A culture of ‘print first, ask questions later’ among law firms is costing millions of pounds each year and wasting valuable natural resources according to E-Disclosure specialist PinPoint Global.
Despite a move in the legal sector towards the electronic processing of data to find evidence, known as E-Disclosure, many lawyers still routinely send all their files to be printed, often including many duplicate versions containing the same information, without even considering alternative methods of processing.
“The days when most evidence was provided to lawyers by clients in paper format are long gone and the need for law firms to have instant access to information means that most of this information is now supplied as emails or other electronic documents,” explains Greg Wildisen, Managing Director of PinPoint Global. “The problem is that old habits die hard and many lawyers are still simply sending everything to the print room, needlessly printing out boxes full of paper which, quite apart from the obvious green issue, is incredibly expensive and entirely impractical from a review perspective.”
It is estimated that the cost of processing electronic documents using only paper methods is £2.15 per document.
Considering that many cases will involve more than 50,000 documents with larger ones involving closer to 750,000 documents, this puts the cost of processing paperwork alone at anything between £106,000 and £1,590,000 per case.
This calculation does not take into account loss of time to review paper evidence versus faster electronic review tools. By moving to full E-Disclosure, law firms would typical save at least 93% of these processing costs alone.
It is also estimated that the time taken to review a document for initial relevance determination in the Disclosure process can be anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes per document.
Recent studies suggest the cost savings of reviewing documents using electronic techniques over manual paper review amount to an 89% saving.
For a 30GB case for example this could amount to in excess of £2 million pounds based on London lawyer rates. (Source: “Document Analytics Allow Attorneys to be Attorneys,” Chris Paskach and Vince Walden, DDEE, August 2005, page 10).
Mike Davis, Senior Analyst at Industry analyst Ovum, commented, “eDiscovery or E-Disclosure has previously had a bigger profile in the US and Australia, but with almost exponentially higher volumes of communications both to, and within, organisations in the UK and across the world, now being electronic, the only reliable way to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’ will be through E-Disclosure solutions. Not only should it be cheaper, it should give the legal teams more time to work on their cases – which is what they are really paid to do - not trawl through reams of paper.”
“It is completely understandable that many law firms struggle with electronic processing for a variety of reasons both cultural and practical,” said Wildisen. “We’re not saying don’t print, we’re just saying think about the data you’re dealing with before you do and consider whether it’s actually going to save time or simply make more work for you. The truth is that validity of paper review becomes increasingly unsustainable with size so law firms need to look seriously at other options.”
Pinpoint Global suggests that lawyers can take steps to make an immediate impact on their efficiency by deploying a process they term, “Intelligent Printing”.
This is an interim step to full E-Disclosure and involves de-duplicating documents, removing irrelevant information and only printing relevant documents as an alternative to reviewing large volumes of data on screen.
To help law firms get this process started, the company has suggested a six point 'check list' they should carry out on receipt of potential evidence files from clients;
1) Conduct a basic analysis of file types and volume to determine the value of printing them. For example, there is no value in printing out 'container files' like databases as these will tend to be large and make no sense on paper.
2) Determine the desired output and ask yourself whether paper is the most appropriate medium – as a guide 1 GB of data (roughly 1CD) is the equivalent of 15,000 pages or 48 folders of paper. It will not be effective to print more than 1 GB.
3) Have the documents collated and printed in an order that makes sense and speeds up the review process.
4) Conduct a de-duplication to remove the duplicate documents. This alone can often save 30-50% of the printing costs.
5) Deploy language detection tool to establish exactly what you are dealing with so you do not end up with realms of foreign documents you cannot read.
6) Conduct a keyword search or date cull to print out only those documents that contain the relevant key terms or lie between ascertained relevant dates.
Wildisen adds, “The good news is that this function can be outsourced and law firms can now demand intelligent printing.”