When talking with small firm lawyers and solo practitioners at Legaltech New York, I couldn’t help but notice that many are skeptical of using ediscovery tools in their practices. So much so, for several solo practitioners, that they actually laughed when I asked which platform they were currently using. In our conversations, many mentioned that they think ediscovery platforms require a large investment in software, hardware, training, and installations. No wonder they are hesitant to commit, no matter the potential benefits!
The good news is that those investment concerns have largely been addressed by innovative discovery tools. Not only are the costs lower than small firms expect, but the benefits of using an ediscovery solution as a small firm are more extensive! Here are just a few of them.
1) To Deal with the Realities of Modern Data
In the past decade, consumers and businesses have adopted a host of technologies like company intranets and mobile email. Because of this, even one single person now generates an impressive amount of electronically-stored information (ESI) – from emails and social media posts to text messages and photos. This means that your clients are already producing large amounts of ESI, even if you’re a solo practitioner dealing with small cases and a small number of interested parties. Data shows that 80% of small firm cases include ESI! If you’ve been struggling to make it through this new data, an ediscovery tool can make a big difference to your practice.
2) Ediscovery Helps Prepare for the Future
But even if your small firm is fine with the amount of ESI currently introduced by clients, don’t forget Moore’s Law. Just as computing power doubles each year or two, so does the data produced by it. Consider how much information will become available from watches or mobile apps that track a user’s location and each action they take. As the volume of data grows, something that is manageable today will soon become impractical to process without a tool. Therefore, the costs of having no ediscovery tool include not just lost opportunity today, but lost opportunity to prepare for the future.
3) To Move Ahead of Other Small Firms with Ediscovery
Ediscovery tools can make a significant impact on a case. However, despite this, data shows that over half of small firm attorneys have little experience when it comes to ediscovery technology, and more than 70% don’t maximize its use. That means that the opportunity to get ahead is significant. By applying technologies like ediscovery software, you can do tasks faster than your competitors, giving you a leg up when it comes to getting business. That can mean the chance to help more people, to take on new types of cases, or to take on a pro bono client or two.
4) Ediscovery Helps You Compete with Larger Firms
Large law firms keep their ediscovery solutions up-to-date, and they hire personnel to keep them running smoothly. It is difficult to compete with their resources. However, there are now affordable and efficient cloud-based ediscovery tools that let small firms and solo practitioners actually do better. These solutions are often so easy to use that you don’t need any training, and the platforms update frequently without you having to do anything. In other words, choose the right tool, and your ediscovery platform will do the work of keeping itself current. And because many big firms are still in contracts with legacy providers, your software would actually be more advanced than what they’re using.
5) Ediscovery Improves Work/Life Balance
Even if work/life balance wasn’t your reason for leaving a big firm, it is likely something you aim for. Using technology is a great way to free up time. For example, we use dishwashers and washing machines, though we could wash those dishes and clothes ourselves without a machine. In the same way, you can put ediscovery tools to work for you! When you have a plethora of documents to get through, no amount of hours—billable or otherwise—will be enough to prepare for a case in the time available. An ediscovery feature like predictive coding uses inputs that you provide to look for data similarities that can indicate relevance. You’re still the final arbiter, but you can eliminate hours of clicking through a client’s Amazon receipts or photos of their dog. (Unless the case happens to involve their dog, of course.) That means more time with your family or your hobbies, which is a win for you and for your sanity.
6) Ediscovery Reduces Busywork
Whatever your reasons for going into law, they likely weren’t so you could spend hours moving information around from computer program to computer program. But this is exactly what many small firm and solo lawyers end up doing throughout their day. An ediscovery tool can ensure you’re not losing time managing a case timeline in a clunky spreadsheet or printing documents and spreading them out on your desk to prepare for a deposition. You can focus on your expertise, instead of on making software fit to your needs.
These are just six of the compelling reasons for getting an ediscovery tool for your small or solo firm. Even if you’ve considered it in the past, take a second look now. Many of the earlier concerns have been specifically addressed by smaller ediscovery vendors:
Costs have come down, thanks to cheaper cloud storage and more efficient development methods. Smaller vendors are also more likely to be flexible on how payment is structured, and on testing the tool on a sample case at a lower rate.
Compatibility and integration have improved, so you can use an ediscovery tool regardless of which browser or operating system you use, or where you want to import data from.
Installation is not necessary thanks to good cloud options. That means you don’t need IT support, and you can get support from anywhere.
Ease-of-use has improved thanks to modern, consumer-influenced design, so you don’t have to devote weeks of your life learning how to do what you want to do.
Ediscovery doesn’t have to be a big hurdle for small firms; instead, it can be a very big benefit.