The NZ E-Discovery Blog  Facilitating proportionate and efficient e-discovery

Finding the right e-discovery software

October 29th, 2012

As published in LawTalk, issue 807, 26 October 2012

E-discovery software is becoming an essential part of any litigator’s toolkit. Deploying suitable software will be an advantage for anyone tackling discovery under the new court rules.

E-discovery software has matured from the days when it was primarily designed to handle scanned documents, but this brings many more factors to consider.


A common misconception in the legal profession is that e-discovery software is always expensive and only suitable for large matters. This does not have to be the case, as there are many options available (some from as little as a few dollars a month). It is just a matter of finding the e-discovery software to suit your individual requirements.

Suitable software is available for those who predominantly deal with matters with small document volumes or have infrequent discovery. For many smaller firms that do not have the resources to throw at a problem, more effective use of technology can give them a significant competitive advantage in managing discovery exercises.

Independent advice to understand the specific requirements of a firm can be invaluable to assist in finding suitable e-discovery software.

Products can talk to each other

Gone are the days that firms had to deploy the same piece of software. Over the years a firm would purchase a product, solely because others had the product. This is no longer the case as there are many options available, with all products able to talk to each other and all should be able to facilitate a smooth transition of data.

The new discovery rules do not favour any product over another.

Find a product that suits your requirements, instead of changing your requirements to what a product is capable of.

Technology evolves, requirements of firms change, so the flexibility to be able to move to software that suits the requirements of a matter is essential. Some organisations learn this the hard way as they have invested in particular technology, which has been surpassed by other options. As the firm may have made a considerable investment in a particular product, they shape their practice around the technology as opposed to using the right product to suit their evolving practice requirements.

In-house v hosted

Historically law firms looked to deploy e-discovery software in-house, as they wanted to keep control of the entire discovery process.

This model is now changing, largely due to the greater options available and more competitive pricing to outsource this work. This frees up law firms to focus on legal work.

To effectively operate e-discovery software in-house it is important to invest in the right technology and have dedicated internal resources with the necessary expertise to run the software.  

Benefits of an in-house model include: 

  • more control over the process – the discovery process can be run without any reliance on a third party;
  • price saving over time; and
  • familiarisation with an existing product.

A hosted model is essentially an “On Demand” service where you only pay for what you need and when you need it. The impact of hosted products has introduced many more options for those conducting electronic discovery.

Hosted software is becoming an increasingly popular model for firms that may not have large matters, or the internal resources to support a product. Also when a larger matter arises, they have the option to shift to a product that is capable of handling the increased volumes.

Benefits of a hosted model include: 

  • pay only for what you use;
  • hosting costs can be passed onto the client as a straight disbursement;
  • no internal IT infrastructure burdens;
  • accessibility – all that is required is an internet connection and a web browser and it can be viewed from anywhere in the world;
  • security – multiple levels of security to ensure the data can only be accessed by those who have the required authorisation; and
  • flexibility to change products.

One common trend in the market is the shift away from firms investing in in-house software. Some e-discovery products require dedicated resource, even litigation support departments, to run effectively. If you do not have this capability, then these products will just add additional burden to your core business.


It is important to understand your exact requirements. There is no “one size fits all” approach with e-discovery software, as some have different strengths (and weaknesses) from others.

Independent advice to assess your exact requirements, explaining the benefits and limitations of each product can be valuable to assist to find the right software.

It is important to acknowledge the advantages of more sophisticated technology and the benefits it can bring, but the sophisticated options will not be required on all matters. Part of the new discovery rules is to try and be more proportionate and come up with strategies to get to the important information.

The more powerful tools with advanced features will be able to trawl through large volumes of electronic information and cull irrelevant material more effectively than some of the basic tools. The basic rule of thumb is, as the document volumes increase then so will the need for more powerful e-discovery software.

Most smaller matters probably will not require the benefits of predictive coding, email threading or near duplicate analysis, but they will benefit from having a platform that can assist in managing documents efficiently and cost effectively.

“it is important to regularly keep up with the options available”

If you have an e-discovery product (in-house or hosted), it is important to regularly keep up with the options available. The e-discovery landscape (and technology generally), is dramatically changing with many new products with new features emerging all of the time.

At the conclusion of each matter it can be useful to evaluate “what worked well”, “what did not work so well” and also a “wish list of further functionality” that may be beneficial. This knowledge can assist to evaluate if alternative e-discovery software may be more suitable.

There is no one right approach, but it is important to get independent advice to help you make an informed decision on the right software for you. Regardless of whatever software you deploy, it is essential to devise a plan and strategy to effectively tackle your e-discovery obligations.


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