In part one and part two of this series, we’ve introduced the concept of where to draw the line between on-premise technology and cloud-based technology when building a modern and efficient e-discovery architecture that takes advantage of today’s technology. In this final part, I want to discuss why a hybrid approach of on-premises software and a private hosted platform is the best solution for e-discovery-review.
Two key factors in making the decision about whether to put e-discovery technology behind the firewall or in a hosted solution such as cloud are cost-effectiveness and the ability to create an efficient and defensible process.
The nature of e-discovery review—the last major phase of e-discovery—is that of sharing and collaboration with outside counsel and others. Doing this in a completely secure and efficient manner is critical, which makes this phase a candidate for leveraging both on-premises software and a private hosted cloud review service.
Early, on-premises review
Organizations vary in their need to conduct the end stages of review and production in-house. However, what is uniform is the need to obtain and review key documents relevant to a pending litigation as soon as possible in order to assess exposure and make decisions about how to plan for resolution of the matter.
Traditionally, organizations have relied on two methods for performing early review—either obtaining a copy of key documents directly from custodians, or waiting for the collection and processing of electronically stored information (ESI) to begin producing documents for review.
Effective e-discovery allows organizations to begin reviewing key documents without waiting for full collection and processing to be complete, and without relying on witnesses to forward documents on their own to legal. Some, but not all, review capabilities such as tagging and providing an audit trail of the initial review of key documents is critical to assessing exposure as soon as possible. Trying to use a full-fledged review platform for this process is overkill in terms of horsepower for on-premises review.
What is needed by most legal departments is a precision instrument that can quickly show conversation threads for emails and documents that show the largest number of hits on key search terms and rank the files according to responsiveness. The goal is to show, from an initial pass at the documents, the “hottest” files first. This process is best accomplished through an on-premises review solution tailored to finding key documents and presenting them to the legal team as soon as possible. Such a solution needs to be integrated with the other steps of the on-premises solution—pre-collection analytics, legal hold, collection, and processing—in order to streamline and maximize effectiveness.
Private hosted platform for full review
Now we come to the cloud, which provides a great technology platform for full review. First, as a word of caution: Note that not all cloud solutions are created equal. For purposes of this article, the type of cloud solution I reference is one that is a private hosted single instance repository stored on a specified location, where specific disks can be referenced as holding data or a particular case or client. Much caution should be advised as to using public cloud review solutions, where less certainty exists as to where data is stored at a particular time.
Once ESI has been put on hold, collected and had at least some initial processing and review performed, an organization is at a stage that is less about having a customized fit based on the infrastructure of its technical systems and more about having the best, uniform method for reviewing and producing ESI.
Organizations need essentially three things from a review platform: a good way to upload collected files; a good way to review the files to make sure that only relevant, nonprivileged and nonconfidential documents are produced; and a good way to produce the documents with appropriate bates-labeling and documentation to track the files. Investing in infrastructure to support an on-premises review platform does not make sense because no real benefit exists for keeping all evidence files in-house for review.
A quality hosted review solution often provides better security than most organizations, law firms and service providers because it’s focused only on the goals of hosting and securing data for review. Moreover, investments that a private hosted solution makes in its infrastructure provide economies of scale that benefit all of the data that it hosts. Rather than replicating the same costs of infrastructure to secure and provide data for review across multiple organizations, a single hosted provider can spread the benefits of a single investment in infrastructure across all of the organizations that it services.
Having a single secure, hosted review solution also provides a point of focus for evidence files that are otherwise spread across different parts of an organization, as well as different law firms and service providers. All evidence files, and all entities involved in the review and production of those files, are directed to a single-instance repository that not only stores all evidence files for all cases, but can also consolidate information about multiple cases that involved the same evidence files. When one law firm produces files for a particular case, it will have the benefit of knowing if any of the files have already been produced in another matter or if certain designations such as privilege or confidentiality were made by another law firm to the same files.
Cloud computing has changed the economics of computing and caused many companies to re-evaluate their computing infrastructures. This increasingly includes legal technology as organizations now understand that they need a mix of technology solutions to address the rising costs and risks of producing ESI. To be successful, though, requires a holistic view of the best way to accomplish all e-discovery steps in a seamless and effective manner. Making a decision to build an e-discovery architecture that allows tailoring of a solution to an organization’s needs is crucial. The general advice of “left on premises, right on cloud” holds as the method of providing the optimum balance for cost-effective and defensible e-discovery for most organizations.