose your production format (TIFF, PDF or native), as well as stamp files with Bates Numbers and tags. And instead of emailing a production to someone, you’ll share a link to it instead. This keeps the production inside your eDiscovery application, where it’s encrypted and protected from prying eyes. Plus, you’re sharing only the completed production – not the original files. So, there’s no danger of anyone reading privileged content. Learn more about sharing productions.
Step 2: Make sure your minimal-but-powerful software also has transparent, up-front pricing
Software pricing charts can be hard to decipher. So, here’s a breakdown of the deals you’ll come across most often.
eDiscovery providers use two types of pricing strategies.
- With ‘fixed volume’ pricing, storage space is divided into chunks (or ‘plans’)–e.g. 3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB, etc. And their prices have been set in advance.
- With ‘per GB’ (or, ‘pay as you go’) pricing, there aren’t any ‘plans.’ However big or small your case is, your bill is calculated based on a per-GB rate.
So, which pricing strategy is better for your small law firm?
‘Per GB’ pricing seems more flexible because you don’t have to decide in advance how much storage space you’ll need. But ‘fixed volume’ pricing is actually simpler and more transparent. And with a small tweak, it can be just as flexible. Let’s explore how.
Fixed-volume pricing simplifies billing. No need to negotiate, email, or call.
With per-GB pricing, there’s a lot you’ll need to clarify. Things like per-seat licensing costs, processing fees, and overage. That means emails and phone calls back-and-forth. All before you’ve even uploaded your first file. With fixed-volume pricing, you bypass this negotiating. There are no ‘rates’ to calculate because the plans (and their prices) have been set in advance. Just choose the size that suits you and start working.
Fixed-volume pricing makes billing transparent. You know exactly how much you’ll be paying and what you’re paying for.
For most small and solo law firms, the size of a case keeps changing. So, with per-GB pricing, how do you calculate what you owe? Say you start with 3 GB of data. Then you delete 1 GB after a couple of weeks. What’s your bill at the end of the month? Do you pay for the largest size your case got to–3 GB? Or its average size–2.5 GB? By fixing volumes, these distinctions aren’t relevant anymore. If you’re on a 3 GB plan, you’re paying for 3 GB of space. You can do whatever you want with that space. Add and delete as many files as you need to, as often as you need to. Your monthly bill is still predictable.
Fixed-volume pricing can be tweaked to minimize wasted space.
The per-GB model’s chief draw is that you ‘pay for only what you use.’ But eDiscovery software like GoldFynch makes fixed-volume pricing just as fair, with one simple tweak: Prorated prices. You can move freely from one plan to another and pay only for the time spent on each plan. So, if you have an 8 GB plan for only half the month and then you change it, you’d pay for only that half month. This would be impossible to offer with per-GB pricing.
Looking for eDiscovery software transparent, up-front pricing? Try GoldFynch.
It’s part of a new generation of eDiscovery applications tailored for small and midsize law firms.
- It costs just $10 a month for a 1 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
- It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (1 GB to 150+ GB) and know up front how much you’ll be paying. It takes just a few clicks to move from one plan to another, and billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
- It’s safe. Your data is protected by bank-grade security. Perfect for small and midsize firms.
- It’s quick to get started. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
- It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch and you’re good to go. Also, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
- It keeps you flexible. To build a defensible case, you need to be able to add and delete files freely. Many applications charge to process each file you upload, so you’ll be reluctant to let your case organically shrink and grow. And this stifles you. With GoldFynch, you get unlimited processing for free.
- Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud, so it’s perfect for when you have to work from home.
Want to find out more about GoldFynch?
Looking for articles that can help law firms like yours?
- eDiscovery Technology-Assisted Review (TAR): Is It Worth the Cost?
- What Is Shadow I.T.? And How Can It Help [Or Harm] Your Law Firm?
- 5 eDiscovery Security Features Every Law Firm Should Use
- What is ESI (Electronically Stored Information)? eDiscovery Basics for Small Law Firms
- eDiscovery: Can I Choose Where My Data Gets Stored?