When it comes to managing e-discovery, law firms have a seemingly endless sea of technology options. Nonetheless, most firms have historically struggled to find the right solutions that offer control and usability. Also, streamlining e-discovery though SaaS providers is a concept that firms have been slow to embrace.
These struggles only intensify when firms are looking to use their technology internationally and globalize their data. Containing e-discovery costs on the domestic front has long been an uphill battle for firms. Introducing additional complications like international data hosting and security concerns has made cross-border e-discovery even more daunting. When dealing with e-discovery on a global scale, firms need to find a way to master technology to get through data faster without incurring unnecessary costs.
The Top Three Challenges of International E-Discovery
International e-discovery adds complications on three levels:
- Added complexities with regulations: More countries mean more data privacy and protection laws that require compliance. For example, GDPR Article 29 provides guidelines for data controllers subject to EU law and the protection of any ESI that contains private information. Failure to comply leads to penalties such as warnings, reprimands, suspension of data processing, and fines. FRCP guidelines are challenging to apply country by country and how each country defines consent varies. Consent in Germany is potentially a lot different than consent in Greece.
- Drains time and resources: Expanding resources worldwide isn’t feasible for most law firms. Preparing a new system from the ground up in a new country isn’t quick, and each environment comes with sets of unknowns like space, people, technologies, and case sizes.
- Expensive: Setting up a presence overseas to handle global e-discovery can quickly drain budgets. Shipping servers, standing up a data center, transferring licenses, travel costs, and more all add up.
Here’s an example of how the three challenges converge:
Imagine you’re a Boston firm engaged in e-discovery in a matter based out of Brussels. Using your current software to review documents in Belgium is far more complicated than it might initially seem. First, you’ll need to get new software licenses in Belgium, because yours won’t transfer. Next, you’ll need to invest significant time and money in setting up a data center in Belgium where your data resides. You then must staff that data center. If you plan to have your litigation support staff manage it, you must fly those people halfway around the world so they’re on site. Logistical details like these are where most costs are incurred since they require the most labor and time.
You also can’t expect things overseas to cost what you’re used to paying in Boston. Services or licenses often come at a premium, and you’ll frequently face steep conversion rates because many solutions only offer the option of invoicing you in the local currency. You also need to account for language barriers. Reviewing documents in foreign languages requires you to either pay for expensive translation services or hire attorneys skilled in specific languages—either of which can significantly drive up costs as well.
Even once you’re set-up, you need to learn the lay of the land. Every country has its rules and laws, particularly when it comes to data protection and security, which require costly processes and procedures to ensure compliance. Often, you won’t be able to move the data out of its host country, which means you need expensive in-country hosting solutions. And whenever you’re dealing with an international case, it always has the potential to expand to several different countries or even multiple continents, all of which present the same hurdles all over again. The inconsistencies from country to country quickly add up to high e-discovery costs.
All these factors lead to significant, unpredictable costs that have historically made international e-discovery an incredibly complicated and expensive endeavor.
How to Tame International E-Discovery Costs
The good news is that it’s possible for law firms to curb the costs of international e-discovery.
The first step—and one of the most crucial—is utilizing today’s global cloud infrastructure. Tech giants like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud have already built out all the networks you need, with reliable data centers established throughout the world that you can access through the cloud and highly integrated discovery and investigation software applications. This approach is exponentially easier and more cost-effective than trying to identify resources on the ground in each of the locations where you need to conduct e-discovery.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who understands technology better than these companies do. Their infrastructure and security are already built out and tested by their SaaS solutions. They come with the international resources to support your e-discovery activities, and because they already have international data centers, you won’t have to worry about moving data from host locations and running afoul of international privacy laws.
When vetting these vendors, though, ask them about these three areas:
- Do you have prior experience in local jurisdictions and safeguards in place that allows a law firm to do business or handle data in those jurisdictions?
- Where are the data centers located, and how is the data accessed? Vendors should have formal agreements in place detailing that information.
- Can the vendor start immediately and scale as the case grows? A data set that begins with a mobile laptop can grow exponentially. A data center must be equipped to handle that. Also, not all countries have cloud data centers. Can a vendor’s technology run outside of a cloud environment?
By leveraging the cloud, you are always paying only for exactly the resources you require for the exact volume of your data traffic.
Law firms should be looking for a tightly integrated, best-in-breed solution stack that’s delivered as a single platform for one predictable cost, combining analytics, review and production tools together for a fixed monthly price. By consolidating everything you need via a SaaS provider, you eliminate most of the variances that typically make international e-discovery so expensive, and you can create a predictable e-discovery budget.
Once the budget is set, clients can be invoiced in the currency of your choice to avoid exorbitant exchange rates. Cloud technologies also enable auto-translation, giving you a user interface in your language of choice and auto-translating documents during review, which eliminates the need for hiring expensive review attorneys with specific language skills.
Consider these three practical approaches when a firm approaches international e-discovery.
- Avoid transferring data across borders. Ideally, work should be conducted in the local jurisdiction. Hosted and mobile solutions allow for this. But, remember: Many companies host out of London. Following Brexit, this strategy will most likely not be viable. Also, ensure that the firm’s technology partner has the appropriate credentials such as privacy shields and data protection agreements.
- Leverage solutions that can scale with the needs of a case regardless of location. Cross border cases have many moving parts, and you need a technology partner that provides flexible deployment options.
- Leverage advanced natural language processing solutions that can minimize the impact of personal information and privacy concerns. They do this by helping to isolate this type of information for special handling.
Despite the complications and potential costs, international e-discovery does not represent an impossible endeavor for firms of all sizes. With the right approach, partners, and technologies, e-discovery in Boston or Brussels—or both at the same time—can be both feasible and cost-effective.
About the Author
Wendell Jisa is the CEO of Reveal Data Corporation, a leading international e-discovery solutions provider.