eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Budgeting, Part 3: Understanding the Elements Contributing to Cost


We've spent some time in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series discussing the factors and assumptions that go into eDiscovery budgeting, but what about the concrete eDiscovery process itself? In addition to understanding the factors that go into budgeting, it's important to recognize the elements that contribute to eDiscovery costs.

There are five primary factors that contribute to the costs of eDiscovery in progress:

  • Collection: Collection of ESI can be simple and effortless, conducted by the client itself, or it may require the assistance of a hired third party to gain access to the ESI. The cost of collection can go up depending on the level of travel required. Forensic investigation and custodian interviews are not always necessary, but also increase the cost in cases requiring them.
  • Volume: The raw volume of ESI is one factor in the cost of eDiscovery, but not necessarily the one that counts. What's most important is the volume that must be reviewed by human eyes—and that can mean all of it, or only a fraction of the total ESI retrieved. It's possible to filter eDiscovery data by removing unwanted file types, limiting a search to a particular date range, or searching for relevant key words and phrases in documents. In order to moderate cost, it's usually wise to start with a more limited eDiscovery scope and expand it to cover a larger volume if necessary.  Many eDiscovery service providers offer free early cost assessment services to help attorneys estimate the volume of potentially responsive data that needs to be processed and reviewed. 
  • Number of Custodians: The number of sources involved in the collection of data can increase exponentially the amount of time and effort involved in eDiscovery, thereby increasing the cost accordingly.
  • Human Review: This is the most expensive factor in eDiscovery, requiring as much as 80% of the total eDiscovery budget.  It requires not only human beings working on an hourly wage, but time spent on training and the learning curve as they become more adept at recognizing and refining the key elements and terms required to be produced in a particular case. The more people and time involved in data review, the greater the probable expense.
  • Case Complexity: While a simple case may require a limited scope and review process, complex court cases can involve searching the same documents for multiple types of information for discovery. As a result, complex cases require more time spent on a document review strategy, as well as on a more elaborate review process.

So, what do you think? Are there any other major factors in eDiscovery budgeting or expense? Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.