Uploads, Productions, and Real-World Practice: a Conversation with Elevate

It’s been a couple of months now since we launched Self-Serve Uploads and Productions, our biggest update of 2016. Since then, we’ve had a lot to say about the new features. (Short version: they’re really easy, really convenient, and really, really fast). And we recently got back from Legalweek where we demoed Uploads and Productions until we could demo no more.

It’s time to yield the floor. And who better to yield to than someone who is actually using Uploads and Productions in the field? We caught up with Mike Dunn, director of legal services at our partner Elevate, to hear how uploads and productions used to be conducted, and why there was so much room for improvement.

Let’s start with definitions. What exactly are uploads and productions, and what makes them so tricky?

Processing is the discrete phase of ediscovery where you take the metadata and text of your raw files and structure them into a database. It can be quite complex. First of all, you have to make a lot of decisions about what to process without knowing what’s in the data. Legacy products make you run through several steps and wait days to find out what you’re about to process. Everlaw accelerates the “process” of processing and allows you to upload sample sets and share this information seamlessly right away. On top of that, legacy products often have problems with password-protected documents, or documents with strange file types that aren’t business records. These can make error handling very time-consuming and difficult. Everlaw has basically created workflows that automate error-handling, which makes the entire processing phase a lot less complicated.

The same is true on the production side. When coding documents as privileged or irrelevant, it’s always been someone’s job to say, “OK let’s make sure we haven’t produced anything privileged.” And it’s easy to make a mistake. In the latest release, Everlaw has automated a lot of these processes. It absolutely will not allow you to put anything coded ‘privileged’ into a production set. That’s extremely helpful. It makes quality checking and everything else so much easier.

I imagine packaging and adhering to particular protocols can be pretty labor intensive too.

Yes, it’s very labor intensive to keep checking an Excel or Word document that has the specs for this particular project and this particular counsel. With Everlaw, that’s all automated and savable within the platform. No matter who picks up the case to manage production, they can work from a preset standard. They can change what they need to, but they have everything right there on the platform. They can see what was done last time and what the overall workflow should be, and execute through a simple wizard.

So as an ediscovery service provider, what does this self-serve functionality do for you? What are the big advantages?

The main advantage is how it breaks down the complexity and the black-box process that have always plagued the ediscovery market. More intuitive interfaces and processes give counsel much more transparency into what’s going on. They can also level the playing field. With Everlaw you don’t need an advanced competency in ediscovery basics to really build your case. It allows us as a provider to focus on more valuable services and highly leveraged areas of expertise. It eliminates the need to have a fully built-out team dealing with the minutiae of ediscovery.

What do you think are the strongest use cases for the self-serve capability?

I think there are a couple of very compelling use cases. The first involves cases with extremely quick turnarounds, where you have a relatively short time to collect, review and produce documents. Having the parameters for uploads and productions saved in the platform as well as baked-in analytics, makes it very, very easy to make decisions and quickly move through the case.

The other opportunity that jumps out is for sensitive smaller cases where you’re doing an internal investigation and don’t want to expose what you believe is possibly going on to outside counsel or a broad internal team. You can have a very small team investigate what’s happening without a lot of emails and reports flying around. Everything, including email communication with the team is right in the platform. You can collect a couple custodians’ email boxes, upload them, review them and send the output back with reports to just a small team that needs to review it very very quickly. That allows faster decision-making within a corporate legal department as well.

How much do you hear about security from your clients? Are they concerned about moving data around through different processes or shipping data outside the platform?

Absolutely. We work with large corporations on very sensitive data. If they’re going to bring in any provider—whether it’s ediscovery or IT or anything else—to augment what they’re doing internally, security is a must. They won’t even look at somebody who doesn’t take security very, very seriously.

Everlaw has helped us by leveraging the public utility cloud, which is trusted by government organizations. Even the DOJ has a cloud-first initiative. By using Everlaw’s advanced infrastructure, we don’t have to put a bunch of time and resources into building a cloud environment that matches our clients’ specifications. We we can rely on Everlaw, and AWS, to have extremely effective, well-thought-out security and response plans. We’ve been through the security process several times with Everlaw and our clients, and they’re very satisfied with how that all plays out.

What’s the biggest challenge when it’s time to produce documents?

Traditionally the biggest challenge has been time and effort. The team doing the production usually needs 48 hours—for good reason. But litigators have good reasons of their own that make a 48-hour process impossible. Inevitably, the production team winds up working under a tight deadline, and needs to be extremely careful it doesn’t release privileged information, or information that’s irrelevant but damaging to the client. So typically you have a robust QC process that involves a lot of manual steps. That’s always been our biggest challenge: how we can be sure our clients produce only what they want under the deadlines they need.

One way Everlaw has addressed that challenge is by building in a lot of the automation for QC. We know every time there’s a redaction, it will be applied by the technology as it was written, and we’ll be able to QC it very quickly. It will line up everything for us, and can just click through and put some eyes on it. Before we had to do a lot of sampling to ensure things worked the way they should have. Now, with the added automation, it’s very easy to do QC fast and efficiently.

Most ediscovery service providers make money from processing, but you don’t. Why is that?

Traditionally providers had to make money from it. Both processing and productions required large investments in infrastructure and people. There was a business case for it. You were building a service to execute certain processes. It took X amount of money to build the service. You needed to make a margin as a business, so you built accordingly.

But with Everlaw, we don’t have to charge individually for items like processing and production. We can leverage Everlaw’s infrastructure for whatever we need whenever we need it. That public utility cloud allows us to scale up and do massive processing jobs very quickly. Same thing with productions. Scale-up is near instantaneous, so we don’t have an infrastructure investment we need to recoup.

Everlaw’s automation also simplifies of the human side of the process. We don’t have to invest massively in people to execute these routine processes, so we don’t have to recoup anything from these processes. We can focus on filling high-value services to our clients. We don’t have to recoup investment on the lower value services.

That’s great. Thanks for taking the time to talk us.

My pleasure.