Document Review: What’s In and What’s Out

Common knowledge of document review is that it is expensive and time-consuming. Traditional review infrastructure often provided a level of service that was a mismatch for what the client needed at that moment. Unfortunately, the rigid cost structure associated with using a third-party provider for document review did not afford clients the luxury of receiving a more reasonable level of service. 

However, recent advances in technology have leveled the playing field, allowing services providers to offer clients exact fits to their needs. With heightened client purchasing power, there is no room left for outdated practices and inefficiencies that have been commonplace years ago. For providers to remain competitive, both the project infrastructure and cost structure offered must be highly-intuitive, placing the client at center-stage. Taking the latest considerations into account, here, we discuss current document review trends.

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ALSPs: In

Over the past several years, businesses across the board have increased their use of Alternative Legal Service Providers, like Consilio, with document review as the most outsourced service. In figures from Thomson Reuters, 11% of U.S. corporations were using ALSPs for review in 2016. In 2018, this number jumped to 32%, while expected to continue climbing in the years to come. ALSPs benefit organizations in several ways, including a temporary increase in resources to meet high demand and access to subject matter experts. Particularly interesting, small businesses with lower budgets engaged way more with ALSPs, given the realization that their services allow them to scale their business in innovative ways.

The scalability of document review offerings has also made ALSP services more accessible to organizations. As some organizations look to bringing eDiscovery services in-house, they were able to maintain a consistent level of support through the review process from third-party service providers. When an unforeseen, large case pops up, it can often overwhelm the in-house team, which is where they can leverage the support of the ALSP. To reflect the demand for flexibility, the ALSPs have also adjusted their cost structures, bringing us to the next topic:   

Rigid Cost Structures: Out

With the myriad of options available for document review support, the traditional approach of a “one-size-fits-all” cost structure for eDiscovery should be a thing of the past. Tailoring the eDiscovery and document review services offered to the needs of specific clients seems reasonable, but flexible managed services are still a relatively progressive concept. As document review varies greatly between organization and project, employing rigid cost structures is counter-intuitive as no two matters are exactly alike. Robust, scalable infrastructure allows clients to leverage best-in-class technology, workflows, and intelligence when the moment calls for it. 

Clients employ outside help for document review for many reasons, but mainly as outsourcing can be highly-efficient and cost-effective when internal teams are not equipped with the resources to take on specific projects by a deadline. Clients must deal with matters of varying size and complexity; however, the cost has been a prohibitive factor in the past. As mentioned before, small businesses see the merit in use for smaller matters, making the investment in providers with rigid infrastructure nonsensical. On the other hand, robust structures allow businesses of any size to leverage the specific services necessary at any time for any matter. Flexible subscription terms allow clients’ project and budget needs to be met to a tee.

Artificial Intelligence: In

While still in its early stages, the future is very bright for the document review/artificial intelligence (AI) combination. AI presents the review process with a range of possibilities, from system improvement to workload reduction. Most notably, AI has the potential to automate analysis and codification, effectively cutting down on extraneous effort associated with the tasks, resulting in a massive decrease in overall production time.

Since the rise of Technology-Assisted Review (TAR) in the mid-2000s, it has become a vital tool in the review process. Also referred to as predictive coding, TAR’s nature is continuous improvement and better-informed decision-making. As AI is considered a “disruptive” force in the industry: the technology is highly sophisticated while implementation, for the time being, is costly. As AI becomes more ubiquitous, of course, accessible education and understanding, coupled with economies of scale, will result in further normalization and more widespread use.

What’s Next

Over the past several decades, rapid technological developments have shaped the way the industry deals with data and implements workflows. These changes have caused a sort of cascade effect in document review and the rest of eDiscovery, as the inception of new technology leads to new capabilities and ideas. However, this cascade also has been seen to render other traditions obsolete, as seen with traditional cost structures. However, innovative cost structures will continue to gain traction, making providers more competitive in the long run. It is inefficient to pay for more than what is necessary, and robust cost structures make the idea of outsourcing document review attractive. 

As someone tied to the world of document review, it is imperative to be aware of forces on the horizon and the potential they have to shape the industry. These forces will continue to evolve, grow, and multiply, making early understanding and adaption vital.