Tools for Evaluating and Selecting E-Discovery Vendors

Helpful, effective guidance on evaluating and selecting e-discovery vendors is rare. For one, the constant development of technology makes it difficult to keep up with the latest vendor offerings. Not to mention that more vendors pop up on almost a daily basis.  Court rulings also play a role in changing the e-discovery landscape and therefore the tools needed to keep up with it.

On the scholarly end, The Sedona Conference® published a white paper on e-discovery vendor selection (June 2007), and Gartner, Inc. offered a similar guide for attorneys and litigation support professionals (Dec. 2009). Gartner's guide also provided a market rating on 18 of the biggest players in the e-discovery industry. Some of the important evaluation criteria considered in both reports include:

  • Project identification (scope of work)
  • Vendor's viability (business organization, office locations, sub-contracting, staffing, technical expertise, conflicts, financials)
  • Vendor's market understanding and sales strategies
  • Vendor's experience or work quality
  • Customer feedbacks or client references
  • Products and services
  • Products support and maintenance (document repositories, media type, project/data security, recovery, forensics, project/records management, internal/external IT infrastructure integration)
  • Pricing
  • Delivery (deadlines, project scope changes)

The The Sedona Conference® 2007 includes a sample decision matrix to weigh various factors that are critical to project success.  The 2009 Gartner report provides a rating summary for reviewed vendors. 

But despite these available, helpful guides and road maps, it is still a time-consuming process to conduct internal audits, compile RFI (Request for Information) and RFPs (Request for Proposals), evaluate responses, and utlimately select the appropriate vendor(s) to handle the project.

One possible solution?  Enter Apersee.

Of late, Socha Consulting LLC and Gelbmann & Associates have jointly developed an automated vendor evaluation tool, which they call Apersee.

Still in "beta" mode, Apersee is a ranking tool meant to assist practitioners in selecting e-discovery providers as well as associated products and services. After the user defines and weighs the priorities for an e-discovery company, product or service (a weight is defined on a scale of from 1 (appreciated but unimportant) to 5 (critical & required)), the Apersee Selection Engine sets out to analyze how important a given element is to the decision process by applying a proprietary algorithm to score every product in its database.

If a product or service met all of the requirements, it would receive a score of 100 percent. This scoring method gives preference to criteria the user has designated as most important, and returns the list of matching products or services in ranked order. Essentially, Apersee follows the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) in its evaluative process. It includes the following matrix:

  • EDRM stages (information management, identification, preservation, collection, and processing with review and production)
  • Functions (tools, project management, media types, security, capacity, training, support, fee structures and provider integration)
  • Geography and vendor office locations
  • ESI types and languages covered
  • Qualifications (experience, staffing, certifications, cases handled, affiliations and awards)
  • Product type (applications, cloud, SaaS, service)

In most scenarios, parties to litigation have limited time to prepare for e-discovery and vendor selection. Any tools and strategies that can help shorten the decision-making process would prove beneficial. At first glance, Apersee seems to incorporate all the important elements in evaluating e-discovery vendors. Its success will be contingent on the size and quality of its vendor database and the services the vendors offer. It could prove to be a welcoming tool to streamline the arduous process of e-discovery vendor selection.  Only time will tell.

Is your E-discovery Expert Qualified?

On Feb 8, 2008 Chancellor William B. Candler III of the Court of Chancery of Delaware issued an opinion directing a third party to submit information regarding the ediscovery qualification of an information consultant.

This case illustrates that although the actual gathering of electronic information should be left for outside experts, it is also important to ascertain their qualifications since they can be called in doubt. Before hiring a e-discovery expert, there are some steps that can be taken to achieve the best results which may minimize the overall costs of litigation.

Compiling a request for proposal is a good way to assess vendor qulification and organize the ediscovery process. The RFP can also serve as a bid for potential vendors. The Sedona Conference® white paper entitled "Best Practices for the Selection of  Electronic Discovery Vendors," lists several criteria that are deemed essential to evaluate a vendor's qualification in handling the job.

  • Vendor background - investigate the reputation and integrity of the vendor under consideration as well as any litigation histories.
  • Personnel background - investigate the vendor's employees and any of its subcontractors as well as its hiring procedures.
  • Product or service - check the services the vendor offers or propose to offer.
  • Conflict check - ensure that the vendor under consideration does not have access to privileged information that may jeopardize a pending matter.

Most vendors specialize in one area of electronic discovery, i.e. preserving it, gathering it, reviewing it, etc.  Know what you are looking for and where their expertise lies before signing on.