As discussed in E-Discovery: Taiwan Collection on a Shoestring, CLP recently faced the challenges of cutting the discovery costs of a Taiwan based wireless communications device manufacturer with a popular new technology under dispute with a competitor.
For cost sensitive clients, containing discovery costs obviously requires reducing the overall volume of documents that will be collected, uploaded, processed and produced. If one looks at the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, ("EDRM”), the industry standard for approaching discovery,you will quickly realize that the most effective way to cut total costs along the discovery pipeline is to decrease the input during collection.
With our client, we knew our end goal was to decrease the number of irrelevant documents we collected. The most cost effective way of limiting the collection, we decided, was to work with the person most knowledgeable about the documents on the custodian’s workstation— the custodians themselves— to make a targeted collection instead of a full replica of the hard drive.
The challenge, then, was how to effectively work with Taiwanese custodians when travel costs to Taiwan could be 3k an attorney.
The solution was to prepare interview checklists defining the case issues and then circling around to the topic on which we expected the custodian to have relevant documents. We then would go over, folder by folder, the files in the custodian’s workstation with the custodian. With 9k miles of water between us, we used simple, cheap, internet based solutions to bridge the communication gap.
- VOIP: Not surprisingly, our tech savvy clients were old hands with VOIP (Voice Over the Internet Protocol) exchanges. CLP prefers Skype, and we have discovered that most high tech-companies do too. Skype gives great voice clarity, with no cost for computer to computer exchanges. We could simply exchange our Skype addresses, and coordinate times to meet. We could even hold conferences where it was more effective to speak with several people at once.
- Video: Skype also has video capability. The ability to see and hear someone simultaneously is invaluable, especially with a language barrier. In this way, meeting times are cut shorter and there is less confusion, not to mention a sense of who your future witnesses are.
- Remote access to computers: Yugma offers a free application to allow an attorney to take control of a client’s desktop. There are other providers out there also, but CLP uses Yugma because it has a Skype application that is easy to use. The paid service allows both persons to "drive", which means that you can both look at and navigate the same screen, walking folder by folder through an employees desktop and database asking questions about relevancy.
In this way, CLP estimated we would be able to cut the number of GBs of information collected, processed and uploaded, by perhaps half. It was not a solution without risks however. In a contentious motions practice, it often makes good sense to have every bit of information from a custodian’s workstation to defend the inevitable motion to compel (and CLP did make a full replica of the CEO’s own workstation for exactly that reason). Still the lesson was that upfront due diligence to understand the case and case strategy coupled with in depth interviews, in-person or on line, can make a narrowed collection a cost effective strategy even with foreign clients when coupled with digital applications.