Why Metrics Are The Key To Managing Costs In Discovery

Data drives decisions in business. It’s that simple. And the same is true in the discovery of ESI.

When a client has multiple matters over any period of time, there are basic metrics that can be captured that will help the client to budget, make decisions about resolving a matter, make a case for proportionality, or make larger decisions about information governance.

There are, of course, always facts about a matter that will skew metrics in a certain way – the bulk of the data was large image files vs. email, the matter was a broad-reaching government investigation, etc. – and those need to be taken into account when reading the metrics and relying on them.

If you want to effectively manage your litigation portfolio, if you are a firm that is spending money on tools to handle data for your clients, or if you are a provider trying to provide the best cost and best in class service to your clients, you should pay attention to metrics.

Because my role is to define the discovery strategy and how ESI fits in, I often ask clients what their metrics are from previous litigations. Few clients have them, which I find criminal. Providers, if you want to amp up your service, start providing metrics to your clients at the conclusion of your projects. It’s a value add that might just keep the client coming back.

Here are a few of the key metrics to know about and track. They are simple numbers that can be pulled from your collection, processing and/or review tools:

  • Total amount of data collected per custodian (per GB): The total amount of information collected from each custodian. Once you have enough data to create an average, you can use that number for budgeting, information governance decisions, etc.
  • Amout of data collected per custodian per source: We break the first metric down even further into specific data sources for a custodian (Local pst files, company archive, inbox, Sharepoint, SaaS solutions, etc.) that allows us to see where the hidden costs are, i.e., where custodians are storing data that ends up costing big dollars to manage in discovery.
  • Cost to process per custodian (in $$): The amount it costs to process data from one custodian, across all sources. Again, we break this down by source, and that requires management of the data and knowing you want to track metrics up front.
  • De-duplication per custodian (in GB): The number of GB of data that is de-duplicated out after all data is processed. That metric can help determine where savings may lie in eliminating discovery and collection costs.
  • Total amount of data culled per custodian (in GB): The number of GB of data that you cull for each custodian after processing.
  • Review cost per custodian: If available, or calculate by diving cost of total review by number of documents for each custodian.
  • Review cost per document: Calculate by dividing total review cost by the number of documents reviewed.
  • Monthly data hosting cost: Total cost of hosting per GB.

These are the most basic of metrics and not hard to track. The cost of discovery is only going to increase as new technology sources are added and you continue to wade through more, not less, gigabytes of ESI to find your puzzle pieces. Gathering metrics is a low-cost exercise that has high payoffs in the ability to analyze it and use it to make better business decisions.

Legal budgets have been under attack for years, and this is only going to get worse. Metrics are one way to capture data that will let you make decisions with or for your client that are friendly to the bottom line.

And it’s just good customer service.

This article first appeared on Above the Law.

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