Posts Tagged ‘litigation support services’

Gartner’s “2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software” Provides a Useful Roadmap for Legal Technologists

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Gartner has just released its 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, which is an annual report that analyzes the state of the electronic discovery industry and provides a detailed vendor-by-vendor evaluation. For many, particularly those in IT circles, Gartner is an unwavering north star used to divine software market leaders, in topics ranging from business intelligence platforms to wireless lan infrastructures. When IT professionals are on the cusp of procuring complex software, they look to analysts like Gartner for quantifiable and objective recommendations – as a way to inform and buttress their own internal decision making processes.

But for some in the legal technology field (particularly attorneys), looking to Gartner for software analysis can seem a bit foreign. Legal practitioners are often more comfortable with the “good ole days” when the only navigation aid in the eDiscovery world was provided by the dynamic duo of George Socha and Tom Gelbmanm, who (beyond creating the EDRM) were pioneers of the first eDiscovery rankings survey. Albeit somewhat short lived, their Annual Electronic Discovery[i] Survey ranked the hundreds of eDiscovery providers and bucketed the top tier players in both software and litigation support categories. The scope of their mission was grand, and they were perhaps ultimately undone by the breadth of their task (stopping the Survey in 2010), particularly as the eDiscovery landscape continued to mature, fragment and evolve.

Gartner, which has perfected the analysis of emerging software markets, appears to have taken on this challenge with an admittedly more narrow (and likely more achievable) focus. Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant (MQ) for the eDiscovery industry last year, and in the 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software report they’ve evaluated the top 21 electronic discovery software vendors. As with all Gartner MQs, their methodology is rigorous; in order to be included, vendors must meet quantitative requirements in market penetration and customer base and are then evaluated upon criteria for completeness of vision and ability to execute.

By eliminating the legion of service providers and law firms, Gartner has made their mission both more achievable and perhaps (to some) less relevant. When talking to certain law firms and litigation support providers, some seem to treat the Gartner initiative (and subsequent Magic Quadrant) like a map from a land they never plan to visit. But, even if they’re not directly procuring eDiscovery software, the Gartner MQ should still be seen by legal technologists as an invaluable tool to navigate the perils of the often confusing and shifting eDiscovery landscape – particularly with the rash of recent M&A activity.

Beyond the quadrant positions[ii], comprehensive analysis and secular market trends, one of the key underpinnings of the Magic Quadrant is that the ultimate position of a given provider is in many ways an aggregate measurement of overall customer satisfaction. Similar in ways to the net promoter concept (which is a tool to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships simply by asking how likely that customer is to recommend a product/service to a colleague), the Gartner MQ can be looked at as the sum total of all customer experiences.[iii] As such, this usage/satisfaction feedback is relevant even for parties that aren’t purchasing or deploying electronic discovery software per se. Outside counsel, partners, litigation support vendors and other interested parties may all end up interacting with a deployed eDiscovery solution (particularly when such solutions have expanded their reach as end-to-end information governance platforms) and they should want their chosen solution to used happily and seamlessly in a given enterprise. There’s no shortage of stories about unhappy outside counsel (for example) that complain about being hamstrung by a slow, first generation eDiscovery solution that ultimately makes their job harder (and riskier).

Next, the Gartner MQ also is a good short-handed way to understand more nuanced topics like time to value and total cost of ownership. While of course related to overall satisfaction, the Magic Quadrant does indirectly address the query about whether the software does what it says it will (delivering on the promise) in the time frame that is claimed (delivering the promise in a reasonable time frame) since these elements are typically subsumed in the satisfaction metric. This kind of detail is disclosed in the numerous interviews that Gartner conducts to go behind the scenes, querying usage and overall satisfaction.

While no navigation aid ensures that a traveler won’t get lost, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software is a useful map of the electronic discovery software world. And, particularly looking at year-over-year trends, the MQ provides a useful way for legal practitioners (beyond the typical IT users) to get a sense of the electronic discovery market landscape as it evolves and matures. After all, staying on top of the eDiscovery industry has a range of benefits beyond just software procurement.

Please register here to access the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software.

About the Magic Quadrant
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

[i] Note, in the good ole days folks still used two words to describe eDiscovery.

[ii] Gartner has a proprietary matrix that it uses to place the entities into four quadrants: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players.

[iii] Under the Ability to Execute axis Gartner weighs a number of factors including “Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services or programs that enable clients to succeed with the products evaluated. Specifically, this criterion includes implementation experience, and the ways customers receive technical support or account support. It can also include ancillary tools, the existence and quality of customer support programs, availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.”

eDiscovery Down Under: New Zealand and Australia Are Not as Different as They Sound, Mate!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Shortly after arriving in Wellington, New Zealand, I picked up the Dominion Post newspaper and read its lead article: a story involving U.S. jurisdiction being exercised over billionaire NZ resident Mr. Kim Dotcom. The article reinforced the challenges we face with blurred legal and data governance issues presented by the globalization of the economy and the expansive reach of the internet. Originally from Germany, and having changed his surname to reflect the origin of his fortune, Mr. Dotcom has become all too familiar in NZ of late. He has just purchased two opulent homes in NZ, and has become an internationally controversial figure for internet piracy. Mr. Dotcom’s legal troubles arise out of his internet business that enables illegal downloads of pirated material between users, which allegedly is powering the largest copyright infringement in global history. It is approximated that his website constitutes 4% of the internet traffic in the world, which means there could be tons of discovery in this case (or, cases).

The most recent legal problems Mr. Dotcom faces are with U.S. authorities who want to extradite him to face copyright charges worth $500 million by his Megaupload file-sharing website. From a criminal and record-keeping standpoint, Mr. Dotcom’s issues highlight the need for and use of appropriate technologies. In order to establish a case against him, it’s likely that search technologies were deployed by U.S. intelligence agencies to piece together Mr. Dotcom’s activities, banking information, emails and the data transfers on his site. In a case like this, where intelligence agencies would need to collect, search and cull email from so many different geographies and data sources down to just the relevant information, using technologies that link email conversation threads and give insight into a data collection set from a transparent search point of view would provide immense value. Additionally, the Immigration bureau in New Zealand has been required to release hundreds of documents about Mr. Dotcom’s residency application that were requested under the Official Information Act (OIA). The records that Immigration had to produce were likely pulled from their archive or records management system in NZ, and then redacted for private information before production to the public.

The same tools are needed in Australia and New Zealand to build a criminal case or to comply with the OIA that we use here in the U.S for investigatory and compliance purposes, as well as for litigation. The trend in information governance technology in APAC is trending first toward government agencies who are purchasing archiving and eDiscovery technologies more rapidly than private companies. Why is this? One reason could be that because the governments in APAC have a larger responsibility for healthcare, education and the protection of privacy; they are more invested in the compliance requirements and staying off the front page of the news for shortcomings. APAC private enterprises that are small or mid-sized and are not yet doing international business do not have the same archiving and eDiscovery needs large government agencies do, nor do they face litigation in the same way their American counterparts do. Large global companies should assume no matter where they are based, that they may be availed to litigation where they are doing business.

An interesting NZ use case on the enterprise level is that of Transpower (the quasi-governmental energy agency), where compliance with both the “private and public” requirements are mandatory. Transpower is an organisation that is government-owned, yet operates for a profit. Sally Myles, an experienced records manager that recently came to Transpower to head up information governance initiatives, says,

“We have to comply with the Public Records Act of 2005, public requests for information are frequent as we and are under constant scrutiny about where we will develop our plants. We also must comply with the Privacy Act of 1993. My challenge is to get the attention of our leadership to demonstrate why we need to make these changes and show them a plan for implementation as well as cost savings.”

Myles’ comments indicate NZ is facing many of the same information challenges we are here in the US with storage, records management and searching for meaningful information within the organisation.

Australia, New Zealand and U.S. Commonalities

In Australia and NZ, litigation is not seen as a compelling business driver the same way it is in the U.S. This is because many of the information governance needs of organisations are driven by regulatory, statutory and compliance requirements and the environment is not as litigious as it is in the U.S. The Official Information Act in NZ, and the Freedom of Information in Australia, are analogous to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) here in the U.S. The requirements to produce public records alone justify the use of technology to provide the ability to manage large volumes of data and produce appropriately redacted information to the public. This is true regardless of litigation. Additionally, there are now cases like DuPont or Mr. Dotcom’s, that legitimatize the risk of litigation with the U.S. The fact that implementing an information governance product suite will also enable a company to be prepared for litigation is a beneficial by-product for many entities as they need technology for record keeping and privacy reasons anyway. In essence, the same capabilities are achieved at the end of the day, regardless of the impetus for implementing a solution.

The Royal Commission – The Ultimate eDiscovery Vehicle

One way to think about the Australian Royal Commission (RCs) is to see it as a version of the U.S.’ government investigation. A key difference, however, is that in the case of the U.S. government, an investigation is typically into private companies. Conversely, a Royal Commission is typically an investigation into a government body after a major tragedy and it is initiated by the Head of State. A RC is an ad-hoc, formal, public inquiry into a defined issue with considerable discovery powers. These powers can be greater than those of a judge and are restricted to the scope and terms of reference of the Commission. RCs are called to look into matters of great importance and usually have very large budgets. The RC is charged with researching the issue, consulting experts both within and outside of government and developing findings to recommend changes to the law or other courses of actions. RCs have immense investigatory powers, including summoning witnesses under oath, offering of indemnities, seizing of documents and other evidence (sometimes including those normally protected, such as classified information), holding hearings in camera if necessary and—in a few cases—compelling government officials to aid in the execution of the Commission.

These expansive powers give the RC the opportunity to employ state of the art technology and to skip the slow bureaucratic decision making processes found within the government when it comes to implementing technological change. For this reason, initially, eDiscovery will continue to increase in the government sector at a more rapid pace than in the private in the Asia Pacific region. This is because litigation is less prevalent in the Asia Pacific, and because the RC is a unique investigatory vehicle with the most far-reaching authority for discovering information. Moreover, the timeframes for RCs are tight and their scopes are broad, making them hair on fire situations that move quickly.

While the APAC information management environment does not have the exact same drivers the U.S. market does, it definitely has the same archiving, eDiscovery and technology needs for different reasons. Another key point is that the APAC archiving and eDiscovery market will likely be driven by the government as records, search and production requirements are the main compliance needs in Australia and NZ. APAC organisations would be well served by beginning to modularly implement key elements of an information governance plan, as globalization is driving us all to a more common and automated approach to data management. 

Shakeout In The Litigation Support Industry

Monday, March 16th, 2009

One of the more surprising aspects of the recession (at least to me) is the immediate and dramatic impact it has had on litigation support service providers. On one side of the coin, you have large players like SPi, which in 2007 was Attenex’s largest reseller, exiting the business altogether, and several other service providers in obvious difficulty. On the other side, I see a handful of service providers gaining share and attracting new investors. In the past month alone, I have spoken to a handful of investor groups who are either investing or looking to invest in litigation support service providers.

From what I can tell, there seem to be 3 factors that are causing problems for the industry:

1. The credit crunch:

Many service providers rely on “lines of credit” to fund day-to-day operations, meaning they pay their bills by taking debt secured against receivables and other assets. But in the last few months, that’s become much harder to do. Nowadays, banks do not want to give lines of credit to anyone, even if you pay them a higher interest rate. All the banks care about is reducing risk and strengthening their own balance sheets. So it has become harder for service providers to finance their businesses in this way.

2. Paper business is shrinking:

Many service providers started life as copy/scanning operations before expanding to include electronic information, and some still rely on the paper business as a steady source of cash. I have been told by several people in the business that demand for paper-services has fallen dramatically in the past few months. Their stories reminded me of what’s happening in the newspaper business: everyone knows that newspaper and magazine subscriptions are decreasing over time, but it’s happening much faster than anyone thought it would. As a result, it seems that service providers are getting less cash from the paper business than they expected – right at the time when banks are least interested in letting them borrow more to make up the difference.

3. Electronic data discovery is growing more competitive:

In the early days of electronic discovery, companies had little choice but to send out their data to the handful of service providers who had the processing, review and hosting facilities to manage it. Today, data volumes are much larger, making it a bigger market, but there are also lot more options: companies can use software to manage electronic discovery in-house; they can send it to a law firm, many of whom now have internal litigation support teams; or they can choose between larger numbers of service providers offering a much wider array of services.

Given these challenges, how is it that some service providers are able to grow and gain share, while others stumble? From my discussions with many firms – some doing well, others not – I see several common steps that the strongest players are taking to adapt to today’s harsher economic climate. These steps include:

  • Strengthen the balance sheet, by raising money from equity investors and/or restructuring debt obligations. This provides more operating flexibility and reduces the risk of tripping over bank covenants.
  • Sell or shutter the paper business. Just like making CDs is a distraction to the music business, paper is takes time and energy away from electronic discovery. Shutting down paper operations frees bandwidth and resources to concentrate on the growth part of the business.
  • Innovate in service offerings. It is not enough to offer processing, review and hosting like everyone else. The best service providers have become trusted advisors by bringing their clients compelling new services, like for example early case analysis.
  • Focus, focus, focus. In a big, competitive industry like litigation support, service providers have to find their niche. This can be a specific geography or an industry. But for the larger, national players it is typically a handful of key services which they get everyone (sales, marketing, project management, etc.) lined up behind selling and delivering.

Compared to many sectors of the economy (e.g., retail, travel, luxury goods), the litigation support services industry is well-positioned to grow through the downturn. But there’s no doubt things have changed, and many of the strategies appropriate in 2007 no longer apply in 2009.

Advice For Service Providers: Leverage Technology To Swim Upstream

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

As companies use Clearwell’s e-discovery solution on more and more cases, I often find myself speaking to their litigation support service providers. Other than being in the same industry, these service providers have nothing in common: they vary from small shops to large, national companies; from unprofessional cowboys to highly principled professionals. But despite these differences, they all say the same thing: theirs is a very tough industry.

Perhaps everyone says that, but in their case there are good reasons for believing it to be true. It is very hard to differentiate litigation support services, other than by price; law firms make for demanding customers; barriers to entry are low so there’s constant price pressure from new entrants; and, it can take a long time to get paid, given that you are at the end of a long chain (enterprises must first pay law firms who then pay service providers).

That led me to wonder, “What would I do, if I were in their shoes?” The answer is that I would seek to differentiate my service by leveraging technology to swim upstream.

Neither of these ideas (leveraging technology, moving upstream) is original in its own right. Every litigation support service provider leverages technology in some way or other, and many have even built their own in-house review platforms. The larger ones have also sought in one way or another to swim upstream, meaning sell to their customer’s customer (the enterprise) directly rather than to law firms who then sell their services to enterprises.

But what service providers historically have not done is combine the two ideas: i.e., use technology as the means by which they can more easily sell to the enterprise. To paraphrase what the bright, forward-looking CEO of one service provider recently told me: “If I can get technology into the enterprise behind the firewall, then that makes my corporate accounts more “sticky”. It makes it easier for them to export data into my review platform and more likely they will use my services on any given case.” This technology does not have to be developed in-house; service providers can partner and integrate with providers of corporate e-discovery solutions to achieve the same effect.

My respect for litigation support service providers has only increased as I have come to appreciate the severe market pressures under which they operate. So has my excitement for the opportunity before them. Litigation support services is a large, fragmented, growing industry –- a level playing field in which service providers who innovate can see large returns.