Editor’s Note: Given the changing environmental and economic conditions based on the outbreak and impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), eDiscovery professionals are considering business revisions to their 2020 plans and also making or accelerating eDiscovery decisions supporting the collection, processing, and review of electronically stored information (ESI). One of the key revision and decision areas that business, legal, and IT professionals in the eDiscovery ecosystem are currently having to consider is how they plan for and execute the core eDiscovery task of review in today’s new world. From review market sizing to remote review decisions, the following update provides context and considerations that may be helpful for eDiscovery decision-makers as they consider the critical eDiscovery task of review during 2020.
Revisions in Market Size: A New Review Estimate
In considering the relative costs of the three core eDiscovery tasks of collection, processing, and review, in 2020, the core task of review is estimated to represent approximately 68% of total eDiscovery expenditures. While the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) appears to be having a substantial impact on the economics and execution of eDiscovery, it does not appear at this early juncture in the evaluation of its on-going impact to have significantly altered the task percentage estimates in 2020 for collection, processing, and review.
Chart 1 – eDiscovery Relative Core Task Expenditures – 20201 – eDiscovery Relative Core Task Expenditures – 2020
Initial estimates (November 2019) suggested the market size for the review task of eDiscovery to be at $8.61B during 2020. Revised modeling estimates that take into consideration the legal landscape changes driven by the outbreak and impact of COVID-19 have reduced market size estimations for the review task of eDiscovery by approximately 23%, with the revised working estimate now being $6.65B for 2020. The model takes into consideration the generally standard market growth in the first quarter of 2020 as well as adjustments to revenue estimates based on marketplace changes during the last three calendar quarters of 2020.
Chart 2 – eDiscovery Market for Review – 2020 – Revision2 – eDiscovery Market for Review – 2020 – Revision
Initial market model estimates for 2020 (non-published) suggested that approximately 90% of reviews would take place onsite, while almost 10% would be performed remotely. However, with the outbreak and impact of COVID-19 and the corresponding location-dependent travel and group aggregation restrictions, revised estimates for the percentage of reviews conducted onsite have been reduced from 90% to 10% for 2020. Correspondingly, the estimated percentage of reviews to be performed remotely in 2020 has increased from 10% to 90%.
Chart 3 – eDiscovery Relative Core Review Task Expenditures – 2020 – Revision3 – eDiscovery Relative Core Review Task Expenditures – 2020 – Revision
When applying revised market model estimates for the percentage of reviews conducted onsite or remotely to the revised review revenue estimates for 2020, it appears that the remote review market will increase from original market size projections of $0.86B to $4.28B. Additionally, the onsite review market will decrease from original market size projections of $7.75B to $2.37B. The model also takes into consideration the generally standard secure remote review to onsite review percentage ratio in the first quarter of 2020 as well as adjustments of these percentages based on marketplace changes during the last three calendar quarters of 2020.
Chart 4 – eDiscovery Market for Onsite and Remote Review – 2020 – Revision4 – eDiscovery Market for Onsite and Remote Review -2020 – Revision
These review-centric market size revisions will undoubtedly be reviewed and considered in the development of annual eDiscovery Market Size Mashups by ComplexDiscovery. However, they may be beneficial for business, legal, and information technology professionals as they consider the increasing acceptance and market size trajectory for secure remote reviews in the conduct of eDiscovery.
Decisions for Secure Remote Review: Qualifying Questions and Considerations
Given the rapid changes in the review services environment during 2020, many organizations that have not previously employed remote reviews as part of their eDiscovery arsenal are now actively and aggressively evaluating secure remote review services. As not all secure remote review offerings and providers are equal, the following qualifying questions and considerations may be helpful for law firms and corporations in their evaluation of remote review services.
Remote Review Offering Qualifying Questions and Considerations
General questions that may help clarify a provider’s experience and expertise with remote secure review services include but are not limited to:
- How long have you offered secure remote review services (when was your first matter)?
- How many secure remote review only projects have you completed, and for approximately how many distinct clients?
- For your secure remote review only projects, what is the average team size, and what is the largest team size for those projects?
- How many of your reviewers and review managers have participated in a secure remote review project, and what is the average number of projects they have participated in, including the average length of time for those projects?
- How many full-time reviewers, QCers, and review managers have participated in and are available for secure remote review projects?
- How many of your reviewers and review managers have participated in a training and certification program designed by your organization for secure remote review projects? Describe your remote training and certification program.
- Is the secure remote review service you are offering organic to your organization or delivered through a partnership? If the latter, please name the partner(s).
- Please provide three distinct client references for your secure remote reviews.
Areas that should be questioned and evaluated when selecting remote review services providers include:
- Remote Technology
- Remote Security
- Remote Processes (Including QC/QA, Communications, and Auditing)
Questions around these three critical areas of experience include but are not limited to:
- Does your secure remote review offering provide an integrated, single service capability for communicating, connecting, and conducting reviews?
- Describe in detail the hardware, technology, and infrastructure that delivers/provides your secure remote review offering and describe the security requirements, including protections in place if reviewers use their own hardware and are using WiFi.
- Does your offering include a secure email capability with limited email sending capabilities?
- How do you prevent access to review workspaces from local computers?
- Does your secure infrastructure support controls to restrict administrative rights, disable USB access to peripheral devices, prevent installing/uploading of software and read/write access to local drives/media, restrict downloading and exporting to local machines, and denying printing (local, network, and screenprint)?
- Does your secure infrastructure support clipboard redirection (no copy/cut/paste) and file/folder redirection?
- Describe in detail your remote individual and team QC/QA processes and how they differ from onsite reviews, as well as how they differ from other providers, including how you ensure that reviewers are coding accurately and consistently throughout the review from start to finish.
- Describe in detail your remote communication processes (with clients/counsel and internal team communications) and how they differ from onsite reviews, including the use of encrypted chat.
- Describe in detail your time and productivity auditing procedures, including ensuring accurate time entry, and handling of downtime.
In the area of secure remote review staffing, the following questions can provide insight into provider capability.
- Describe the staffing, screening, and recruitment processes for secure remote projects and how they differ from onsite reviews.
- How are reviewers selected for secure remote review projects?
- What types of checks (e.g., background, security, references, etc.) are run against secure remote review candidates and team members, to include how often are these checks validated.
- What concrete metrics are used to select new (to your organization) and veteran reviewers (within your organization) for your secure remote review projects?
- What must reviewers agree to in terms of technological and physical security, work schedules, and privacy protections? Provide sample documentation, including NDA/Confidentiality Agreements and Work from Home (WFH) Rules/Agreements.
Additionally, from a collective experience perspective, the following questions may provide insight into the organizational experience and aptitude to support secure remote review projects.
- Describe the structure of remote teams including first line, quality control, and review manager ratios.
- Does your organization have a dedicated internal management structure to support the complete review process?
- Does your organization have dedicated review management teams with experience working together?
- Does your organization have a pool of trained, qualified, and certified reviewers who have worked together in support of review projects?
From the answers to these qualifying questions, eDiscovery decision-makers should have enough information to make an initial assessment of providers being considered for secure remote review projects and be prepared to move into formal provider evaluations that include presentations, demonstrations, and discussions.
- eDiscovery Business Continuity: Considerations for Remote Work
- A 2020 Look at eDiscovery Review: Task, Spend, and Cost Data Points