Choosing eDiscovery Software for In-House Legal Counsel

11 October 2020 by Ross in-house ediscovery legal software

Takeaway: Looking for affordable eDiscovery software for smaller, in-house cases? Find something that is: (1) Easy to use, (2) Cloud-based, (3) Secure, (4) Stocked with only essential features, and (5) Subscription-based, with a flat monthly fee.

If you’re handling eDiscovery in-house, you’re dealing with a unique set of challenges.

It’s an interesting time for in-house legal counsel. On the one hand, you have access to path-breaking technology that can simplify your work. But you also see other companies drowning in oceans of electronic data and continually increasing eDiscovery costs. So, what if you have only a few smaller matters to deal with? Can bypass all the drama and handle them in-house? Absolutely! But you’ll have to work through a few challenges first.

The first challenge is to stay within your eDiscovery budget.

Chances are you don’t want to spend too much money on eDiscovery. Thankfully, well-designed eDiscovery software can be very cost-effective if you know what to look for.

1. Find software that matches your needs, not yourwants.

Here’s where the big vs. small eDiscovery debate comes in. Big companies with deep pockets usually deal with massive amounts of data. And they have their own eDiscovery needs. For example, they might find technology-assisted reviews (TAR) indispensable. (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 which figures out your taste and suggests movies you might like.) But unless you’re working with thousands of GBs of data, TAR isn’t something you need. For in-house eDiscovery, it makes more sense to stick to a few essential features. More on that in a bit.

2. Choose software with a flat monthly subscription instead of à la carte pricing.

In the days of ‘paper’ discovery, vendors would use unit-based pricing for steps like photocopying and imaging. And many of them haven’t updated their pricing systems for the new digital world. So, they’ll charge ‘per-unit’ for each eDiscovery step. That’s ‘per-GB’ to process your files, ‘per-page’ for OCR, ‘per-document’ to detect duplicates, and ‘per-user’ to share your case with teammates. Keeping track of all these costs is tiring, though, and ‘per-unit’ rates can be manipulated quite easily. Instead, look for software where you pay a flat monthly rate, instead of these à la carte prices. It ends up being way more affordable. Learn more about paying flat rates instead of à la carte prices.

The next challenge is to run the software without the help of a large IT department.

And it’s not just running the software. You’ll have to troubleshoot tech issues that pop up, and make sure your data is unhackable. To do all this, use the following three tactics.

1. Find eDiscovery software that’s intuitive and easy to use.

It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to figure out how to use your software. That’s because skilled designers build in features you already know how to use. For example, every day you use Windows or a Mac, check email, and Google things you want to learn more about. So, the best designers have their eDiscovery software piggyback off these sorts of activities. They’ll have you:

  • Log in as you do with email. With email, you’ll go to your email provider (Gmail, for example), log in, and start working. The best eDiscovery applications mirror this exactly.
  • Navigate as you’d do with Windows or a Mac. To move files around on your computer, you drag-and-drop them from one window to another. With good eDiscovery software, that’s how you upload files, too.
  • Search as you’d do with Google. We’re all so comfortable with Google, so a reputable eDiscovery application will have an easy-to-use search engine that simplifies even ‘advanced’ searches.

2. Use Cloud eDiscovery, so you don’t have to fix software issues and breakdowns.

You want software that fixes itself. And with Cloud eDiscovery, this is possible! Here, software giants like Amazon and Google lease storage and computing power to businesses all over the world. And their thousands of interconnected servers form a public ‘Cloud.’ With eDiscovery software that runs in the Cloud, neither the data nor the software sits in your office. So, you don’t have to worry about dealing with technical issues that pop up. Your Cloud provider and eDiscovery vendor have people to handle that – all covered as part of your monthly subscription fee. Learn more about Cloud eDiscovery.

3. Make sure your software can keep your data secure.

If you’re using Cloud eDiscovery, then Cloud-security protects your data from hackers. But there’s another type of data that needs to be protected, too. And that’s ‘metadata.’ When you create a document on your computer, the application you’re using (e.g., Microsoft Word) records a bunch of information about it. Things like who created it, when they created it, when it was last opened, etc. This ‘data about data’ (i.e., metadata) is a digital footprint which tracks the history of the document. It can help you win cases, but it can be destroyed easily. So, you’ll need to make sure your eDiscovery software can handle your files without altering their metadata. Learn more about metadata and how to handle it.

Your final challenge will be to stay adaptable. This means getting software with the right set of features.

You probably don’t yet know the kinds of eDiscovery needs that will pop up. So, it’s worth getting adaptable software that can handle any type of case. This means having the following essential features:

  1. 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. It is possible to download free OCR applications, but they often make annoying errors. So, try and find eDiscovery software with an inbuilt OCR feature.
  2. Advanced searches. 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, too.
  3. Thorough redaction. 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 redaction than that. So, test out your eDiscovery software thoroughly. [Lawyers for former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, placed black boxes over sensitive text and the media conveniently copy/pasted all the text into another document. The black boxes were left behind, leaving the redacted sentences clearly visible!]
  4. Many ‘production’ options. 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. 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.

In-house eDiscovery is more about ‘processes’ than software. But good software helps.

Moving eDIscovery in-house takes a lot of planning. And you’ll need to do the groundwork to set up a good eDiscovery ecosystem. But with the right kind of software, this whole process becomes so much easier.

Looking for easy-to-use eDiscovery software? Try GoldFynch.

It’s an eDiscovery service that prioritizes things that matter to small and midsize law firms like yours. That’s why:

  • It costs just $25 a month for a 3 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 (3 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 takes just minutes to get going. 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. Plus, it’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So 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. So, on a 3 GB plan, you could add and delete 5 GB of data at no extra cost – as long as there’s only 3 GB in your case at any point. And if you do cross 3 GB, your plan upgrades automatically and you’ll be charged for only the time spent on each plan. That’s the beauty of prorated pricing.
  • Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.