5th Annual eDiscovery Survey Shows Market Maturing

By Tom O’Connor
Director, Gulf Coast Legal Technology Center


The Law Bulletin Publishing Company has just conducted its 5th Annual eDiscovery and Technology Survey of Illinois attorneys. 185 respondents replied to the survey, nearly double last year’s number. 140 of the respondents were identified as attorneys, the remainder were made up of docket professionals, paralegals, litigation support managers, IT, firm administrators and librarians. This year’s survey asked 28 e-discovery specific questions regarding experience with e-discovery matters, vendors and products with the final question asking for their thoughts on the most important issues facing them in this ever-increasing area of practice.

Who’s Who?

The attorney-respondents to the survey represented a good cross-section of practitioners, with the majority of respondents being in private practice (69%, roughly the same as 70% last year) 9% in government practice (up 1% from last year) and 11% in corporate practice, up 2% from last year. The remainder was in a variety of administrative, teaching or public service roles.

Type of Organization

Of the private practitioners, 19% were in a solo practice (up 1%), with a dramatic jump in respondents in firms between two and twenty attorneys at 41% compared to 12% last year. Firms between 20-50 were at 10% (down 2%) but there was a dramatic increase from 12% to 29% in respondents from firms over 50 with firms over 300 representing 14% of the total. This gives us a very balanced set of answers from both small and large firms.

Roughly one third of the attorney-respondents were partners (32%) with 12% being associates and 10% in-house counsel, up from last years 4%. Once again, the number of nonattorneys responding increases, from 25% to 29%, giving a roughly even number of partners or solos and non-lawyers, including IT managers, practice managers, paralegals, claims examiners, law students and even document reviewers.

eDiscovery Initiatives

In a departure from the results for the past two years, the answers to the very first question show a marked increase in awareness of educational efforts in the e-discovery space. While only 17% of respondents were familiar with the EDRM project (up from 13% last year and 7% in 2010), 54% knew about the Sedona Project (more than double the 23% and 24% of the past two years) and 13% had heard of the Georgetown ED Academy. (10% last year) And 80% were familiar with the 7th Circuit ED Pilot Project which has been underway in Chicago for two years, close to double from last year’s 41%.

Still troubling however was the fact that more respondents skipped this question than answered it: 95 to 91!

eDiscovery Activities

Despite a stated overall unfamiliarity with the EDRM project, respondents displayed not only a high source of knowledge with the components of that project, but markedly higher numbers than last year. 51% felt they were familiar with identification (up from 36%), 54% with collection (up from 41%), 43% with processing (up from 36%) and 51% with review (also up from 36%).

In addition, 75% felt they were familiar with litigation hold requirements, nearly double last year’s response of 41%, while 51% were familiar with early case analysis (up from 39%) and 64% with the meet and confer process (up from 35%).

And with regards to meet and confer sessions, in a reversal of last year’s results, more said they felt the sessions reduced the amount of eDiscovery handled in a case than not (28% to 18%) but the majority (53%) still said they did not know.

Reference Sources

Those figures seem to belie the common perception that eDiscovery is a high cost, big case area of practice. In fact, like most legal work in the U.S., the majority of cases and costs appear at the low end of the cost range. Social media dropped from 10% to 5% but RSS feeds took an enormous jump from 5% to 42%. Consultants improved slightly from 9% to 13% but CLE made a slight recovery with 3 responses.

The overall use of electronic sources seems to have leveled off with the majority of respondents referring to specific websites such as the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin® followed by sites from professional organizations such as the ABA, Illinois Bar and Chicago Bar Associations. Direct email feeds took an enormous leap as people seem to be leveraging available technologies for direct feeds of information rather than web surfing themselves.

But traditional methods of gaining legal knowledge such as print media, reading cases or statutes and attending conferences and CLE events have actually increased from last year’s totals and seem to have reemerged as strong sources of legal information.

How Much Is That Case Worth?

When asked specifically about matters involving eDiscovery, 49% answered that they had handled an eDiscovery case. This is down slightly from last year’s 52% and in my opinion continues to reflect the high number of non-attorneys answering the survey.

31% said that their ED caseload had increased from last year, slightly up from last year’s 26%. 35% of those had a matters valued under $100,000 with another 28% with cases valued between $100,000 and $1M. But for those who had cases, 64% spent less than $50,000 on ED services with another 28% spending between $50,000 and $1 million.

Those figures seem to belie the common perception that eDiscovery is a high cost, big case area of practice. In fact, like most legal work in the U.S., the cases and the costs appear at the low end of the cost range.

Methods and Services

This year’s results show that performing eDiscovery work inhouse has jumped dramatically. 46% of respondents are doing in-house processing (23% last year) while 61% are doing in-house document review (30% last year). A more specific breakdown of in-house tasks shows that on the technical side, 51% are now doing collection themselves (29% last year) while 59% performed redactions as part of the review process (35% last year). The number doing deduping dropped slightly from 12% to 11%.

On the non-technical side, 45% engaged in some form of overall ED project management (29% last year) while 61% performed privilege review in-house (27% last year) and 27% performed Early Case Analysis (22% previously). 35% now rely on an outside service provider compared to 16% in 2011 while the hiring of an independent consultant took an enormous jump from 7% to 27%

And the choice of outside service providers continues to be widely diversified. Of the 26 named providers, only six had double digit responses. DTI had 19%, Kroll 17%, Clearwell 15%, Ipro and Applied Discovery 13%, and Stratify 11%. The greatest response to the outside service provider question? ‘Others’ at 51%. But it is important to note that this question, like several others, had more non-responses than answers by a wide margin: 132 to 53.

Software of Choice

Just as with the choice of service providers, the selection of software continued to show diversity. Interesting both Concordance and Summation increased their response share from 18% and 20% to 52% and 38% respectively, approaching their numbers from the 2010 poll which also included more large firm respondents. They were followed by Relativity at 23% (somewhat surprising given their location in Chicago) CaseLogistix at 16% and the tandem of Ipro and Clearwell at 13%. As with service providers, the ‘other’ choice was popular at 29%.

On the Web

Another sign that the large firm respondents influenced results was the return of a high (65%) affirmation of the use of a web-based application to host their eDiscovery documents. As with the products mentioned above, no single product dominated the responses although Relativity showed a strong home field advantage at 37%. Lexis Nexis’ FYI and iConnect also returned to strong showings with 23% but the ‘other’ choice was still second best at 34%.

Once again this year the numbers reflect a diverse use of products and lack of clear market domination by any one product.

Most Important Issues Regarding eDiscovery

Several questions asked about the scope of the eDiscovery process. The answers to almost all took large jumps. When it came to simplifying that process, 40% stated they would like to see the processing stage simplified compared to 23% last year while 44% would prefer to see collection made easier compared to 22% last year. Changes to review went from 11% to 38% and identification from 12% to 31% while ECA moved from 20% to 29%.

Processing cost was once again the number one concern of respondents but as with last year’s survey it was not a dominant response (31% to 25%, down from 44% in 2010) and it was tied at that number with education, up from 12%. They were closely followed by review cost at 26% (up from 18%) then collection issues at 19% (down 1% from last year) and judicial decisions at 14%. Predictive coding and concept searching both came in under 10%.


eDiscovery has clearly matured into a well-perceived part of the litigation process. It continues to cut across all the legal demographics of firm size and case values. Attorneys with small cases continue to play a large role in the eDiscovery discussion. Case decisions and ED-specific rules have become a much larger part of the landscape and more firms are turning to full service vendors for support, but no single service provider is dominating the market in Illinois as the market has become even more diverse and stratified.

Well known products such as Summation and Concordance continue to see their market share erode, both by other desktop products and the continued use of web-based applications. Cost continues to be a major consideration in eDiscovery. Attorneys are increasingly more concerned about the technical aspects of the process such as procedures for collection and processing.

Still a significant number of lawyers continue to remain unfamiliar with the requirements and characteristics of electronic discovery. Education remains a top concern of attorneys and the coming year will see more and more solutions to that need.

Tom O'Connor of LEDI

Tom O’Connor

About the Author: Tom O’Connor is the Director of Professional Services at Avansic, Inc. Tom is a nationally-known consultant, speaker and writer in the area of computerized litigation support systems. His involvement with large cases led him to become familiar with dozens of software applications for litigation support and he has both designed databases and trained legal staffs in their use of eDiscovery tools. Tom is the author of The Automated Law Firm, a guide to computer systems and software published by Aspen Law & Business and The Lawyers Guide to Summation, published by the American Bar Association.

~ by CDLB on March 27, 2012.

One Response to “5th Annual eDiscovery Survey Shows Market Maturing”

  1. Great info Tom! Thanks so much for putting everything together. Education is certainly still very important! One question, do you have access to the information regarding the ‘other’ choices in the software category and which ones where the leaders in that category? Would greatly appreciate that info if you have access. Thanks!

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