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March 27, 2014
Trash Bag Discovery: The Dark Side of Document Review
April 13, 2014

Are you a data hoarder?

Are you a data hoarder?

We've all seen those amazing depictions of old ladies buried in mountains of newspapers, baby clothes from the 50s, cats, and tons of useless tchotchkes.  Most of us shake our heads in pity as we watch the hoarders living space disappear into their massive black hole of stuff that they claim to need, despite the fact that most of it they don't even know they have, and even more of it they'll never use. Well, as pitiful as this scene is, it's not unique to the housedress-donning old lady in middle America with more cats than she can name.  In fact, some of the best-dressed legal and technical minds in eDiscovery have the same problem, though it is not as obvious and is widely accepted industry-wide.

How do you know if you're an eDiscovery Hoarder?

  1. Do you routinely convert all documents to native form before processing?
  2. Have you TIFF'd all of your documents, or a large group of documents before review, just in case you need them?
  3. Would you balk at the idea of a hybrid approach to processing, employing ECA to determine which documents are actually worth processing and storing?
  4. Are you paying a vendor each month to store large amounts of data that will never be produced?
  5. Have you ever reviewed even a single document in native format when it could have been viewed accurately in searchable text format?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have news for you.  I hope you're sitting down....You're a hoarder.  And the other secret is that your eDiscovery vendor is counting on you staying that way. The fact is that, your vendor makes a ton of money charging you fees for storing stuff you don't need. The standard in our industry is to pay a vendor to house your documents, your collective stuff, in the largest, most expensive format possible - native documents and TIF images.

With very few exceptions, including xls and PPT, most data can be processed, searched, reviewed and even produced in text format., Using this approached, dubbed the Hybrid approach, none of the usability or functionality of the ESI is lost, and in fact, since this data can also be made searchable, there is often no benefit to creating a native or TIFF version, except, of course, to drive up costs.

What's happening behind the curtain at many eDiscovery companies, or vendors, is shameless and unnecessary processing and hosting of overblown versions of ESI. This is important because, vendor's processing and hosting fees are most often calculated based on the amount of space your data takes up so if you are housing more native or TIFF data than you need, you must consider whether you are renting a mansion to store your Honda.

An argument generally made, and rarely disputed by vendors, is that it is difficult to determine up front, which ESI will be needed in native format. Our response to anyone offering this argument is - you're right... Sort of.  Without sifting through your mountain of stuff, you'll never know what you can get rid of.

There are certain easy measure one can use to determine whether documents will be needed in native format. First, there are some document types, including xls and PPTs, which do not lend themselves to review in text format. The safe bet is to process, review and produce this data natively.

Second, a small amount of effort up front, or ECA, can help to identify documents that needn't be rendered natively.

  • Email threading
  • De-Duping
  • De-NISTing
  • Date filtering
  • Advanced Analytics
  • Keyword searching
  • Review (including highlighting)
These tools can all be used prior to processing, leaving for processing, review and ultimately production and storage, only those documents that are potentially relevant. All in a manner that takes up as little space as possible, driving down the cost associated with your document hoarding tendencies.

My family recently moved. Knowing that many of the items from the old house would need to be put into storage, we began soliciting quotes from storage facilities.  The monthly storage fees were vastly different. The only constant among each was that the more space needed, the more room your stuff took up, the more you paid. To drive down the need to rent more storage space than necessary, we purged everything we wouldn't need.  Makes sense, right? Well, parsing wasn't the only consideration. It was tempting to go with the one storage facility that offered free pick up, but reading the fine print, we discovered that the company would put our stuff in their special, and unnecessarily large boxes (even though our stuff was already boxed) which would require us to rent almost double the space and amounted to much higher costs than some other facilities. The ultimate decision was based not on price, but on total cost.

The next time you get a quote for processing and hosting from a vendor, pay close attention to what you're paying for.  Most vendors offer very low up front pricing in order to hide costs.  If the quoted per gigabyte pricing is low, consider whether the vendor will be charging you and your clients for unnecessarily processing, reviewing and hosting your data in boxes larger than you need in order to drive up hidden costs.