eDiscovery Tug of War: A Breakdown of the In-House vs. ALSP Debate

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to welcome Jim Gill, Principal of Unpaved Marketing, as a new author for eDiscovery Today!  Jim has been blogging about eDiscovery topics for several years and is a JD Supra Top Author award winner multiple times!  A more complete bio for Jim is at the bottom of this post.  Jim will be contributing posts periodically with his unique perspective on the industry (and give me a writing break in the process).  Welcome, Jim!

For several years now, starting back in 2019 with Gartner’s Market Guide for eDiscovery Solutions, I’ve seen the rise of two seemingly opposing trends show up in Legal Tech surveys and blogs: more organizations bringing eDiscovery in-house; and the continued rise in using Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs).

I say seemingly opposing, because one would think if everyone is moving toward bringing more legal operations in-house, why would they also be relying more on ALSPs? And vice versa. Then I considered my own proclivities for DIY around the house and started thinking about it in terms in eDiscovery.

The Do-It-Yourselfer

I grew up in a small coal mining town in southern Illinois, where pretty much everyone I knew did their own work when it came to home and auto repair, and so I picked up a lot of that knowledge along the way. As an adult, I’ve done large remodeling projects on two different houses, worked on countless automobiles, from 60s classics to 90s beaters, and recently completely remodeled a vintage camper with my wife. I know how safely and effectively do wiring, plumbing, framing, mechanical work, etc, and the availability of specialty tools and access to tutorials on the internet has made this even easier over the years. To date, I’ve never hired any help on a project (though I have had the help of friends and family plenty of times).

This has saved me an enormous amount of money over the years and has allowed me upgrades that weren’t in the budget if outsourced. But it takes a lot of work to do everything yourself, it’s often slow and frustrating, and if anything goes wrong, it’s up to you to make it right again.

If you take this mindset and apply it to eDiscovery, then it makes a decent analogy for the now well-used phrase “have you considered bringing things in-house.” The benefits are clear: you gain control over your processes and data, you reduce risk by cutting down on data handoffs, and most significantly, you reduce costs.

With the COVID 19 pandemic, reducing costs are on the minds of most people in legal these days, from corporate teams to law firms. In Complex Discovery’s eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey in Summer 2020, 56% of respondents said budgetary constraints were the top of the list when it comes to planning for the next 6 months.

However, the flipside of this, is that in order to do-it-yourself, you have to have the competency to do so. In the freshly minted 2021 State of the Industry Report from eDiscovery Today (sponsored by EDRM and covered here), the number one “eDiscovery Challenge Not Being Talked About” is eDiscovery competence. Sure, no different than DIY in the home, the increase of eDiscovery education and the growth of intuitive, easy-to-use eDiscovery tools has made bringing things in-house easier than ever, but it still requires a mature legal team with clearly defined, repeatable processes to bring everything in-house. Which means, most people are going to need help.

Jim had so much to say in his first topic, we couldn’t fit it all into one post.  Look for part two next Thursday!

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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