Navigating Through Uncertain Times in e-Discovery

At the first-ever virtual Relativity Fest London, I had the chance to hear the diverse perspectives of four e-discovery experts who discussed challenges and opportunities facing the industry and how their experiences serving their clients in a time of unprecedented uncertainty has shaped their new normal. I’ve shared key findings from their broad viewpoints on how the changing landscape impacts how they’re driving their businesses forward to be well-positioned to accelerate out of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Rebounding to Recovery

While global e-discovery activity for pre-COVID-19 cases remains high, the crisis has slowed down new case work, but we’re gradually starting to see steady growth. When the crisis first hit, many litigation cases went dormant as the top priority transitioned to putting contingency plans in place and courts determining the infrastructure and logistics of running remote hearings.

“We weren’t expecting normal levels of litigation activity during the next few months, however in the last few weeks cases which had gone dormant have actually been tentatively coming back to life a lot earlier than we expected them to,” said panelist Rachel McAdams, e-Discovery Technical Specialist, A&L Goodbody. “Litigation cases are projected to come back in the next few weeks rather than the next few months which actually makes me feel pretty optimistic about the level of work we have going back to normal and the level of new cases gradually increasing and going back to where it was before.”

The Race to Reduce Risk in the Rapidly Evolving Compliance Landscape

Conversely, the regulatory sector has shown no signs of slowing down or extending deadlines.

“One area that has remained business as usual is the regulatory sector. A good proportion of the work that we do comes from assisting clients respond to regulatory investigations and requests. All that work keeps us busy – if not busier than we were pre-pandemic,” said McAdams.

As new forms of content collaboration like Zoom, Teams, and Slack become more prevalent, highly regulated companies are evaluating if they can still rely on their current compliance policies and procedures within a remote work environment.

“Customers are telling us they have a vigilant eye on the temptation to misrepresent numbers during these times. As a result, there’s been an increased demand from our clients to establish a strong regulatory monitoring system,” said panelist Brian Stuart, Senior Managing Director, FTI. “Trace has been a useful tool to verify that behavior is consistent and compliant with what regulators would expect.”

Mass Move to Remote Work Accelerates Cloud Catalyzation

As organizations seek new ways for employees to collaborate and remain productive in a secure way, we’re seeing an increased demand for cloud-based solutions driven by work from home mandates. The new remote-working population has had to quickly change how they operate leading to rapid acceleration in digital transformation of organizations, what can be referred to as a “cloud catalyzation.”

“A lot of our customer conversations at the moment are focused on seeing how we can put together workflows that will be longstanding in times of crisis like right now,” said panelist Karimah Campbell, EMEA Manager Customer Success, Relativity. “Everyone is looking at simplifying their toolkit, trying to get rid of having to transfer data between multiple tools, and trying to cut down on the number of steps that are taken, which I think is definitely fueling the rise in cloud adoption.”

In March of this year, Relativity ran a proprietary survey conducted anonymously by a third party reaching 380 global e-discovery buyers. In the survey, having rich product features and end-to-end e-discovery capabilities were ranked as the most important criteria when choosing an e-discovery software, followed by security, pricing and terms and product performance.

Interestingly, all four top criteria lend themselves well to cloud deployments which have consistently updated and scalable features, high performance and availability, and security that doesn’t need to be managed on-site.

The survey findings also indicated a shift towards deployment in the public cloud with 36% of buyers of e-discovery software in large and mid-size corporations surveyed stating they prefer public cloud deployment as opposed to 18% two years ago.

The Future of e-Discovery Driven by End-to-End Solutions

Although this survey was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic, we think that the crisis will only strengthen these needs and drive customers towards end-to-end solutions.

“With cost pressures, we anticipate customers will be trying to get more features and more performance out of their e-discovery spending,” said panelist Katherine Zhang, Director, Strategy and Business Operations, Relativity. “Also, security will continue to be important criteria with more cloud deployments and people working from home.”

Staying Connected and Growing Together

Although all of the panelists have varying roles within the e-discovery world, there was one common theme that tied everyone’s experiences together: the importance of staying closely connected and really listening to others, to truly understand and deliver the unique solutions our professional community needs right now. While there is still so much uncertainty surrounding this situation, it’s more important than ever before that we remain connected and lean on our peers to grow and emerge out of this crisis together.

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