Is It Worth Using Smaller eDiscovery Vendors?

20 December 2021 by Anith eDiscovery

Takeaway: It’s a common mistake to assume that the bigger an eDiscovery vendor, the better the software. With the latest tech trends, smaller vendors can target the needs of small and midsize firms much better than larger more-established vendors. This means it’s relatively easy to find software with the right set of core features, and at an affordable upfront price that can fit any eDiscovery budget.

With eDiscovery, it’s tempting to assume that you’ll have to choose larger (more expensive) vendors if you want reliable software.

Since the late 2000s, eDiscovery has been dominated by a handful of large document review platforms. These were custom-built and expensive, which meant that small and midsize law firm’s didn’t have the budgets for them. But things have changed over the last few years with the rise of cloud eDiscovery (more on this in a bit). It’s become relatively easy and cost-effective to design eDiscovery software, so the market has been flooded with smaller vendors offering affordable services. But is it worth using these smaller vendors?

The issue isn’t vendor size. It’s about your approach to choosing software. And the mistake is to focus on cost instead of user experience.

Cost may be important, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Instead, look at how smoothly your eDiscovery software can take you through each stage of review. Remember, the best applications aren’t the ones with cutting-edge features. The best ones are those that are so easy to use that they feel like an extension of yourself. So, ‘user experience’ – not cost – should be the biggest factor when choosing a new vendor.

To evaluate user experience, you’ll need to shortlist vendors who can offer you a free trial case to play around with.

You don’t want to rely on a sales pitch – or have to read through a 50-page user guide – to figure out how your eDiscovery software works. Instead, you’ll want to be able to set up a trial case, import a few files, and test the software’s tools and features. So, that’s the first question to ask about your potential new vendor: Do I get a free trial case to experiment with?

Once you have a trial case, ask yourself these four questions.

You can evaluate your software in about 10 minutes if you focus on these four questions:

1. Does the software give you the right set of tools?

There are a bunch of cool new tools bigger vendors can offer you. For example, there’s ‘machine learning’ (also called technology-assisted review), where your software watches you review a few files to figure out what you’re interested in. Then it can sort through and categorize the remaining files on its own. Another cool new tool is ‘data visualization,’ where your software uses well-designed infographics to highlight statistics, connections, and patterns in your case. These advanced tools are perfect for larger firms with thousands of GBs of data. But for small and midsize firms, they’re usually more of a frill and less of a need. Instead, the bread-and-butter tools worth paying for include:

  • Automatic OCR (optical character recognition): This feature converts scanned documents into machine-readable text. It’s how you’ll take a photograph of a contract and transform it into a PDF with text that you can edit. Learn more about OCR.
  • A powerful search engine. The best eDiscovery services offer a Google-like search engine that can find keywords, names, dates, etc., in your documents, spreadsheets, emails, and even in metadata entries. The latest search engines let you give complex commands like, “Find all mentions of ‘deposition notes’ in emails exchanged between John Anderson and Sally Nedry, before July 2018.” Learn more about advanced searches.
  • Reliable redaction. Redaction is about more than drawing little black boxes over sensitive text. You’ll need to anchor (or ‘burn in’) those boxes so that no one can remove them or peek underneath. Learn what can happen with faulty redaction.
  • Easy-to-use tags. ‘Tags’ are virtual post-its that you’ll tack on to documents to help categorize them. It makes it easier to bundle related documents and emails – to review and produce them later on. Learn more about tagging.
  • Notes, comments, and annotations. Your team can use these tools to discuss documents, sections within documents, or your overall strategy – all without having to switch to email or a messaging service.

2. Is the software easy to use?

You’ll need to hold your software to a higher standard than you would have about a decade ago. Nowadays, you have the option of Cloud eDiscovery – where you subscribe to an eDiscovery service rather than downloading and installing any software. This means you don’t have to worry about buying expensive new hardware or updating your software. Your eDiscovery vendor will handle all that for you, with a dedicated IT team to troubleshoot problems that pop up. You’ll just log into the software via your web browser and start working. So, your new metric to evaluate the software should be, ‘Can I get the hang of this in minutes, rather than hours?Learn more about what ‘simple eDiscovery’ really means.

3. Does it fit your budget?

Here’s where you start evaluating costs – after confirming that you have the right tools and that they’re easy to use. But don’t just look at how much the software costs. Ask yourself how transparent the pricing is, too. The best eDiscovery applications have a simple pricing plan clearly listed on their website. You won’t need to call for a quote, take follow-up sales calls/emails, or decipher sneaky hidden costs. With storage-based pricing, you’ll choose a case plan to fit your data (1 GB, 5 GB, 50 GB, 100 GB, etc.) and get billed at an upfront, all-inclusive rate that’s easy to budget for.

4. What do you lose if you walk away?

Remember that with Cloud eDiscovery, you have access to near-limitless storage on a global network of Cloud servers. And the pricing is just as flexible. You’re free to expand and shrink your case from day to day, and pay a prorated price for the space you use each month. So, with the best eDiscovery services, there’s no large upfront cost, and you can walk away at any point, having paid as little as $10 a month for a 1 GB case. For example, say you were to subscribe for a 1 GB plan on June 1, upgrade to a 5 GB plan on June 29, and quit the service on the 30th. With prorated pricing, you’ll pay for 29 days at the 1 GB rate and 1 day at the 5 GB rate. That’s it. You won’t lose a downpayment or pay a penalty for switching software.

The bottom line? With the latest tech developments, small eDiscovery vendors can match a small/midsize law firm’s needs better than many larger vendors.

At GoldFynch, we designed our eDiscovery service to fit the needs of small and midsize law firms like yours. So, here’s what else might interest you about our software:

  • 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 files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (1 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, 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 a 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, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?