Corporations are serial litigators. That is a fact of life for major enterprises these days. Whether defending or initiating a lawsuit or responding to a government investigation, a corporation is likely to be involved in multiple legal matters within any given period of time.
A further fact of life for corporations is that multiple legal matters are likely to implicate many of the same documents and custodians. This is particularly true where a corporation has core products or technologies that are frequent subjects of intellectual property or trade disputes.
Given these facts of life, it is counterintuitive that the majority of corporations still manage their litigation and investigatory matters as one-offs. Common practice is to handle each matter as distinct, with its documents processed and loaded to their own database where they are searched, reviewed and ultimately produced, in a vacuum from any other matter.
The problem with this approach is that the corporation unnecessarily incurs redundant costs. Even though many of the same documents are being used in multiple cases, the corporation pays again and again to collect and process them, to store them on separate servers, and to search for common issues, such as attorney-client privilege.
The solution to this problem of repetition and duplication is the multi-matter repository. A multi-matter repository allows the same document to be used in multiple matters, regardless of whether the matters are concurrent or successive. The document is loaded and processed just once, and all metadata, coding calls, privilege calls and redactions adhere to the document.
In our experience helping corporations to create and manage multi-matter repositories, the benefits they see are tangible. Their overall litigation costs go down, the overall efficiency of their legal teams is enhanced, and they achieve greater control and accountability across all their legal matters.
Now, an independent survey by the e-discovery research consulting firm eDJ Group provides new insights into corporations' use of multi-matter repositories and the potential benefits they could see. I will talk more about the survey below, but first let me explain the concept of a multi-matter repository.
With a multi-matter repository, a corporation houses its core litigation documents in a central repository. When a new legal matter arises, potentially relevant documents are copied from the core site to a separate case site.
The core repository allows the corporation's legal department to retain management of all of its data across multiple matters. The legal department uses the repository for global administration, access and monitoring.
The case site is where the outside lawyers work through the process of review and production. Even though each case gets its own site, the corporation is still able to establish and maintain standardized procedures, designs and workflows across all its matters.
For corporations, the most-direct benefit is that a multi-matter repository saves money by eliminating duplicate costs. In addition, a multi-matter repository provides them with greater control over and insight into all of their legal matters.
With a multi-matter repository, the possibility of mistakes due to vendor hand-offs is reduced. Also, documents can be prescreened for privilege and confidentiality, reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosures and the cost of multiple privilege reviews.
The survey, "Multi-Matter eDiscovery Management," published October 22, 2013, by eDJ co-founder and principal consultant Greg Buckles, involved interviews with discovery managers at 12 global corporations and three AmLaw 100 law firms. Most of those interviewed were in companies of more than 10,000 employees. They came from various sectors, including energy, manufacturing, entertainment, finance, telecom and pharma.
We do not want to steal eDJ Group's thunder by providing all the details of its findings. (The full survey report can be downloaded from eDJ Group at http://edjgroupinc.com). However, a few points bear summarizing.
A key finding was that corporations that had unified their collections of processed and deduplicated data into a single repository reported that they had seen both "relatively large" savings in storage costs and increased awareness of collection overlaps.
Further, the corporations that had heavily invested in global, unified repositories tended to be standouts. The report characterized them as mature corporations with heavy litigation profiles and as "discovery explorers on the front edge."
The survey found that a wider group of respondents, rather than having invested in global, unified repositories, instead had "leveraged preferred provider arrangements" to manage overlapping legal dockets. These companies also reported having attained "large savings across a relatively few key matters."
One benefit we have seen from multi-matter repositories is the ability to reuse review designations. This is most applicable with regard to documents identified as attorney-client privileged or confidential. A document that is tagged privileged in one matter is likely to be privileged for all matters.
However, the eDJ survey found that reuse of review designations remains relatively rare in the industry, but for notable exceptions for class actions or multi-party, multi-district litigation, even though most agreed it is "a great concept." The reason corporations gave for this was their outside counsel did not fully trust judgments made by others in previous cases without reviewing the documents themselves.
While the survey painted a mixed picture of the extent to which corporations are currently using multi-matter repositories, its results suggested that change may be on the horizon.
The survey asked respondents whether multi-matter capability would impact their future choice of an e-discovery provider or technology platform. Forty percent said multi-matter capability is "absolutely required." Not a single respondent chose "does not matter." A third said it is "important, but not a show-stopper," and the rest said it would be "nice to have."
Multi-matter repositories may not be right for every corporation. However, in our experience, corporations whose legal matters "overlap," as the eDJ survey described it, can see tangible benefits from using multi-matter repositories.
The eDJ survey backs up what we have seen. Corporations that had unified their litigation data into a multi-matter repository reported "relatively large" savings as well as greater awareness of their data. Even corporations that had used integrated repositories on only a limited scale reporting "large savings."
Given the pressure on corporate legal departments to control litigation spending, any technology that can consistently deliver large savings is worth serious consideration.
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