Five Steps to Better Oversight and Control of E-Discovery Spend

What’s in your legal data warehouse? Don’t know? Or don’t have one? If you work at a law firm, there’s no imperative to create a mechanism to share data elsewhere—outside counsel concerns are winning cases. For corporate legal departments, however, it’s a problem: in-house counsel, legal operations professionals and even the c-suite are increasingly asking for more effective oversight and control over e-discovery spend.

“What gets measured gets managed,” the late management consultant Peter Drucker reportedly said. How, in practical terms, are corporate legal departments measuring and managing? Are legal departments incorporating business intelligence (BI) into their day-to-day operations to get the data and analytics they need to be more efficient and manage legal spend more effectively?

This can be a tall order. Here are five steps corporate legal professionals can take to get the data and analytics they need for more effective oversight and control over e-discovery spend.

1. In-source the process and technology.

Given that outside counsel do not, as a general rule, provide legal departments with all the data they need on e-discovery spend and related metrics, a key first step is to take control of the reporting process. The way to do that is for the legal department to implement its own system that will collect and analyze key metrics—one that is not dependent on law firm reporting.

2. Select the technology and analytics that best meet your needs.

To implement a system, you need the right technology. It should be able to perform the following essential functions:

  • Collect data for all matters and legal teams. This includes active, inactive, external and internal cases.
  • Provide current insight across enterprise custodians, collections, matters, deadlines, review metrics and related legal spend.
  • Optimize daily operations by providing visibility and interactive reports into the status and progress of matters, quantifying and helping efficiently allocate potential resources.
  • Inform strategic decisions by integrating prior review metrics, allowing fact-based decisions about collections, providing budget insight, quantitatively and qualitatively assessing outside counsel and other vendor value-add spend and more.
  • Evolve with current legal team needs, including looking at what new data can be put into the warehouse and what new visual ways data can be presented within dashboards.

Of course, there are a host of other key performance indicators that may be important to legal professionals that will help them more easily understand their data universe.

For legal departments that want an accelerated path to business intelligence, buying a system—rather than building it from scratch—is usually the approach that makes the most sense. By licensing a BI system as part of an enterprise discovery management system, a company can achieve the benefits of cross-matter reporting and oversight without the capital costs of creating a system from scratch and the operating expenses and time associated with IT running and maintaining the system.

3. Centralize your e-discovery data and documents in a single warehouse.

Many companies use multiple vendors, law firms and systems to manage discovery. This results in data silos within and outside of the organization. This is the least efficient way to manage discovery, and the most difficult way to gather meaningful metrics across all cases.

Whether you build or buy, the key ingredient of an enterprise e-discovery system is centralization. This means that all of your company’s e-discovery documents, data and activity is centralized in a repository, or warehouse, which enables corporate legal teams to access all of their matter-related data—as well as extract key data and metrics across cases—to get the information they need.

With a core repository and individual matter repositories stored centrally, you need not cut out your law firms. Rather, all of your legal teams, including outside counsel, work through the same system. As a multi-matter management system, as new legal matters arise, data can be assigned to individual matters, saving and reusing document tagging and developing standardized, repeatable discovery practices. With consistent coding across documents, reporting becomes more accurate.

4. Set up reporting.

Once your matter-related data and activities are centralized, gathering and analyzing data is easy. The next step is to identify the types of information and reports you want and implementing a process to deliver them. Most BI systems should have a wide range of templated reports for standard e-discovery metrics as well as the ability to generate custom reports. Advanced systems are able to ingest information from the core repository as well as other systems that may include accounting, financial reporting, case management and human resources.

5. Turn data into data-driven decisions.

Once you have the reports you need, you can turn data into actionable intelligence through a reporting dashboard. Dashboards allow you to see the information in interactive graphs and charts to better understand performance trends. These dashboards allow one to focus on the most pertinent and useful metrics by filtering information using various criteria (region, company, litigation, managers, etc.), highlighting specific case statistics and information.

In Catalyst’s Insight Business Intelligence system, for example, the dashboard presents a wide array of reports, and can provide information about almost any aspect of one or more individual matters. In addition, it can chart any additional data the client has chosen to provide, integrating it as appropriate with the system data.

The best way to understand this is to see it. Figure 1 shows a sample dashboard illustrating a visual overview of all of an organization’s matters, documents and custodians, as well as a review summary for active matters and a chart of active matters by in-house attorney. Users can drill down into more granular metrics for additional information.


Figure 2 shows another view of the dashboard, this one highlighting financial metrics. Again, users can drill down into the data to track specific matters, vendors, law firms and attorneys.

Using BI to drive efficiency and cost-savings

In-house counsel and legal operations professionals increasingly need access to meaningful metrics ad other business intelligence as a key component of enhancing efficiency and driving cost savings in legal departments. Getting there shouldn’t be so difficult. With the right technology and processes, legal departments can improve daily operations and evolve their organization with data-driven insights.

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