The following is a special contribution to the AccessData Blog from Jonathan Mitchell, manager of practice support and litigation technology services at Andrews Kurth LLP, a law firm with more than 400 lawyers across 10 offices worldwide. For more information, please visit andrewskurth.com.
For those of us who were in attendance at ILTACON 2015, a four-day educational conference hosted by the International Legal Technology Association on August 30-September 3 in Las Vegas, we were treated to a comprehensive look at the tools available to help professionals working in technology within law firms and in-house legal departments.
Now that we’ve all had a chance to get back to the office and start to put some of our newfound intelligence into context, a lot of us are already seeking to put in place some action steps in one strategic area or another. How do I make sense of all the vendors who were exhibiting at the event? If we decide to procure new software tools to help us perform various functions, how do I come up with a smart evaluation and selection process for my firm?
If the hot button for your firm is seeking out a new enterprise e-Discovery solution, there are some simple best practices that I’d like to share for your consideration. I discussed these ideas during a Google Hangout at ILTACON, with Nadine Weiskopf, AccessData’s vice president of product management. Here are a few highlights from our discussion (you can view the entire session by clicking here)
- Review Current Processes – start your search for an enterprise software tool by looking at the broader context of how the e-Discovery workflow should be engineered in your firm. Whether you do this with the aid of a consultant or on your own, an objective review provides you with the direction to consolidate various work functions and restructure your litigation support teams where necessary.
- Determine Your Needs – interview various litigation professionals throughout the firm and directly solicit their input on what they want to see in an enterprise eDiscovery tool (e.g., key product features, functionalities, etc.). This input will help you formulate a Request for Proposal (RFP) tailored to your unique needs.
- Identify the Products that Might Fit—identify all software companies that appear to be qualified for the RFP, then screen the responses to focus on only those vendors who meet your users’ needs. From this initial screening, engage a team of volunteers who are highly skilled e-Discovery users to conduct more thorough technical reviews (including live demonstrations) of the products.
- “Proof of Concept” – conduct intensive testing on the finalist products under consideration. You might want to script identical tests with identical data sets so you have a true apples-to-apples comparison of product performance under real-world conditions. Then ask your heaviest users of e-Discovery software – likely to be primarily litigation associates and paralegals – to serve as the software reviewers.
- Cost/Benefit Analysis – meanwhile, have another team conduct a cost/benefit analysis of each product finalist as a totally independent and concurrent evaluation. This is a good practice because it avoids a situation in which the “proof of concept” team might be swayed by each product’s price tag, one way or the other. For the cost/benefit analysis, make sure to look at the full range of fiscal items to help determine the true licensing costs of each product under consideration; not just the vendor price for the software, but also any hardware purchases and the costs of other third-party applications necessary to provide full functionality of the platform.
- Arriving at a Decision – finally, consider the input of the testing team, factor in your cost/benefit analysis, refer back to the original input obtained from your internal survey about your firm’s needs in an e-Discovery software solution, and you’ll be ready to make the final selection of a product that is the best fit for your firm. Ideally, by the time you get to this end point, everyone on the search team will be on the same page with what you’re looking for in a new tool, which products in the marketplace were a potential fit and how they fared in head-to-head testing.
Selecting an enterprise e-Discovery solution is a major challenge with significant implications for your law firm, but it is a project you can conquer by setting goals and checking off milestones one step at a time. To download a white paper that I authored on this subject, please go to here.