Pricing

Should Contract Review Attorneys Receive Overtime Pay?: eDiscovery Trends

Whether they should or not, maybe they can – if they’re found NOT to be practicing law, according to a ruling from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to a story in The Posse List (Contract attorney lawsuit against Skadden Arps can proceed, appeals court says; case could enable temporary lawyers hired for routine document review to earn extra wages), the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded the matter for further proceedings, ruling that a lawsuit demanding overtime pay from law firm Skadden, Arps and legal staffing agency Tower Legal Solutions can proceed.

The plaintiff, David Lola, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, filed the case as a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action against Skadden, Arps and Tower Legal Staffing.  He alleged that, beginning in April 2012, he worked for the defendants for fifteen months in North Carolina, working 45 to 55 hours per week and was paid $25 per hour. He conducted document review for Skadden in connection with a multi-district litigation pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Lola is an attorney licensed to practice law in California, but he is not admitted to practice law in either North Carolina or the Northern District of Ohio.

According to the ruling issued by the appellate court, “Lola alleged that his work was closely supervised by the Defendants, and his entire responsibility . . . consisted of (a) looking at documents to see what search terms, if any, appeared in the documents, (b) marking those documents into the categories predetermined by Defendants, and (c) at times drawing black boxes to redact portions of certain documents based on specific protocols that Defendants provided.’  Lola also alleged that Defendants provided him with the documents he reviewed, the search terms he was to use in connection with those documents, and the procedures he was to follow if the search terms appeared.

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Lola was exempt from FLSA’s overtime rules because he was a licensed attorney engaged in the practice of law. The district court granted the motion, finding (1) state, not federal, standards applied in determining whether an attorney was practicing law under FLSA; (2) North Carolina had the greatest interest in the outcome of the litigation, thus North Carolina’s law should apply; and (3) Lola was engaged in the practice of law as defined by North Carolina law, and was therefore an exempt employee under FLSA.”

While the appellate court agreed with the first two points, it disagreed with the third.  In vacating the judgment of the district court and remanding the matter for further proceedings, the appellate court stated in its ruling:

“The gravamen of Lola’s complaint is that he performed document review under such tight constraints that he exercised no legal judgment whatsoever—he alleges that he used criteria developed by others to simply sort documents into different categories. Accepting those allegations as true, as we must on a motion to dismiss, we find that Lola adequately alleged in his complaint that he failed to exercise any legal judgment in performing his duties for Defendants. A fair reading of the complaint in the light most favorable to Lola is that he provided services that a machine could have provided.”

A link to the appeals court ruling, also available in the article in The Posse List, can be found here.

So, what do you think?  Are document reviewers practicing law?  If not, should they be entitled to overtime pay?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

“How Much Will it Cost?” is Not Necessarily the Right Question to Ask: eDiscovery Best Practices

This is a topic we covered last fall, but it has come up again several times with clients (and prospective clients) recently and since we have so many new viewers and subscribers in the past couple of months (thanks to our recently announced education partnership with EDRM and some very kind words from Craig Ball on his excellent Ball in Your Court blog), it bears discussing again.

By far, the most important (and, therefore, the most asked) question asked of eDiscovery providers is “How much will it cost?”. Actually, you should be asking a few questions to get that answer – if they are the right questions, you can actually get the answer you seek.

With these questions, you can hopefully prevent surprises and predict and control costs:

  • What is the Unit Price for Each Service?: It’s important to make sure that you have a clear understanding of every unit price the eDiscovery provider includes in an estimate. Some services may be charged per-page or per-document, while others may be charged per gigabyte, and others may be charged on an hourly basis. It’s important to understand how each service is being charged and ensure that the price model makes sense.
  • Are the Gigabytes Counted as Original or Expanded Gigabytes?: For the per gigabyte services, it’s also important to make sure that you whether they are billed on the original GBs or the expanded GBs. Expanded GBs can be two to three times as large (or more) as the original GBs. Some services are typically billed on the original GBs (or at least the unzipped GBs) while others are typically billed on the expanded GBs. It’s important to know which metric is used; otherwise, your ESI collection may be larger than you think and you may be in for a surprise when the bill comes.
  • Will I Get an Estimate in Advance for Hourly Billed Services?: When you ask for specific hourly billed services from the provider (such as professional consulting or technician services) to complete a specific task, it’s important to get an estimate to complete that task as well as advanced notification if the task will require more time than estimated.
  • What Other Costs are Billed?: It’s not uncommon for other charges to be included in invoices, such as user fees for hosting services (not all hosting providers charge user fees, so it’s important to comparison shop) or project management, which can be an important component to the services provided by the eDiscovery provider. And, don’t forget charges for supplies and shipping. The rates charged for these services can vary widely, from non-existent to exorbitant. Understanding what other costs are being billed and the rates for those services is important to controlling costs.
  • If Prices are Subject to Change, What is the Policy for Those Changes and Notification of Clients?: Let’s face it, prices do change, even in the eDiscovery industry. In ongoing contracts, most eDiscovery providers will retain the right to change prices to reflect the cost of doing business (whether they exercise those rights or not). It’s important to know the terms that your provider has set for the ability to change prices, what the notification policy is for those price changes and what your options are if the provider exercises that right.

With the right questions and a good understanding of your project parameters, you can get to the answer to that elusive question “How much will it cost?”.

So, what do you think? How do you manage costs with your eDiscovery providers? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Slashes Vendor Bill Filled with Double Billing and Data Recovery Charges – eDiscovery Case Law

As reported by ACEDS (Vendor’s massive bill triggers suit with client, then wrath of judge: subscription required), in Lanterman and Computer Forensic Services v. Afremov, 27-CV-12-22089 (D. Minn. July 17, 2014), Minnesota District Judge Philip D. Bush slashed over $700,000 from the plaintiff’s disputed invoices for eDiscovery work performed on behalf of the defendant, leaving an award of just over $103,000 for services rendered.

Case Background

Computer Forensic Services (CFS) had provided previous eDiscovery services in a case where the defendant, Michael Afremov, was a party.  The Receiver assigned to the case directed CFS to acquire e-mail servers and other computers, perform diagnostic tests, produce documents requested by parties to the lawsuit, and retain custody of data related to the case.  CFS billed and was paid about $1 million dollars for its work over a few years.  After the case settled, the defendant was indicted on federal criminal charges and his criminal defense counsel called Mark Lanterman (CEO of CFS) to inquire about obtaining documents related to the case, stating in a letter that the defendant “will pay any costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees, that you incur in connection with responding to this request and the forthcoming subpoenas.”

Work Performed and Billed by CFS and Billing Dispute

At the initial meeting, Lanterman and Afremov’s counsel all believed the data was stored on CFS’s server in ready to access format (at that time, CFS was charging $7,400 per month for allegedly storing the data on its secure server).  As noted in the judge’s order, “[e]ven though it would massively increase the cost the project (by over a half million dollars), Lanterman and CFS never advised Afremov’s counsel that the AGA data had allegedly been removed from CFS’s server and would have to be reloaded.”

On June 15, 2007, CFS issued an invoice in the amount of $674,861.08, which included $628,737.33 for CFS’s services and $46,123.75 in attorney fees for privilege review by an outside counsel firm.  Shortly after the invoice was issued, Lanterman and CFS were told to stop working on the project by Afremov’s counsel. CFS stopped work around June 25, 2007.  On May 7, 2008, CFS issued a second invoice in the amount of $178,850, accompanied by a letter stating that the invoice is “for work performed after June 15, 2007.”

When Afremov refused to pay the bills, CFS sued for breach of contract. A jury awarded CFS $105,568.75, but Judge Bush held a subsequent court trial on equitable claims to obtain additional testimony.

Judge’s Analysis and Ruling

Only three people at CFS worked on the data for Afremov, one of which worked at most 20 hours per week.  As Judge Bush noted, CFS destroyed all of its “alleged” time records even though “(a) Lanterman had billing disputes in the past and (b) the prospect of a billing dispute with Afremov was plainly evident less than two months into the project.”  CFS charged $275 for both analyst time and computer run time, though the invoices did not distinguish between the two.  CFS offered no testimony that it is reasonable in the industry to charge separately for computer run time.

With regard to the billed work, Judge Bush provided several observations, including:

  • Services associated with the first invoice occurred over a time period of at most 59 days, so the first invoice, on an hourly rate, would have called for the two full time workers to each have worked 17.9 hours a day on the project for 59 days straight with no break, for weekends or holidays (22.4 hours when including the second invoice).  As Judge Bush noted, “Working 22.4 hours a day for weeks on end is not credible.”
  • CFS charged a flat rate fee for loading, decrypting, and verifying data from the various devices, but the first invoice also included 68 hours of analyst time for “data load, decryption, and verification.”  Lanterman couldn’t explain the justification for the 68 hours billed.
  • CFS charged $1,000 apiece for 84 “hard drives” to upload data to its server, even though some of the “hard drives” were, in fact, memory sticks.  When asked to identify on a device spreadsheet the 84 “hard drives” that were allegedly uploaded, Lanterman was only able to identify at most 62 devices.
  • The first invoice included a charge of $424,600 for extracting 386 mailboxes at a flat rate of $1,100 per extraction; however, it also included a charge of 278.25 hours of time for “Data Analysis: Email compilation” at the rate of $275 per hour for a total charge of $76,518.75.
  • CFS billed the client for six hours of “[d]ata analysis” and one hour of “[d]eliverable preparation” for a total charge of $1,925 for simply copying a disk and providing it to outside counsel.

Judge Bush stated that “The Court has significant doubts about Lanterman’s credibility about billing issues based on the lack of disclosure, the lack of documentation, the apparent double billing (i.e., charging a flat rate fee and an hourly fee for loading, decrypting, and verifying data), the significant questions raised by what little documentation does exist…and other factors. There are additional reasons to question Lanterman’s credibility.”  He also noted that “In a federal court proceeding regarding the disputed invoices, Lanterman testified to a federal Magistrate Judge that he had 11 people working on the Afremov project. It has since been established that only three people were working on the  Afremov project.”

Ultimately, Judge Bush disallowed $99,475 in flat rate fees for data load, decryption, and verification and disallowed $424,600 for allegedly extracting 386 mailbox extractions at a flat rate fee of $1,100 per extraction on the first invoice, as well as disallowing the entire $178,850 for the second invoice.  Judge Bush did allow the balance of the first invoice (minus outside counsel fees) of $104,662.33, minus 6 hours for IRS data analysis that was not performed, for a total of $103,012.33 awarded to CFS.

So, what do you think?  Was the judge right to disallow the charges?  Or did he go too far?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

How Much Will it Cost? – eDiscovery Best Practices

By far, the most important (and, therefore, the most asked) question asked of eDiscovery providers is “How much will it cost?”.  Actually, you should be asking a few questions to get that answer – if they are the right questions, you can actually get the answer you seek.

With these questions, you can hopefully prevent surprises and predict and control costs:

  • What is the Unit Price for Each Service?: It’s important to make sure that you have a clear understanding of every unit price the eDiscovery provider includes in an estimate.  Some services may be charged per-page or per-document, while others may be charged per gigabyte, and others may be charged on an hourly basis.  It’s important to understand how each service is being charged and ensure that the price model makes sense.
  • Are the Gigabytes Counted as Original or Expanded Gigabytes?: For the per gigabyte services, it’s also important to make sure that you whether they are billed on the original GBs or the expanded GBs.  Expanded GBs can be two to three times as large (or more) as the original GBs.  Some services are typically billed on the original GBs (or at least the unzipped GBs) while others are typically billed on the expanded GBs.  It’s important to know which metric is used; otherwise, your ESI collection may be larger than you think and you may be in for a surprise when the bill comes.
  • Will I Get an Estimate in Advance for Hourly Billed Services?: When you ask for specific hourly billed services from the provider (such as professional consulting or technician services) to complete a specific task, it’s important to get an estimate to complete that task as well as advanced notification if the task will require more time than estimated.
  • What Incidental Costs are Billed?: It’s not uncommon (or unreasonable) for incidentals like project management, supplies and shipping to be included in invoices.  In particular, project management services can be an important component to the services provided by the eDiscovery provider.  But, the rates charged for these incidentals can vary widely.  Understanding what incidentals are being billed and the rates for those services is important to controlling costs.
  • If Prices are Subject to Change, What is the Policy for Those Changes and Notification of Clients?: Let’s face it, prices do change, even in the eDiscovery industry.  In ongoing contracts, most eDiscovery providers will retain the right to change prices to reflect the cost of doing business (whether they exercise those rights or not).  It’s important to know the terms that your provider has set for the ability to change prices, what the notification policy is for those price changes and what your options are if the provider exercises that right.

With the right questions and a good understanding of your project parameters, you can get to the answer to that elusive question “How much will it cost?”.

So, what do you think?  How do you manage costs with your eDiscovery providers?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Smaller Law Firms Save Big with Cloud-Based eDiscovery – eDiscovery Trends

According to a new article in ABA Journal (Cloud-based e-discovery can mean big savings for smaller firms, written by Joe Dysart), if you are a smaller law firm, it may make more sense to “rent” your eDiscovery applications in the “cloud” rather than bring a full-fledged hardware and software solution in-house.

Dysart’s article quotes a couple of panelists from a panel session at the recent LegalTech (LTNY) conference, including panelist Alan Winchester, a partner at the New York City firm Harris Beach, who stated: “For firms without robust IT departments, it grants them the experts to manage the technology operations and security.”

The article also identifies some benefits of using cloud-based eDiscovery solutions, including:

  • No need for software updating: Updates to cloud software tend to evolve over time, with users easily absorbing smaller, steadier changes over a much longer time span.
  • Best practices are continually updated: eDiscovery cloud vendors learn to avoid the pitfalls with software much more quickly, given that they are working with multiple law firms at once. Essentially, the mistakes and misunderstandings that can happen with an eDiscovery software package tend to happen at a much faster rate.
  • No need for yearlong rollouts: With eDiscovery in the cloud, all the hardware and software installation logistics are sidestepped. Instead, firms can focus entirely on training staff and bringing them up to speed.
  • The return on investment can be very attractive: Smaller law firms may go months or even years before needing a robust eDiscovery package. Instead of spending major dollars – and then watching helplessly as the system grows obsolete – they can go to the cloud for eDiscovery on an ad hoc basis and often save handsomely.

As platform manager for CloudNine Discovery’s OnDemand® eDiscovery review application (shameless plug warning!), I can attest to the benefits above with some of our own clients.  When we have software updates to apply, it’s a simple rollout (typically on a Saturday night for up to a couple of hours – our developers have no life!) for all users of the software.  And, assisting various clients has enabled us to learn how the software can be modified to meet their needs (the priorities in our ever-changing development roadmap are largely influenced by our own clients’ requests).

If you’re a small firm shopping to “rent” an eDiscovery application, consider this:

  • Know where your data is stored: It’s your data, so you should be able to know where it’s stored and know that it’s secure.  Is it stored in the US or internationally?  You don’t want to have issues getting to your data when you need it most.
  • Try it before you buy it: The cloud provider should let you conduct a no risk trial with your own data before you have to make a purchasing decision (see the banner below if you want to check out CloudNine’s no-risk trial offer).
  • Training and support should be free: The application should be easy to use, but it still helps to get training as well as application support when questions arise.  However, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

As Dysart’s article concludes, “law firms do need to take a hard look at the technology both ways before taking the plunge”, so it’s always important to consider the pros and cons as it applies to your firm.  Nonetheless, the benefits of cloud-based eDiscovery solutions make it an attractive option for many law firms today, especially small firms with limited budget and resources to manage the ESI in their cases effectively.

So, what do you think? Have you considered cloud-based solutions for your eDiscovery projects? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Tom O’Connor of Gulf Coast Legal Technology Center – eDiscovery Trends

This is the ninth of the 2014 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series.  eDiscoveryDaily interviewed several thought leaders after LTNY this year (don’t get us started) and generally asked each of them the following questions:

  1. What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?
  2. With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?
  3. It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?
  4. What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

Today’s thought leader is Tom O’Connor.  Tom is a nationally known consultant, speaker and writer in the area of computerized litigation support systems.  A frequent lecturer on the subject of legal technology, Tom has been on the faculty of numerous national CLE providers and has taught college level courses on legal technology.  Tom’s involvement with large cases led him to become familiar with dozens of various software applications for litigation support and he has both designed databases and trained legal staffs in their use on many of the cases mentioned above. This work has involved both public and private law firms of all sizes across the nation.  Tom is the Director of the Gulf Coast Legal Technology Center in New Orleans.

What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?

In my opinion, LegalTech has become a real car show.  There are just too many vendors on the show floor, all saying they do the same thing.  Someone at the show tallied it up and determined that 38% of the exhibitors were eDiscovery vendors.  And, that’s just the dedicated eDiscovery vendors – there are other companies like Lexis, who do other things, but half of their booth was focused on eDiscovery.  The show has sections of the booths down one long hall with sales people standing in front of each section and it’s like “running the gauntlet” when you walk by them.  It’s a bit overwhelming.

Having said that, a lot of people were still getting stuff done, but they were doing so in the suites either at the hotel or across the street.  I saw a lot of good B-to-B activities off the sales floor and I think you can get more done with the leads that you get if you can get them off the sales floor in a more sane environment.  At the same time, if you’re not at the show, people question you.  They’ll say “hey, what happened to the wombat company?”  So, being at the show still helps, at least with name recognition.

One trend that has been going on for a while is that “everybody under the sun” is doing eDiscovery or says that they’re doing eDiscovery.  The phenomenal growth of the number of eDiscovery vendors of all sizes surprises me.  We see headlines about providers getting bought out and some companies acquiring other companies, but it seems like every time one gets acquired, two more take its place.  That surprised me as I expected to see more stratification, but did not.  Not that buyouts aren’t occurring, but there’s just so much growth in the space that the number of players is not shrinking.

Another trend that I noticed which puzzled me until I walked around the show and realized what was going on, is the entry of companies like IBM and Xerox into the eDiscovery space.  It puzzled me until I took a good look at their products and realized that the trend is to get more throughput in processing.  Our data sets are getting so big.  A terabyte is just not that unusual anymore.  Two to five terabytes is becoming typical in large cases.  500 GB to 1 terabyte is becoming more common, even in a small case.  Being able to process 5 to 10 GB an hour isn’t cutting it anymore and I saw more pressure on vendors to process up to a terabyte (or even more) per day.  So, it makes sense that companies like IBM and Xerox are going to get into the big data space for corporate clients because they’re already there and they have the horsepower.  So, I see the industry focused on different ways to speed up ingestion and processing of data.

That has been accompanied by another trend: pricing pressures.  Providers are starting to offer deals like $20 per GB all in with hosting, processing, review, unlimited users, etc.  From the other end of the spectrum of companies like IBM and Xerox are small technology companies, coming not from legal but from a very high-end technology background, looking to apply their technology skills in the eDiscovery space and offering really discounted prices.  I’ve seen a lot of that and we started to see it last year, with providers starting to offer project pricing and getting away from a per GB pricing model.  I think we’re going to see more and more of that as the year goes along.  I hesitate to use the word “commoditized” because I don’t think it is.  It’s not like scanning – every eDiscovery job is different with the types of files you have and what you want to accomplish.  But, there will certainly be a big push to lower the pricing from what we’ve been seeing for the 1-3 years and I think you’re going to see some pretty dramatic price cuts with pressure from new players coming into the market and increased competition.

With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?

I’ve been astonished that after the first wave of comments last fall that there has been little or no public comments or even discussion in the media about the rules changes. The public comment period closes tomorrow (Tom was interviewed on February 14) and you know the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”?  That seems to be how it is with the end of the comment period.  I think I saw one article mentioning the fact that the comments were closing this week.  It has been a surprising non-issue to me.

For that reason, I think the rules changes will go through.  I don’t think there has been a concerted effort to speak out against them.  As I understand it, the rules still won’t be enacted until 2016 because they still have to go back to the committee and through Congress and through the Supreme Court.  It’s a really lengthy period which allows for intervention at a number of different steps.  But, I haven’t seen any concerted effort mounted to talk against them, though Judge Scheindlin has been quite adamant in her comments.  My personal feeling is that we didn’t need the new rules.  I think they benefit the corporate defense world and change some standards.  Craig Ball pointed out in a column last year that they don’t even address the issue of metadata, which is problematic.  I don’t think we needed the rules changes, quite frankly.  And, I wrote a column about that last year.  In a world where I hear commentators and judges say that 90% of the attorneys that appear in front of them still don’t understand ESI or how things work, clearly if they don’t understand the current rules, why do we need rules changes?  Let’s get people up to speed on what they’re supposed to be doing now before we worry about fine tuning it.  I understand the motivation behind getting them enacted from the people who are pushing for them, why they wanted them and I suspect they will pretty much go through as written.

It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?

I absolutely agree with that.  I think the obvious remedy is to educate them where lawyers get educated, which is in law schools and I think the law schools have been negligent, if not grossly negligent, in addressing that issue.  Browning Marean and I went around to the different law schools to try to get them to sponsor a clinic or educational program in this area eight or nine years ago and were rebuffed.  Even to this day, though there are some individuals that are teaching classes at individual law schools, with the exception of a new program at Northeastern, there has been no curriculum devoted to technology as part of the regular law school curriculum.

Even the programs that have sprung up: the wonderful job that Craig Ball and Judge Facciola does at Georgetown Law School is sponsored by their CLE department, not the law school itself.  Michael Arkfeld has a great program that he does for three days down at the Sandra Day O’Connor law school in Arizona State University (covered on the blog here).  But, it’s a three day program, not a course, not a curriculum.  It’s not a focus in the curriculum of the actual law school itself.  We’ve had “grass roots” efforts spring up with Craig’s and Michael’s efforts, what Ralph Losey and his son Adam have been doing, as well as a number of people at the local level with CLE programs.  But, the fact is that lawyers get educated in law schools and if you really want to solve this, you make it as part of the curriculum at law schools.

There has always been an attitude on the part of law schools.  As Browning and I were told by the dean of a top flight law school several years ago, “we train architects, not carpenters”.  I myself was referred to, face-to-face, by a group of law professors as a “tradesman”.  They said “Gee, Tom, this proposal is a great idea, but why would we trust the education of our students to a tradesman like you?”  There’s this sort of disdainful academic outlook on anything that involves the hands-on use of computers and that’s got to change.  Judge Rosenthal said that “we have to change the paradigm” on how we handle things.  Lawyers and judges alike have to look at things differently and all of us need to adjust how we look at the world today.  Because it’s not just a legal issue, it’s a social issue.  Society has changed how it manufactures, creates and stores information/data/documents.  Other professional areas have caught onto that and legal education has really lagged behind.

I mentioned the eDiscovery Institute at Georgetown Law School, which happens every June.  But, they cap the attendants at about 60.  Do the math, there are about a million lawyers in the country and if you’re only going to educate 60 per year, you’ll never get there.  I also think that bar associations could be much more forthright in education in this area and requiring it.  Judicial pressure is having the best results – judges are requiring some sort of certification of competence in this area.  I know of several Federal judges who require the parties to state for the record that they’re qualified to address eDiscovery.  Some of the pilot projects that have sprung up, like the one at the University of Chicago, are going to require a self-certifying affidavit of competence (assuming they pass) stating that you’re qualified to talk about these issues.  Judges are expecting lawyers, regardless of how they learn it, to know what they’re talking about with regard to technology and not to waste the court’s time.

What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

I just recently published a new guide on Technolawyer, titled LitigationWorld Quick Start Guide to Mastering Ediscovery (and covered on this blog here).  There are a lot of beginner’s guides to eDiscovery, but this one doesn’t really focus on eDiscovery, it focuses on technology, answering questions like:  How do computers work?  What are bits, bytes, RAM, what’s a gigabyte, what’s a terabyte, etc.

I literally had a discussion about an hour ago with a client for whom we have a big case going on in Federal court and there’s a large production, over a terabyte being processed by our opponents in the case right now.  I asked the client how much paper he thought that was and he had no idea.  The next time we start arguing cost in front of the judge, I’m going to bring in a chart that says a gigabyte is X number of pages of paper so that it has some meaning to them.  So, I think it’s really important to explain these basic concepts, and we in the technology world forget quite a bit how little many lawyers know about technology.  So the guide is designed to talk about how electronic media stores data, how that data is retrieved and explains some of the common terms and phrases used in the physical construction and workings of a computer.  Before you even start talking about eDiscovery, you need to have an understanding of how computers work and how they find data and where data can reside.  We throw around terms like “slack space” and “metadata” casually without realizing that not everyone understands those terms.  This guide is meant to address that knowledge gap.

I’m continuing some of my case work, of course.  Lastly, I recently joined a company called Cavo, which is bringing a new eDiscovery product to market that I’m excited about.  Busy as always!  And, of course, there are always good things going on in New Orleans!

Thanks, Tom, for participating in the interview!

And to the readers, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic!

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Alon Israely, Esq., CISSP of BIA – eDiscovery Trends

This is the fifth of the 2014 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series.  eDiscoveryDaily interviewed several thought leaders after LTNY this year (don’t get us started) and generally asked each of them the following questions:

  1. What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?
  2. With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?
  3. It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?
  4. What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

Today’s thought leader is Alon Israely.  Alon is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Business Intelligence Associates, Inc. (BIA) and currently leads the Strategic Partner Program at BIA.  Alon has over eighteen years of experience in a variety of advanced computing-related technologies and has consulted with law firms and their clients on a variety of technology issues, including expert witness services related to computer forensics, digital evidence management and data security.  Alon is an attorney and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?

Once again, I did not see much differentiation between different exhibitors.  There was nothing that stood out to me as being a groundbreaking differentiator.  That said, it seemed a lighter show, less people.  But, even though it was a lighter number of attendees, the caliber of attendees seemed a bit higher.  This is all coming from my gut as I have no real numbers or metrics to back this up, but, the conversations we had at our booth seemed, on average to be a little more substantive than in previous years.

As for trends, there seems to be more discussion about the high-tech trends, such as cloud computing and analytic technologies.  Instead of people talking about these technologies generally, it seemed as though people were talking about these technologies more specifically.  Not to say that they were differentiated, they were still non-differentiated.  But, there were more people talking about cloud technologies and there was a big CLE about it.  And, more people were talking specifically about analytics, not just saying “you can do all of this culling”, but showing specific examples, with charts, graphics and other neat elements that indicate searching/analytics results.  So, there seemed to be a bit more specificity around technology and, together with that, advanced technology.  But, to be honest with you, there was nothing at the show that really blew my mind.  Nothing that was groundbreaking, nothing that looked like it would initiate a shift in the industry.  If anything, it felt like, other than the few specifics around high-tech, similar to previous years.

I will say that some of the attendees that I talked to, some of the GCs and outside counsel firm attorneys, said they spent more time inside the educational components at LegalTech instead of the exhibit hall.  So, as an exhibitor, that doesn’t make me overly happy to see that, but, as a knowledge leader in the industry, I’m very happy to see that.  I know that ALM has always tried to do a good job with the educational components.  And, I think this year attendees took that part of it more seriously than in the past several years.  It seemed that most of the networking that my BIA colleagues and I did was at the educational sessions, not necessarily on the floor.  I think that’s a positive indicator for the people who made it to the show.

As for general trends in 2014, I think you will see corporations start to take control of their technology, not only for in-house solutions, but also for the solutions that outside counsel will be providing to them.  Today, corporations tend to trust their outside counsel firms as to the review tools and other technologies that they use, but I think that it will be much more of a coordinated effort going forward.  The level of maturity for corporations around eDiscovery is being raised.  What the means in practical terms is that they will work more closely with their trusted vendors.  I don’t believe that corporations are going to bring everything in-house and that vendors will be out of luck, though a lot of other people believe that will happen.  I believe that services business for eDiscovery will remain strong for the next decade or longer and the dynamic of obtaining those services will morph into the corporation sitting side-by-side with the law firm making those services decisions.

That trend was evident at the show: you heard it from different vendor booths and the way that they were pitching their products and you heard it from actual in-house attorneys that were attending.  I saw at least two cases where the GC and his outside counsel attorney were walking around the show together – hopefully, the GC wasn’t getting charged for that time!  You’re starting to see corporations take more control of the reins, but not in the way we always thought where they dictate to the outside counsel what vendors to use.  Instead, it’s much more of a collaborative effort and I think you’ll see much more of that over the next several years.

With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?

I see those being incredibly important.  The more we can get specificity around what needs to happen early in a case and the more that specificity can be codified, the better off we will all be.  If you look at all of the wasted money spent over the last few years, some of that is solved by the new rules, specifically in the area of preservation.  We’re in the business of selling preservation software, so I’m excited about the potential changes.

But, if I step out of that personal perspective, the changes still make a lot of sense because, today, you still have a lot of effort being spent by parties figuring out legal hold and preservation issues.  Who was put on hold, when were holds put in place, what data was and was not preserved.  That usually happens when a problem occurs – you have a peak of expensive lawyering and legal maneuvering with motions practice, etc and typically when it’s already too late.  So, some of these new rules which are focused on discussions early in the case with respect to preservation should nip a lot of that in the bud.  Now, instead of fighting four months later after discovery closes whether some system was preserved or not, that should get covered early-on with some of the new rules that will hopefully go into effect.  So, I’m very excited about the rules changes, not only as a vendor in the space, but also as a legal professional in general.  The more efficiency that you can create early in the matter, the more money you can save and the more you can focus on the substantive issues and on the merits of the case.

It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?

I do wholeheartedly agree.  Our industry is funny because the cost of goods sold for eDiscovery solutions and services is higher than for most other industries else because of the fact that we have to educate with almost every sale.  There are a lot of resources out there, including efforts by many respected thought leaders and all of the great blogs out there, and many providers have an educational component to their website.  So, you’re right that there are a lot of quality resources for attorneys at their fingertips, yet there are still so many attorneys that simply don’t understand it.  Most of the small business and solo practitioners market doesn’t understand eDiscovery and many GCs of mid-sized corporations don’t either.  And, frankly neither do many “corner office” partners at Amlaw200 firms.  They know about it at a high level and understand that it’s important, but they don’t know enough detail.  But, the good news is that with the advent of those educational resources and the fact that every eDiscovery provider and vendor teaches as they sell, those legal professionals don’t need to learn that much – even getting four or five feet “underneath the water” instead of thirty feet under would be helpful.

As to why they don’t know more, I don’t know.  Maybe attorneys are so used to having experts to rely on and because they feel they know enough about eDiscovery, that they don’t need to know any more detail or process understanding unless a problem arises.  I don’t have an explanation as to why, with all of these great resources available, that most legal professionals don’t have more knowledge.  Unless it’s just that they have a “technology block” and are still afraid of the technology aspects of that knowledge base.  To improve things, I believe that vendors will continue to have to sell in an educational manner, with one half of the sale educating the attorney and the other half focused on closing the deal.  And, hopefully more law schools will continue to incorporate eDiscovery into their curriculum.  But, I don’t see the issue of more knowledge across a wider audience of legal professionals getting a whole lot better anytime soon.

What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

BIA continues to be focused on bringing the best technology and workflow that we can to the left side of the EDRM model – such as legal hold, preservation and ECA.  Legal hold activities such as notifying and tracking employees, interviewing custodians and creating questionnaires to do so, and suspending practices such as email auto deletion, and collection of ESI is what we’re all about.  We’ve been really integrating those areas of the left side of the EDRM into one another.  Today, TotalDiscovery employs much more of a circular workflow than it did even a year ago.  It used to be much more siloed – you would implement a legal hold and then do a custodian questionnaire and the collection.  Now, we’ve integrated those steps a lot more.  Hold flows into the questionnaire process, you can seed collections with data from the questionnaires, and so forth.  We’re also continuing to serve up as much intelligence on the data as possible.  You don’t have to wait until you get further down the right side of the model to understand the type of data you have or how much you have.  Obviously, you still need to be able to have a good review tool to perform real hard core research and analysis, but to the extent we can help attorneys more knowledgeable about their data before they get to review, the better it will be for them.  That’s our goal.  So, a lot of that comes from integrating different parts of the process and not focusing on just one area of the process, but gleaning intel from all of them and summarizing at a high level for the attorney.  Also, our enterprise features are really strong and not something we talk about a lot (but we probably should) – stuff like connecting to Active directory, Exchange and other systems – real simple to do as a default configuration.

Also, our flat fee pricing model is a source of pride for us and it’s been very successful.  Flat-fee pricing, unlimited use of functionality and overall budget predictability are values we offer and guarantee – which is unique in the market.  Also, one of the good things about BIA is that we’re a technology company and we’re always adding features – we’ve now moved to a tighter cycle with a new feature or function added every four to six weeks.  Sometimes it’s a small feature, at other times, it’s a large feature we’ve been working on for a while.  It keeps it very fresh and we’re able to do so because of the way we’ve built the product with the cloud and web technologies that we use  So, BIA continues to focus on what we’re good at – improving the workflow and functionality for the tasks compelled by companies on the left side of the EDRM model, leading up to review.

Thanks, Alon, for participating in the interview!

And to the readers, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic!

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

ESI Cost Budget Calculator – eDiscovery Best Practices

Last month, we discussed budget calculators available from the Metrics section of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) web site.  So far, we have reviewed three budget calculators, the E-Discovery Cost Estimator for Processing and Review, the Doc Review Cost Calculator and the EDRM UTBMS eDiscovery Code Set Calculator. Here is the fourth and final calculator (currently) on the site, the ESI Cost Budget Calculator, provided by Browning Marean, DLA Piper law firm.

As described on the site, this budget calculator estimates costs by project phase. The phases are:

  • ESI Collection
  • ESI Processing
  • Paper Collection and Processing
  • Document Review
  • Early Data Assessment
  • Phase 1 Review
  • Phase 2 Review
  • Production
  • Privilege Review
  • Review of Opposition’s Production
  • Hosting Costs

This single-sheet Excel cost calculator is nice and straightforward.  It covers collection through production, even including a section for review of your opponent’s production and hosting costs (which are becoming more commonplace as more organizations choose cloud-based solutions for their eDiscovery needs).  Two things that I particularly like is that it provides a sequential “line” column to make it easier to refer to a particular line item and also a comments/assumptions column for documenting (what else?) your comments and assumptions.  I also like that all of the numbers are in one column (column C), making it easier to follow the cost computations.  The sheet also includes a header at the top with a place to enter the matter name and date of the estimate.

Suggestions for improvement:

  • As the site indicates, cost calculations, by phase and in total, are shown in the yellow cells.  However, there are several other calculated cells that are in white (the same color as the enterable cells).  It would be easier and clearer to identify the enterable cells if all of the calculated cells were in a different color to differentiate them from the enterable cells (maybe a third color to differentiate them from the cost calculations cells);
  • Protect the sheet and lock down the computed cells (at least in the main sheet) to avoid accidental overwriting of calculations (with the ability to unprotect the sheet if a formula requires tweaking);
  • Tie a pie chart to the numbers to represent the portion of each phase to the total eDiscovery cost for the project.

This workbook would certainly be useful for tracking eDiscovery costs from collection to production, using the metrics appropriate for each section (e.g., custodians and GB for collection, total files and review rate for the review phases, etc.).  It would also be great to update as the phases progress to continue to refine your project estimate.  You can download this calculator individually or a zip file containing all four calculators here.

So, what do you think?  How do you estimate eDiscovery costs?   Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

2013 eDiscovery Year in Review: eDiscovery Case Law, Part 1

It’s time for our annual review of eDiscovery case law!  We had more than our share of sanctions granted and denied, as well as disputes over admissibility of electronically stored information (ESI), eDiscovery cost reimbursement, production formats and search parameters, among other things.  So, as we did last year and also the year before, let’s take a look back at 2013!

Last year, eDiscoveryDaily published 78 posts related to eDiscovery case decisions and activities over the past year, covering 62 unique cases!  And, believe it or not, we still didn’t cover every case that had eDiscovery impact.  Sometimes, you want to cover other topics too.

Nonetheless, for the cases we did cover, we grouped them into common subject themes and will review them over the next few posts (a few of them could be categorized in more than one category, so we took our best shot).  Perhaps you missed some of these?  Now is your chance to catch up!

ADMISSIBILITY AND DUTY TO PRESERVE AND PRODUCE

Admissibility of ESI, and the duty to preserve and produce it, is more at issue than ever.  As always, there are numerous disputes about data being produced and not being produced.  Here are ten cases related to admissibility and the duty to preserve and produce ESI:

Court Rules Defendant Doesn’t Have Controls of PCs of Former Members, Denies Plaintiff’s Motion to CompelTo require a party to produce evidence in discovery, the party must have “possession, custody, or control” of the evidence. In Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas v. Nemaha Brown Watershed Joint District No. 7, the defendant did not have control over the personal computers of its former members, employees, or staff; it did not have the legal right to obtain information from them “on demand.” Therefore, the court rejected the plaintiff’s motion to compel and refused to order the forensic examination of the personal computers of current or former members, employees, or staff.

Court Rejects Defendant’s “Ultra-Broad” Request, Denies Motion to Compel ProductionIn NOLA Spice Designs, LLC v. Haydel Enters., Inc., Louisiana Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Wilkinson, Jr. denied a motion to compel a plaintiff and its principal (a third-party defendant) to produce their passwords and usernames for all websites with potentially relevant information and to compel a forensic examination of its computers.

Plaintiff Needs More Than “Mere Hope” to Discover Defendant’s Personal InfoIn Salvato v. Miley, a wrongful death action, Florida Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant’s responses to discovery requests “based on Plaintiff’s very limited showing as to the relevance of the requested discovery and the broadly drafted discovery requests”.

Court Compels Discovery of Plaintiff’s Facebook Posts as RelevantIn Moore v. Miller, Colorado Senior District Judge John L. Kane ruled (over the plaintiff’s privacy objections) that the plaintiff’s Facebook posts and activity log must be produced because they related to his claims of physical injury and emotional distress and because the plaintiff put his posts directly at issue by discussing the incident giving rise to the lawsuit online.

Court Rules that Stored Communications Act Applies to Former Employee EmailsIn Lazette v. Kulmatycki, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) applied when a supervisor reviewed his former employee’s Gmails through her company-issued smartphone; it covered emails the former employee had not yet opened, but not emails she had read but not yet deleted.

Google Compelled to Produce Search Terms in Apple v. SamsungIn Apple v. Samsung, California Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal granted Apple’s motion to compel third party Google to produce the search terms and custodians used to respond to discovery requests and ordered the parties to “meet and confer in person to discuss the lists and to attempt to resolve any remaining disputes regarding Google’s production.”

Plaintiff Granted Access to Defendant’s DatabaseIn Advanced Tactical Ordnance Systems, LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., Indiana Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey took the unusual step of allowing the plaintiff direct access to a defendant company’s database under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 because the plaintiff made a specific showing that the information in the database was highly relevant to the plaintiff’s claims, the benefit of producing it substantially outweighed the burden of producing it, and there was no prejudice to the defendant.

Yet Another Request for Facebook Data DeniedIn Potts v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., Tennessee District Judge William Haynes ruled that the defendant “lacks any evidentiary showing that Plaintiff’s public Facebook profile contains information that will reasonably lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” and, therefore, denied the defendant’s motion to compel regarding same.

Stored Communications Act Limits Production of Google EmailsIn Optiver Australia Pty. Ltd. & Anor. v. Tibra Trading Pty. Ltd. & Ors., California Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal granted much of the defendant’s motion to quash subpoena of Google for electronic communications sent or received by certain Gmail accounts allegedly used by employees of the defendant because most of the request violated the terms of the Stored Communications Act.

Another Social Media Request Denied as a “Carte Blanche” RequestIn Keller v. National Farmers Union Property & Casualty Co., the defendants filed a motion to compel the plaintiff’s to respond to various discovery requests. While Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch granted their request to compel the plaintiffs to produce medical records, he denied the defendant’s request “to delve carte blanche into the nonpublic sections of Plaintiffs’ social networking accounts”.

EDISCOVERY COST REIMBURSEMENT

As usual, eDiscovery cost reimbursement was a “mixed bag” as the cases where the prevailing party was awarded reimbursement of eDiscovery costs and the cases where requests for reimbursement of eDiscovery costs was denied (or only partially granted) was about even.  Here are six cases, including one where the losing plaintiff was ordered to pay $2.8 million for predictive coding of one million documents(!):

Cost-Shifting Inappropriate when Data is Kept in an Accessible FormatIn Novick v. AXA Network, New York Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox ruled that cost-shifting was inappropriate where data was kept in an accessible format.

Apple Wins Case, But Loses its Bid to Have Most of its Costs CoveredIn Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., California District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted in part and denied in part Ancora’s Motion for Review of Clerks’ Order on the Bill of Costs of prevailing party Apple, reducing the awarded amount from $111,158.23 down to $20,875.48, including disallowing over $71,000 in storage and hosting costs.

Another Case where Reimbursement of eDiscovery Costs are DeniedIn The Country Vintner of North Carolina, LLC v. E. & J. Gallo Winery, Inc., when deciding which costs are taxable, the Fourth Circuit chose to follow the Third Circuit’s reasoning in Race Tires America, Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., which read 28 U.S.C. § 1920(4) narrowly. Specifically, the court approved taxation of file conversion and transferring files onto CDs as “[f]ees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case” but no other tasks related to electronically stored information (ESI).

In False Claims Act Case, Reimbursement of eDiscovery Costs Awarded to PlaintiffIn United States ex rel. Becker v. Tools & Metals, Inc., a qui tam False Claims Act litigation, the plaintiffs sought, and the court awarded, costs for, among other things, uploading ESI, creating a Relativity index, and processing data over the objection that expenses should be limited to “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses which are part of the costs normally charged to a fee-paying client.” The court also approved electronic hosting costs, rejecting a defendant’s claim that “reasonableness is determined based on the number of documents used in the litigation.” However, the court refused to award costs for project management and for extracting data from hard drives where the plaintiff could have used better means to conduct a “targeted extraction of information.”

Court Says Scanning Documents to TIFF and Loading into Database is TaxableIn Amana Society, Inc. v. Excel Engineering, Inc., Iowa District Judge Linda R. Reade found that “scanning [to TIFF format] for Summation purposes qualifies as ‘making copies of materials’ and that these costs are recoverable”.

Must Losing Plaintiff Pay Defendant $2.8 Million for Predictive Coding of One Million Documents? Court Says YesIn Gabriel Technologies Corp. v. Qualcomm Inc., District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia awarded the defendant over $12.4 million in attorneys’ fees to be paid by the losing plaintiff in the case. The amount included over $2.8 million for “computer-assisted, algorithm-driven document review” and nearly $392,000 for contract attorneys to review documents identified by the algorithm as responsive.

We’re just getting started!  Tomorrow, we will cover cases related to production format disputes, search disputes and technology assisted review.  Stay tuned!

So, what do you think?  Did you miss any of these?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

EDRM UTBMS eDiscovery Code Set Calculator – eDiscovery Best Practices

Last month, we discussed budget calculators available from the Metrics section of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) web site.  So far, we have reviewed two of the budget calculators, beginning with the E-Discovery Cost Estimator for Processing and Review workbook provided by Julie Brown at Vorys law firm and the Doc Review Cost Calculator provided by an eDiscovery vendor.  Today, we will continue our review of the calculators with a look at the EDRM UTBMS eDiscovery Code Set Calculator provided by Browning Marean, DLA Piper law firm; and George Socha, Socha Consulting (and, of course, co-founder of EDRM).

As described on the site, this budget calculator uses the ABA’s Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS) eDiscovery codes as a starting point for calculating estimated eDiscovery expenses. Users enter anticipated average hour rates for:

  • Partners
  • Associates
  • Paralegals
  • Contract reviewers
  • In-house resources
  • Vendors

For each relevant L600-series UTMBS code, users enter (a) total estimated hours for each relevant group and (b) total estimated associated disbursements.  The spreadsheet then displays:

  • A summary of the estimated costs
  • Details of the estimated costs for each combination, such as estimated costs of time partners spend planning discovery (Partner and L601)
  • Totals by type of person, such as Partner
  • Totals by individual UTMBS code, such as L601
  • Totals by higher level UTBMS codes, such as L600

This spreadsheet is quite clear and easy to use.  It provides a summary section at the top of the sheet for the top level codes from L600 (Identification) to L690 (Project Management), which are fed by the enterable cells to the left and below.  All of the enterable cells are in yellow to make it easy to identify where the data needs to be entered (the hourly rates for each of the positions are top left and the total estimated hours are enterable for each position and subcode).

Based on the entered rates and hours within each subcode, costs are calculated and displayed in green for each position within each subcode, as well as a total for each subcode which rolls up to a total for the top level code displayed in blue at the top of the sheet.  There is also a column to enter associated disbursements for each code and subcode to reflect those disbursements that don’t tie to an hourly rate.  The sheet is protected to avoid inadvertent overwriting of formulas, but there is no password so that the user can tweak formulas if necessary.

This workbook would certainly be useful for tracking eDiscovery costs according to the UTBMS codes, especially for hourly billed activities.  It’s not a spreadsheet for estimating costs based on estimated data volumes but rather estimated hours spent by key staff on each phase of discovery.  You can download this calculator individually or a zip file containing all four calculators here.

So, what do you think?  How do you estimate eDiscovery costs?   Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.