The Labor Day weeked provided some reading time and I finally caught up with the summary of the 2009 Socha-Gelbmann e-discovery survey in Law Technology News (the full survey costs $5000, which is half the cost of one of our cruises, and I opt for the cruise). Previously, I had read some blog postings about it which prompted my last post about the EDD Gold Rush being over.
One piece of the survey seemed a bit strange. The survey claims that, after laying off folks months ago, EDD providers are scrambling to hire. This certainly runs contrary to the comments of those in the industry that I’ve talked to. Many firms are still laying off and some have simply folded their tents and disappeared into the desert.
It is true that some firms, particularly smaller firms, are doing very well. My guess has been that some business which used to go to higher-priced firms is now going to smaller shops. I certainly know we’ve watched that happen at Sensei Enterprises, as some of the large law firms that have recently engaged us have confirmed that they’ve switched companies primarily because of cost.
The survey concludes that very few lawyers “get” EDD and I would concur with that. Sometimes, at the Sensei lunch table, even I have only a minor clue as to what my computer forensics technologists are talking about. Though I am widely regarded as an “expert” and frequently teach computer forensics and EDD, I would characterize myself humbly as one the lawyers who 'get' EDD. When my technologists go deeply into the science of what they do, they enter a terrain where only their peers can follow.
I also agree with George and Tom that the pretended “deep EDD expertise” that many law firms claim is largely bogus. There are far more who “talk the talk” than “walk the walk.” It has always seemed more marketing than truth.
As the survey notes, many law firms have tried to bring EDD in-house as a revenue stream. I would certainly caution their clients about the wisdom of using law firm EDD departments. Not only do the firms have a vested interest in the results, their expertise is frequently questioned – and, most importantly, their costs are often higher than that of private firms.
Moving EDD into corporations makes sense up to a point, but I agree with what the survey indicates, that the “best of the best” tend to go to private companies where their expertise is apt to become broader and deeper – and the salaries tend to be higher.
The survey also notes the growth of interest in early case assessment, which is indeed critical. The better you assess and plan, the lower the volume of data to review – and review is the biggest cost in the entire process.
As always, the survey is interesting. I always question self-provided data, on which the survey is based. “Self-provided” always smacks of “self-interested” to me. This is the first time I’ve seen George and Tom say that some folks declined to provide data, others provided only selected data and still others promised data that was never provided. Personally, I think many folks clammed up because the news wasn’t good. EDD is no longer the golden goose, and I suspect companies don’t want to reveal how few golden eggs they’ve harvested. Silence reveals nothing.
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