Many companies consider outsourcing key ediscovery functions at a programmatic level. A recent survey found 76% of corporate respondents would consider an ediscovery managed services subscription to lower their annual spend, and over 50% currently leveraged an outsourcing model for ediscovery.
From scalability to cost savings to increased capabilities, there are strong reasons to consider a managed services or preferred provider model. Because these partnerships are more integrated and substantial than one-off purchasing of ediscovery solutions, ensuring you have proper alignment from the outset is critical. When evaluating a potential managed services partner or managed services generally, there are some questions to consider asking.
1. Do they support all the regions you work in?
A major driver for outsourcing today is regulatory obligations for data privacy in international jurisdictions. You will want to ensure that any service provider you select has the capability to support data in a compliant manner in regions you frequently support. At minimum, the capability to support European data in a dedicated European environment is critical. If you are dealing with European data, ensure that your provider is not routing the data set through the U.S. at any time, as it could put you in violation of GDPR with fines to the tune of $20M or 4% of revenue.
2. Can they support you whenever and wherever?
Many of the cases that ultimately are outsourced to a managed services provider are large, complicated, and/or multinational in nature. Make sure that any provider you engage with has the personnel and processes in place to support your needs 24/7 in a timely fashion regardless of the timezone. This should include more than just a form email confirming receipt of your requests after hours.
3. Is there a culture of innovation?
A great reason I often outsourced to managed services partners was to take advantage of cutting-edge solutions for atypical data and demanding matter types. From bespoke workflows to leverage TAR to creative ways to parse and visualize data — and in particular, atypical data sources — you want a partner that is innovating at the pace that the world around us is. The last year in particular at my prior firm, I found nearly every matter involved collaboration tools, ephemeral messaging, structured data, or mobile data and the partners I chose were the ones best situated to support those atypical data types.
4. Do their SLAs meet your needs?
Make sure that you understand the service level agreements (SLAs) that your provider is agreeing to. Whether a minimum system uptime or mandated response time, ensure that what the provider is proposing works with your expectations and needs as a program.
5. What is their communication protocol?
Clear communication is a key consideration. Ensure that the provider has a clear communication protocol and that the project management team and account management team all communicate in a concise manner. A good partner should be willing to adopt a communication protocol that suits the unique needs of your organization.
6. Are they offering a good deal?
It should go without saying, although I am highlighting this here, that any firm you provide a substantial volume of business to should offer you significant cost savings over transactional work and or keeping the matter in-house. Whether in the form of volume-based discounts or preferred pricing, any strategic ediscovery services partner should pass on meaningful savings directly to your bottom line. Next-gen ediscovery providers offer pricing structures that enable you to make your program more cost efficient or profitable by offering a more predictable and transparent pricing structure than legacy organizations. This, in conjunction with the savings from not having to maintain the full headcount and infrastructure necessary to manage an on-prem ediscovery solution, will provide significant savings.
7. Does their suite of solutions match your needs?
In the event you opt to fully outsource ediscovery services to a third party, you will want to ensure that they offer a suite of solutions that match the current and future needs of your organization. This includes a robust and scalable review platform, analytics that offer insights and reduce time to evidence, metrics and dashboards that offer transparency, and parsing of emerging data sources that are increasingly relevant in ediscovery.
8. Will they customize for your organization?
Many service providers, especially the larger conglomerates, have their own internal playbooks and processes and expect that your organization will conform to their processes. For firms that deal with lots of atypical data types and high-profile matters, this would not work. My previous firm needed a partner that would accommodate the evolving needs of my team, work with me to create a dedicated playbook specifically for my organization, and adapt as my client demands.
9. Do they keep your data safe?
With the increased focus of malicious actors on both corporate legal departments, law firms, and consultancies, it is increasingly important to ensure that any technology partner has best-in-class practices for disaster recovery and cybersecurity. This partner will hold some of your organization's most important and confidential information, so ensuring that they meet all of your security requirements is mission critical. I recommend conducting a full security assessment, and it also helps if they possess industry standard certifications including SOC II and ISO 27001 and they are GDPR compliant.
10. Who will you be working with?
Ensure that you know specifically who will be involved in the day-to-day management of your account and who will be responsible for managing all of your data. Make sure that you have an understanding of not just who the top people at the firm are, but rather the ones who will ultimately interact with you and your team on a daily basis.
These questions should help you determine if you have sufficient alignment with a potential preferred provider at the outset.
The other key to vetting a long term partner is iteration. This should not be a one-and-done effort, but rather an ongoing evaluation that you revisit throughout the lifetime of your relationship to ensure that your strategic partner continues to fully support the needs of your organization.