By B.B. Neely
Schiffer Odom Hicks & Johnson PLLC (SOHJ) is a commercial litigation and arbitration boutique with national and international reach. Our primary focus is to provide topquality counsel to clients through our consultative approach to litigation and adoption of innovative technology.
As a litigator focused on commercial disputes and tort claims, one of our founding partners, Andy Hicks, always believed that technology implemented properly would help the firm deliver unparalleled responsiveness without the overhead of larger firms. Despite our firm’s technological savvy, the burden of growing discovery volumes was challenging to manage. We had adopted litigation document review and transcript software years earlier; however, with growing datasets, the limitations of that software became glaringly evident. We were experiencing performance and workflow issues on all cases with over 150,000 documents, forcing us to send the larger cases to outside vendors, adding time and cost to every case. As a result, Andy and I set out to optimize the firm’s litigation technology.
Small But Mighty
With larger case volumes and just over a dozen lawyers, we needed to find a solution for managing our ediscovery more efficiently. Our goal was to find a new in-house solution that could process and search vast amounts of data quickly and provide our attorneys with powerful analytic tools to use in early case assessment (ECA) and strategy development. We required a scalable Web-based solution to allow for global access to case documents, faster data processing, a list of supported file types to accommodate engineering files received from clients working in the oil and gas sector, and flexible importing and exporting of data. The software solution needed to support concurrent users, rather than solely named users, to allow increased flexibility in regard to user access. Additionally, the solution needed to eliminate or, at the least, drastically reduce, peruser fees and per gigabit (GB) charges, both of which make it difficult to accurately determine managementdiscovery expenses. To ensure we had more stringent control over our operating costs, we concluded we did not want to be dependent on a third party for data processing; thus, affording us the ability to pass additional savings onto our clients.
During our research and requirements analysis for an in-house solution, we were confronted with a complex construction litigation case in which six terabytes (TB) of data was collected. The case involved the collection and review of custodians’ documents from around the globe, including Malaysia, Monaco, the Netherlands, Canada and Texas. Faced with such a large collection, we knew our existing document management system could not efficiently support document review and storage. Furthermore, we knew the cost and time involved in using a third-party vendor would be taxing, at best, on both the firm’s and the client’s resources.
The complexities of the case required advanced analytic tools and production capabilities without compromising ease-of-use, and a robust capacity for processing, reviewing and hosting the data. We researched several potential options and conducted an internal analysis to evaluate and determine whether there would be cost-efficiencies gained by bringing an integrated software solution in-house. Our analysis concluded that we could save the firm and our clients a significant amount of money by implementing an internal solution. After in-depth research and cost analysis of several e-discovery products in the marketplace, we identified IPRO’s suite of discovery tools as the best solution for our firm — specifically due to its ease-of-use and intuitive design.
The IPRO suite encompasses three tightly integrated components: Allegro for ECA; Eclipse for review and advanced analytics; and eCapture for processing and production. The IPRO solution ultimately improved our firm’s ability to produce higher quality, streamlined reviews and provided the flexibility to handle cases of any size within our firm. One of our favorite aspects about the applications is the well thought out workflows; the system is intuitive to use, which has minimized the learning curve for our attorneys as they have adopted the system.
We applied IPRO technology to our six TB case and removed extraneous junk e-mails and non-responsive data, reducing the review set from nine million to 3.9 million documents, less than a million of which were produced. The cost of using an outside vendor to perform these functions would have exceeded $6 million for just two years and, inevitably, would have increased during the four-to-five year duration of the case. Instead, we were able to review tens of thousands of documents in just a day or two with one person. Ultimately, we reached a favorable outcome for our client in the construction case, using documents found during the review that supported the merits of our case.
Saving Money by Maximizing Efficiency
We have seen huge performance and functionality improvements since implementing IPRO’s integrated solution and have the data to prove it. By making the strategic decision to use ECA at the onset of our cases, we have significantly reduced the amount of documentation requiring attorney review, which is a costly and time-intensive stage of the litigation process. As a result, our efficacious productions have enabled our clients to save thousands of dollars on review costs. For example, in a case related to a confidential internal investigation, we collected 1.2 TB of data, consisting of roughly 2.3 million documents, and were able to narrow the dataset to only 219,000 documents for review. In yet another case, we narrowed the documents for review from 540,000 to just over 17,000 in less than 48 hours.
The workflow using IPRO products now provides our firm with powerful processing, review and production capabilities unlike any we’ve had before. We’re able to maximize the integrated platform using Allegro to quickly ingest, cull and search data collections, taking advantage of the advanced analytics features in Eclipse for e-mail threading, deduping and automated clustering during native document review, and converting relevant documents to TIFF in eCapture while the review is still in progress. Overall, the streamlined workflow has reduced time and lessened errors during the review and production process.
The applications give us the ability to easily isolate potentially responsive material and eliminate much of the non-responsive documents for our attorneys to review. Without the software, the process would require a much larger team of reviewers; now, however, we can accomplish the same task in less time and with significant cost savings.
IPRO’s e-discovery tools have allowed us to handle large, intricate cases on a routine basis while mitigating significant impact to our attorneys’ workload. Despite our relatively small team, we have the ability to optimize efficiency and productivity through the use of state-of-the-art technology, setting us apart from other firms — both large and small — also specializing in national and international cases.
I think the real benefit of the technology is that it allows us to utilize and reallocate resources in the most efficient way possible. The technology increases productivity and convenience, enhances communication, and enables us to maintain hands-on control over the data and its analysis, reducing client costs through increased efficiency rather than by discounting rates.
With the IPRO suite, we now operate with a small, in-house software footprint, saving time and money. In addition, our firm can process larger volumes of data in-house, work collaboratively, often in real-time, with our clients, all of which contributes to the increased level of service we are able to provide.
Our firm continues to leverage advanced technology to provide innovative, defensible and cost-effective e-discovery and litigation support services to our clients; we are looking forward to applying the advanced features in newer releases, including next generation email threading, content- based searching, content analysis and the integration of Technology Assisted Review (TAR) technology.
–B.B. Neely is the IT Director at Schiffer Odom Hicks & Johnson PLLC in Houston.