On-Demand E-Discovery Service: Customized Access And Cost Certainty

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 08:48

The Editor interviews Drew LewiseDiscovery Counsel at Recommind Inc.

Editor: Recommind recently announced the launch of Axcelerate Unlimited, which will offer its popular Axcelerate On-Demand product on a subscription basis. Please start the discussion with an overview of Axcelerate Unlimited.

Lewis: We are very excited about this new subscription service. In a nutshell, Axcelerate Unlimited brings the most sophisticated, cutting-edge technology to the broadest possible swath of the market, from small litigation shops with limited on-site resources all the way up to the largest global companies that are looking for cost savings and billing certainty.

Our intention has always been to simplify the e-discovery process and assist our clients to practice law more efficiently. With more and more clients moving toward outsourcing, Axcelerate Unlimited allows corporate and law firm clients to do just that and avoid all the associated headaches, staffing requirements, capacity issues, etc. that are common in the e-discovery process. With Axcelerate Unlimited our clients get the most sophisticated and scalable technology in a turn-key fashion.

Editor: Will subscribers to Axcelerate Unlimited enjoy access to Recommind’s other e-discovery capabilities, including predictive coding?

Lewis: Absolutely, in fact, that was one of the main goals for this offering. While the ability to outsource e-discovery is important, the ability to access the most current technology, as it dynamically develops over time, is equally important. Recommind offers both – we believe that you should not have to trade functionality for convenience, and with this service our clients won’t have to.

Recommind’s Axcelerate e-discovery product is an end-to-end e-discovery platform that can be consumed on-premise, behind the firewall, in the cloud, or in our hosting services operation. It can be paid for as an enterprise license, as a per-gigabyte license (a consumption-based model) or as a subscription, which is what Axcelerate Unlimited offers. We recognize that no two clients (or matters) are the same. This subscription-based system accounts for that reality and gives a client a tremendous amount of flexibility.

For example, some of our very large clients go through hundreds of terabytes per year. For budgeting purposes, they don’t know if they’re going to spend $10 million or $100 million to manage this data. Many prefer to have one set price, regardless of volume, and Axcelerate Unlimited helps solve this problem.

There are two unique aspects of this offering. First, it enables clients to outsource the full range of e-discovery needs – including early case assessment, ingestion, processing, hosting, review, analysis and production – and that applies not only to the technology component but also to the staffing and project-management components. The second aspect is a pricing model that allows customers to pay a fixed price regardless of volume, which is unique in the marketplace.

Editor: Are on-demand services more popular in general? Does this tie in with a greater comfort with cloud services in general?

Lewis: Yes, when it comes to cloud services, the e-discovery world is different from the rest of the IT world. The idea of hosting cases, which is industry jargon for a cloud-based solution, and of conducting a review process in the cloud, is not new. Cloud services are generally more convenient and less costly. Consequently, the e-discovery industry has been doing this for years, so there is less general concern with a cloud-based offering.

However, certain types of matters are more sensitive than others, so some clients are more reticent when it comes to cloud-based review. Fortunately for our clients, we routinely handle cases that require a second or even a third level of scrutiny with respect to the security model of our data center operations. That model includes data location, access privileges and the disaster discovery plan. Thus, being a cloud-based fulfillment model was not an impediment to demand for Axcelerate Unlimited.

The product’s appeal is based on two elements. First, the idea of outsourcing e-discovery and all its related processes is very attractive. Recommind provides e-discovery services for hundreds of clients; thus, we offer economies of scale that even the biggest global law firms can never achieve. Further, we have a broader book of business, so we have experience in a variety of situations.

The second element is that we offer all review options, and we’re the only provider to offer that. There are myriad cloud-based review offerings that provide linear review, and there are a couple that provide what they refer to as predictive coding, although the methods of these latter providers haven’t been vetted in court. None of them, however, provides a solution with a track record like Recommind’s – a record based on years of experience that has been vetted by courts. These factors resonate with clients. Beyond all that is the fixed-price model for comprehensive services: clients have the freedom to be as linear as they want or as sophisticated as they want with predictive coding.

Editor: Let’s talk about the data security features of Axcelerate Unlimited.

Lewis: One of our key benefits involves our work with some of the biggest global regulators as well as the companies they investigate. The sensitive matters I mentioned above usually are in connection with government investigations.

For example, we worked with a large defense contractor that was involved in a high-profile matter in a European country. In the defense business, customers are usually government entities; therefore, when a dispute arises, it entails being sued by the government. For us, this means that our client, the defense contractor, is getting sued by a government entity that is judge and jury. This is a bit of a challenge, and managing that process requires a different level of scrutiny. 

Equally sensitive matters may involve our clients in the banking or pharmaceutical industries, for example, in being investigated by U.S. regulators. Those are high-profile matters because they involve emails from senior executives or board members that are subject to e-discovery. These matters require a robust level of operational security that very few vendors can offer. This includes physical security on the actual site and access controls, such as, using biometrics to identify users, defining system-access privileges, setting login procedures and tracking system activity.

We are now enjoying the benefits of having spent many years building up that security framework, in our software, our hardware and our data centers. It’s a strong capability for clients like hedge funds, financial services firms, big regulators, and entities that deal with governments in the U.S. and overseas.

Editor: What are the benefits for large corporations of on-demand e-discovery services on a subscription basis?

Lewis: For large corporations, it is often a challenge to get approval for hiring more people and for capital expenditures, such as spending on technology when it comes to e-discovery. Consequently, when these companies face regulatory scrutiny or civil litigation, they can’t just staff up to meet those needs. So our on-demand service is very attractive for its staffing spike capability and for handling the occasional outlier case.

Perhaps the greatest benefit is budget certainty. No matter what type of company, they all need to be able to budget for legal expenditures. In the world of exploding data volumes, this subscription service helps mitigate and reduce the risks associated with data growth. Predictive coding helps normalize data-volume growth, because it allows clients to get to the heart of any matter quickly, regardless of data volume. Axcelerate Unlimited reduces risk and offers budget certainty no matter how quickly data volumes grow.

The ultimate benefits, though, are just being discovered as more clients continue to experiment with the technology and work flows. Our best source of ideas has always been our clients. They know what problems they face, and can offer input on how they would like to solve those problems. We listen to their feedback, particularly when we get the same message from multiple clients. Axcelerate Unlimited was born out of dialogue with our clients. 

Editor: In practical terms, what is the cost-benefit analysis involved in a company’s decision to use Axcelerate Unlimited?

Lewis: The cost-benefit analysis is similar to one that airlines might use in their efforts to buy fuel. Given uncertainties in the Middle East, no one can predict whether fuel will remain steady at $4 per gallon, spike to $8 or decrease to $2. An airline might prefer to strike a deal with an oil company that locks in the current price, thereby offering revenue certainty for the oil company and cost certainty for the airline. Everyone wins here.

Although the cost analysis for Axcelerate Unlimited is similar in theory, the benefits for our clients actually are even greater. While the direction of oil prices remains relatively unknown, it is a virtual certainty that data volumes will continue to grow. Rather than bear the fiscal brunt of that reality, our clients can lock in their costs, minimize data-associated risks and then enjoy all the associated e-discovery benefits we’ve been discussing, including the staffing element and access to Recommind’s state-of-the-art technology and expertise in the field.

Editor: How can companies determine which subscription level to select?

Lewis: It all depends on the company’s current and potential needs. A decision to lock down costs doesn’t have to be dependent on data volume, but rather it can be more strategically tied to a company’s past litigation and regulatory profile. Most clients want to lock in at a certain capacity level with the potential to deal with a spike, as necessary.

Our pricing structure is very flexible. For example, if a company anticipates needing three terabytes of capacity in 2013, we can price at that level and offer a volume discount that is far below à la carte pricing if they end up needing five terabytes. Further, it’s even more important to AGCs to be able to cover variable staffing requirements. Thus, Axcelerate Unlimited provides what our clients have specifically asked for: cost certainty, flexibility and staffing spike capacity.

Another area of flexibility involves the option, which allows you to use our software behind the firewall, to send data to our centers for hosted review or a hybrid approach where we can do both simultaneously. Many clients in the pharmaceutical, energy, financial services, healthcare, insurance and technology industries have our software behind their firewall, and they enjoy unlimited use for the majority of their needs. Sensitive situations like internal investigations, however, may warrant a decision to outsource a matter to us, which all clients have the option to do at very attractive pricing. So there’s a lot of synergy, even for clients that already have our software behind their firewall.

Editor: What broader enhancements for managing data might corporate legal departments enjoy by using Axcelerate Unlimited?

Lewis: We currently offer a system that seamlessly integrates data management, from on-site storage systems to the cloud and back. Further, we are excited about upcoming enhancements aimed at that ecosystem, which will address chain-of-custody and preservation issues – for corporate legal departments internally as well as with their outside providers.

Now let’s look more broadly at information governance. Whether housed behind the firewall or in the cloud, our software allows companies to categorize, organize and leverage information more accurately than ever before. This gets us into the world of big data, not only for litigation purposes but for everyday business use. It’s all interrelated because we’re now talking about enterprise information, and it’s our job to enable corporations to manage and access information quickly and in a risk-averse fashion.

We are focused on helping corporate legal departments operate more holistically, with a consistent process for managing and analyzing data for regulatory requests or civil litigation. Recommind has grown to the point of being able to see across corporate departments, recognize the similar challenges they face, and offer effective solutions that address multiple needs simultaneously.

The bottom line is that the future for this technology is very bright, and people are excited about the promise of big data analytics. It will take time to work out all the details, but we are well positioned for the future. This evolution is part of our charter, and it’s really starting to resonate with companies, which is exciting.

Please email the interviewee at drew.lewis@recommind.com with questions about this interview.