How can eDiscovery providers add value to their clients in SA?

I read this article in Corporate Counsel recently and coincidentally a couple of you also referred it to me for comment. 

Firstly, one of my pet hates in the eDiscovery industry is the reference to “vendors” which is very typical “USA speak”. For me, a vendor is someone from whom I buy an ice cream at a cricket match or popcorn at a cinema and whilst never wishing to denigrate the wonderful job that these people do, it is simply not right for the term “vendor” to apply to an eDiscovery service provider. Sorry, still on my “hobby horse”, a salesperson is someone from whom you purchase something whilst a service provider is someone who provides you with a professional service and charges you a fee. It is the difference between a customer and a client and no one refers to Attorneys as “vendors” do they?

Ok, rant over, so let us look at the content of the article rather than the title! The article is not just an author’s opinion - more the summary of a survey from a number of selected in-house lawyers, in-house legal administrators, and top law firms (in the USA). The range of sectors ran through financial services, life sciences, retail, technology, manufacturing, energy and entertainment and then law firms, so a good broad sweep of business today. It is also right to say that all of those surveyed have an element of in-house eDiscovery to a greater or lesser extent and you may be reminded of one of my earlier posts on this topic.

There was a general theme that no one wants to spend money, rather look at what they have, evaluate, and perhaps in some cases expand their staff to cope. However, many were looking at how best they could integrate what tools they had and expand cloud services to handle the infrastructure. That said, many indicated they were investing in new platforms or expanding processing in-house or focussing on managed review. Almost all agreed that security and information governance are huge issues and then they turned their focus to what they expected from their external eDiscovery service providers. Some pointed out that supporting older software solutions was a problem and were turning to external providers with the very latest features. Others  required added value skills such as project management and providers who actually understood what they wanted to achieve and were sufficiently skilled and experienced to advise on a longer term strategy and not just one case. Another feature was an overall requirement or “one stop shop” as they did not have the time nor inclination to outsource different aspects to several providers. 

Another reason this post interested me is that many months ago I referred to some of these aspects in my post.

Here in SA we are not blessed with numerous providers as the industry is embryonic, but all could learn a lot from the survey above. Listen to what corporate clients actually want and help them with strategy rather than just looking at specific processes and basing everything on cost. Times are changing in SA in eDiscovery and clients need guidance, education and information so our service providers must look to be much more proactive and not just wait around for the phone to ring.  A quick check list for SA eDiscovery providers:-

  • Ensure your software solutions are up to date and have as many of the latest features as possible.
  • Tell clients and potential clients about new features
  • Expand skills within your organisation
  • Learn more about why you do what you do e.g the rudiments of discovery and how things may change sooner than you realise.
  • How your solutions work in other spheres such as competition cases, arbitrations, investigations and criminal matters
  • Keep up to date with the global industry
  • Educate and inform!!

When we have eDiscovery written into our discovery rules in SA the providers here will have to “up their game” or be overtaken by outsiders.