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5 Tips for Small Legal Departments Performing In-House E-Discovery

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Exterro and ACEDS recently partnered to survey over 100 members of in-house legal teams for our third annual In-House Legal Benchmarking Report in an effort to better understand how teams are managing and performing litigation services for their organizations. This year, the survey respondents included a wider distribution of companies, ranging from Fortune 500 enterprises to mid-market companies with fewer than 25,000 employees.

With almost 70% of organizations performing the majority of their litigation services in-house, the top-level conclusion was quite clear. As Mary Mack, Executive Director of ACEDS, explains in the report, “You don’t need a large team to provide litigation services effectively.”

While you can (and should!) download the report to get a fuller grasp on the data, ACEDS hosted a webinar on how organizations can use this benchmark data to improve their own processes. While you can listen in to a replay of the webcast here, we’ve distilled that conversation down to [X] key takeaways you can use to understand both how you stack up against your peers and how to improve your efficiency in conducting in-house litigation services.

  1. Focus on the left side of the EDRM first. Data in the report show that legal holds are the most common phase of the e-discovery process to take place in house, with preservation and collection are also fairly commonly performed by in-house teams. Mary Mack explains, “Certainly the left side of the EDRM—information governance, identification, collection aspects—are more aptly handled in-house.”
  2. Limit your external relationships to trusted partners. This lesson applies as much to law firms as to alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). Organizations face challenges around data privacy and the changing regulatory landscape. Potential risk exposure, whether under GDPR or domestic data protections, requires organizations to share information with only trusted entities. Sean Kelly, Senior Director at FTI, observes, “I think that’s primarily why we’re seeing this trend to use fewer external legal services providers as well as outside counsel, because these people are processing and controlling data on behalf of the organization.”
  3. Deepen your relationships with external partners. The complex requirements of understanding data landscapes mean that developing relationships with ALSPs only increases their value. “We don’t want to continue to switch,” Karen Williams, Corporate Counsel for Shamrock Foods, says. “So we will find those subject matter experts, latch onto them, and hopefully they’ll stay in the same firm for a long time and they will just grow in terms of their value to us.”
  4. Leverage best practices to increase efficiency. There’s a wealth of information available on best practices for e-discovery and litigation services in general. Armed with those best practices (and of course the right technology), smaller teams can reach a higher level of efficiency than a larger team. Mark Bowgren, Senior Director at FTI Technology, agrees. “I think that the key thing is implementing strong practices high level within the organization and really letting the technology do the work. I think that if you have an organized dataset that you shouldn’t need a large team of folks, who are potentially overlapping with work or may not have a full understanding of how the technology works. You can optimize the process with a smaller team.”
  5. Iterate and improve your processes continually. Continuous process improvement (also known as Kaizen) has been a business mindset for decades, involving rigorous self-assessment and iterative cycles of incremental improvement—and legal teams can use it too. Mary Mack remembers, “I liked to have a postmortem after every project to make sure that we’ve learned the lessons and didn’t have to repeat them.” Get feedback on how a project went while it’s fresh in your memory, and keep optimizing your process.

While these lessons are all valuable ways to compare your organization to your peers, they’re not the end of the story. So please download Exterro’s and ACEDS’ 2018 In-House Legal Benchmarking Report today, and see what other lessons you can learn to improve your in-house litigation services.

Tim Rollins
E-Discovery Market Analyst at Exterro
Tim has written professionally for 15 years, the last 10 as a B2B marketing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]

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