How E-Discovery Can Be Tamed!

Thursday, February 1, 2007 - 00:00

Editor: Mark, please describe your business as it existed back in early 2006 when we interviewed you for The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. Then bring our readers up to date as to what exists today in terms of new tools, new technological advances, new customers, etc.

Hawn: Today our core businesses fall under four headings: consulting, forensics, discovery, and review services. A year ago we were focused on the e-discovery market and forensics - the process of litigation support from the inception of a corporation's case - from document collection, document processing, and online review - through the life cycle of the case. As we focused on our clients' needs, the one resounding concern that we heard from our corporate and law firm clients was: how could they reduce the data sets and bring down the costs of e-discovery. We began to focus our developers on software technologies that would pre-cull the data, taking out duplications of data at the collection level by our forensics team. That has been a big growth area for the business.

We recently created a consulting group that will work with our corporate clients and law firms. In the process of consulting with these clients we also decided to develop our own technologies on the review side of the platform. One of the reasons for this development is that we wanted to have total control in addressing the support needs of our clients. (Often when you use a third party off-the-shelf product, you are subject to that party's development and support schedule, our reason for discarding this procedure.) In practice, e-discovery is very demanding with court deadlines and millions of dollars at risk. It is important for our clients that the technologies we provide work efficiently, save them money and are up and always running in order to give them the time they need to review documents and respond to court requests.

With this aim in view, we created two new review tools. One is a very robust large scale multi-terabyte platform to obviate the problems associated with off-the-shelf products when you have a large number of documents and attorneys reviewing them. This new tool, called eView, is a very robust production-oriented, 200-plus lawyer review platform that can handle multiple terabytes of information at one time. The second product we created was a new tool for in-house use called DXR, which stands for Document Exchange and Review. It is an in-house platform that gives the client the ability to load data, process it and review it on-line from the desktop. The beauty of this product is that it gives the client control of managing the case and the timing as to when the data is downloaded. Our world has migrated from CDs and DVDs, whose contents were not always known, to fast-forward in providing the tools and technology for pre-reviews of data, in-text searches and ways for reducing the data-set on the front end. That is the big difference in our business.

Editor: Please describe ONSITE's strategic plan. Have there been any changes over the past year?

Hawn: Our strategic plan is to continue to grow. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in this industry. Currently, we are only marketing to about ten different major cities in the U.S. The top 40 markets in the U.S. have needs for e-discovery, forensic services and consulting services. Our biggest problem is that we do not have enough feet on the street to cover all of the opportunities available. Our marketing campaign entails getting to know the decision makers who have the need for our services and to build a relationship of trust with them so they are comfortable with handing over their company's data. As we look at growing our company, we should be expanding into Canada and Europe over the next two years.

One of the unique things about our technology is that we can set up mobile offices anywhere around the globe by putting together a team of experts, using our software and equipment. Recently, we had a project in Germany that continued for more than a year as well as other projects abroad. Typically, these engagements are driven by multinational companies that have investigations going on with the SEC, DOJ or some other governmental body. We love to get these assignments because we have a team of people with passports ready to work for our clients anywhere in the world.

Editor: What is your breakdown of corporate versus outside law firms?

Hawn: I would say that 20 percent of our clients are corporations with 80 percent law firms that represent corporations. While we are seeing a move by some corporations to start taking responsibility for managing their e-discovery, there are still many corporations that are delegating that responsibility to their outside counsel. That is going to slowly change over the next years based on what we are seeing and hearing in the market.

We created a forum called the Corporate Forum consisting of over 100 of the top Fortune 200 companies that attend quarterly meetings to talk about changes in the law, e-discovery and new technologies that help them save money. There is a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity as it relates to figuring out ways to take control of the discovery process and reduce costs. The exciting part of this is that we get the inside track on what clients are thinking. My goal is to bring those technologies to bear in services for these clients so they do not have to look too far to get their needs met.

Editor: Do you find that you have more demand because companies are trying to respond to regulators?

Hawn: On the European side that is true. Often these cases start with a government investigation which leads to later civil suits. They tend to require multiple years of needing access to information. One of the nice things about our services is that we can store that data and also save all the attributes of the review process in cases where it may be needed a second time.

Editor: Speaking of regulations, why is the time element so important under the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?

Hawn: That has been a major topic at our Corporate Forums. As a company one of the reasons we created a consulting group and hired outside consultants to launch the Forums was to meet and confer with clients. Under the new Rules counsel have a shorter time to respond to requests for documents and must sit down with their adversaries at the beginning of a case and discuss how they will address electronic discovery. Counsel cannot get the discovery process underway until they can get an agreement on what they are able to search and retrieve. As long as the data is accessible, our task in retrieving it is clear. In former times each side would produce boxes of information, taking months for lawyers to figure out what was going on. We can now focus the searches and bring up all the documents in a truly short time, helping both sides in understanding their respective cases.

Editor: Would you say that your technology is ahead of your peers in the e-discovery field?

Hawn: I think we have some good competitors out there. We are one of the top five e-discovery vendors in the world, all of which are U.S. companies, and one of the largest e-discovery companies in the country by pure sales volume. Among the types of litigation ONSITE3 handles is franchise type litigation where there are serial litigants. We maintain databases for all the different cases, adding new cases to the system as they develop. We provide clients with cohesive platforms for managing their litigation.

We are seeing a shift in the marketplace where corporations that have lots of litigation are saying that they need to have a more cost-effective business model for discovery management. We provide experienced litigators along with persons with technical know-how who sit down with clients and plan a more cost effective manner for collecting, processing, and reviewing data. This function does not displace outside counsel. But it allows us to have an integral seat at the table in helping to demonstrate technologies and processes that educate our clients on ways in which we can save money.

Editor: In our January issue your DXR platform received high praise from one of its law firm users. Describe its advantages to in-house counsel in eliminating cost, reducing time and providing certainty in document retrieval.

Hawn: DXR is ONSITE3's web-based electronic discovery and document review tool that provides instant upload, advanced search capabilities, instantaneous native or image document retrieval, extensive culling, filtering, tagging and review capabilities for electronically stored information. It allows a client to review electronic evidence at any time, from virtually anywhere. It is pre-software that we give to all of our clients that provides them with the ability to load their own e-discovery, process it, and store their images so it can become their litigation platform. The beauty of this product is that you do not have to buy it in advance. When you use it, we have a simple chargeback mechanism where corporate clients are charged per use or law firms may charge their clients. If you do not use it, it does not cost you anything. If you use it, you still save money.

Editor: Can DXR be incorporated into existing IT structures within a law office or law department?

Hawn: It can be loaded into a company's other systems using a portal which ONSITE3 supplies. You can access the information remotely through ONSITE3's system. A laptop with wireless Internet access works fine in downloading data.

Editor: You have also set up a consulting service. Do you also advise the clients about setting up data so it can be streamed into a discovery process?

Hawn: We have specialists in each field of our operations. Our consultants specialize in the litigation and regulatory issues that are of concern to corporations and law firms. Our consultants may sit down with a client, talk about the number of custodians they have, and walk them through setting up folders and review platforms.

Editor: You mention review platforms, tell us more about the e-review process?

Hawn: In the process of e-discovery management, after we collect, process, cull and de-duplicate the data, there are still lots of images that need to be reviewed. In the past we would hand that off to clients for their internal review or use a third-party review tool. After conferring with user groups and analyzing other products in the marketplace, we have created a tool over the last year, eView, that litigation support managers and attorneys want to use for document review in a fast and efficient manner which we shall be rolling out at Legal Tech in January, 2007.

Editor: In closing, where would you like the company to be in five years?

Hawn: We have a five year plan which is to continue to grow the business on a more global scale. As the e-discovery rules are adopted in Europe and elsewhere, we will continue to expand our business. We will continue to bring new technologies and software to the table for clients to address e-discovery matters. We will continue to see new services that we bring online to support this core business and discovery management.

Editors' Note: ONSITE 3 has offered a free trial of DXR to interested users. To schedule a demo and free trial, visit www.onsite3.com/dxrtrial.

Please email the interviewee at mhawn@onss.com with questions about this interview.