eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Budgeting, Part 1: Assumptions and Elements that Contribute to Cost


While attorneys may struggle with the regional and international regulations surrounding eDiscovery, your client is likely to be less concerned with the practical legal details of your discovery request, and more concerned with the financial cost.

Whether you're working with the plaintiff or the defense, one of the most important considerations in preparing for eDiscovery is presenting the expense accurately and completely to the client – and that means understanding for yourself the factors that go into budgeting for eDiscovery. There are two main sets of elements to consider: those that affect budgeting and estimates, and those that will have a direct impact on the ultimate cost of eDiscovery.

Understanding Assumptions in eDiscovery

Because so much of the eDiscovery process cannot be predicted without accurate information, it's important to confirm any estimates from a client or from opposing counsel before proceeding with a budget.

Does your client really know the volume of data that is likely to be contained in certain files or backups, or are they providing generalized figures that may not be accurate? Do you know for certain the precise scope of the information you need to examine for discovery? Attorneys need to verify as many estimates as possible, noting any and all assumptions in their estimates so that the client can prepare for potential changes in eDiscovery costs if those early assumptions prove to be inaccurate.

eDiscovery budgeting is predicated on guesswork and assumptions that may include:

  • Volume
  • Scope
  • Efficiency
  • Risk
  • Timing

Each of these factors will be discussed in an upcoming blog post next week detailing the assumptions that go into estimating a budget for eDiscovery.

Breaking Down the Cost of eDiscovery

Once the estimate is complete and you’re ready to tackle the real work of eDiscovery, there are particular elements that contribute to the cost, while others are more minimal.

Some of the major elements comprising the cost of eDiscovery include:

  • Collection: including factors such as travel, retrieval, custodian interviews, and forensic collection (if necessary)
  • Volume of data
  • Number of custodians
  • Human review: the most expensive factor in eDiscovery costs
  • Case complexity

I'll discuss more on each of these factors in an upcoming blog post, as well.

The cost of eDiscovery can also be affected by the degree of open communication with opposing counsel. A cooperative relationship with the opposition can streamline discovery, while a contentious relationship makes it likely that discovery-related motions and court appearances will increase the total cost of this process.

So, what do you think? How much up front effort goes into your eDiscovery budgeting process? How do you monitor progress against the budget?  Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.