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How to Avoid Surprise Outside Counsel Bills with In-House Discovery Analytics

by Petra Pasternak

If you’ve ever pulled a law firm invoice and raised your eyebrows at the details, you’re not alone.

Typically, when handling data-intensive legal matters like litigation, much of the discovery work gets delegated to outside counsel. That means in-house legal teams have little visibility into what happens with company documents, or how much time their external lawyers are spending and charging on them. They rely on the information their partners provide. 

It’s an imperfect process that causes unnecessary headaches for in-house leaders. With pressure running high to rein in runaway costs, corporate law department leaders need a better handle on what exactly is behind the numbers in their bills. And with discovery costs accounting for up to 70% of litigation expenses, it’s an area that should not be ignored.

One way to increase transparency is to bring oversight of the discovery work in-house through a modern ediscovery solution. It’s a strategy that companies like HP Inc. are employing. 

“The biggest challenge is surprise costs that we’re not anticipating coming up,” says HP Associate General Counsel Thane Vallette, whose team has brought discovery in-house at the tech giant. “We’ve tried to locate solutions that are going to give us consistency across the board when it comes to our ediscovery expenses.”

The benefits are not just more control over bills and work product, but also an opportunity to build stronger relationships with outside counsel. 

Knowing What You’re Paying for by Overseeing Discovery In-House 

Getting a window into what outside counsel have worked on and how much time they’ve spent on company data is one of the top reasons CLOs choose to bring oversight of discovery work in-house

With a modern ediscovery solution managed internally, in-house teams can invite their outside counsel in to collaborate on specific projects and matters in real time. 

The ediscovery platform serves as a central hub for all work and communications between internal professionals and their external partners. All actions and exchanges are logged and available. This lets in-house professionals base conversations with outside counsel on data rather than anecdotes or impressions. Transparency promotes collaboration and helps strengthen the relationship between in-house and outside counsel. 

Comparing Invoice Against Analytics for Billing Insights

With a modern discovery solution like Everlaw, in-house professionals can quickly gain visibility into how much time outside counsel spent on the company’s matters and how efficiently they used it.

The platform records any time that outside counsel have spent on a project. With a few clicks, activity reports can be narrowed down by individual or date range. They can also be broken out by activity type, such as document review, uploads, productions, or project management.

Review activity tracking provides a view into all user statistics and includes total number of documents and pages viewed as well as documents and pages viewed per hour, repeat views, and percent of new documents viewed. 

review activity
Diagnose performance with data showing how time was spent.

This data can be aggregated by month or week, presented as a snapshot of a particular week or month, or displayed as the sum of all time periods. The metrics help diagnose performance. Understanding how many documents each reviewer moved through per hour can inform future review assignments or the makeup of new teams.

The historic user activity report shows all activity of all people working on a project since its inception. This is where the in-house team can audit exports, deletions, processing tasks, searches, review and production work, and much more. These reports can also be narrowed by date, individual user, and activity type.

historic user activity
Audit all activity on a matter since its inception.

If a bill comes in unexpectedly high, in-house teams can compare the invoice they receive against the activity tracking report. 

Having these metrics at their fingertips can help identify cost overruns quickly and serve as a good starting point for a conversation with external partners about strategy, process, and ways to improve efficiencies.  

With access to real-time data, in-house counsel can monitor legal spend proactively, identify potential issues early, and make informed decisions about staffing, scope, and strategy as a case unfolds.

Predictable Budgets Make for Happier Clients

Ediscovery costs are notorious for escalating quickly in any given quarter. When corporations centralize litigation and other data-heavy matters in a solution they manage internally, CLOs and GCs can side step surprise bills by keeping an eye on work as it happens. 

As trusted partners, outside counsel are an invaluable resource for corporate law departments. These relationships can be strengthened with transparency and better communication that are rooted in data, not incomplete information.

The result is more budget predictability, and that’s good for both in-house teams and their outside counsel. 

Download your copy of our corporate guide: "Taking Charge: The Time to Transform Ediscovery Is Now" to learn more about the advantages that companies like HP see from bringing ediscovery in-house.