To Edna and Beyond: The Ernie Challenge

My friend Ernie is a solo attorney with a general practice in New Orleans. He is very tech savvy and tries to stay on top of eDiscovery since Louisiana has a state eDiscovery rule that mirrors the Federal rule.  In fact, he has commented to me several times on how useful he found the Edna Challenge published last year by Craig Ball in helping him find tools for handling ESI in small cases. But he often calls me when he has an eDiscovery question involving what we call the “tweener” cases, those that fit in between the small cases covered by the Edna Challenge and the mega-cases suitable for the larger name brand products that dominate the EDiscovery world.

Why? Because most of those companies charge hundreds of dollars per gigabyte  for “read in” processing (this is processing which includes all the culling, deduping and denisting of a data set but only paying for the sub-set of that data which is actually loaded to a web site for review) and roughly $50 per GB a month plus monthly “user fees” of several hundred dollars per user for hosting the data.  So if a client pays for a  forensically sound data collection and that  data set eventually yields let’s say 400GB of reviewable material,  a typical eDiscovery company will charge somewhere  in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars for the processing and $20,000 a month for the hosting  while attorneys perform their review.  And if we accept the commonly cited statistic that the review process will account for 70% of the total project price, then  we’re looking at a project cost that will eventually be close to $1M. 

If the case is only worth $400,000 then we have a problem.  Which brings us back to Ernie.

This week Ernie called to say he that he was working with a regular client of his who is the head  of small business that has been owned by the same family in New Orleans since the late 1800’s.  They have no inside counsel and Ernie serves as their only legal advisor on all corporate matters.

The company is being sued by an ex-employee who claims he was laid off as a manager because he’s over 60 and Hispanic.  Plaintiff seeks $1M in compensatory damages for lost wages and $10M in punitive damages. He had  earned $100,000 per year plus performance bonuses but received no bonus in 2010 and Ernie’s client said that they laid off the employee  because of a “drinking problem.”

 The business has a net worth of roughly $3.5 million, including bank accounts, real estate, several motor vehicles and inventory.  There are 10 employees in 2 locations, New Orleans and  Lafayette.  Ernie’s preliminary technology audit of their computer systems found the following:

1.        All employees of the company  have desktop PC’s at the office. Three senior managers also have company issued laptop computers which they use when traveling and at home for company business and personal use.

2.      The New Orleans location houses corporate network servers used by employees at both locations.  These include a Microsoft Exchange server for email, a file server for business applications including a database  for tracking customer orders, some Excel spreadsheets used to analyze the business performance, QuickBooks (their bookkeeping software), all their internal documents (Word with no Document Management System) and a number of pictures and videos of company events, trade shows, meetings with clients, etc.

3.      The client outsources it’s  IT work to a New Orleans company which maintains all the computers and does backups onto a local tape system attached directly to the file server, using a weekly rotation with saved tapes for each month and then the year.  There are backup tapes which go back ten years, a period which covers three different network systems and an equal number of tape backup systems.

 4.       The total amount of current live data on the system is roughly 1.8TB.  Approximately 60% of that is email  (some of which is Outlook email archives on the server; no email is saved locally except on the laptops)

For purposes of the discussion from this point forward, we can make two assumptions:

1.   There is no dispute between the parties as to a litigation hold

2.   Ernie has successfully retrieved all relevant data from both the active system and the backup tapes.

Ernie believes that the amount of data he will need to review is roughly 200GB. The majority of that is email with the balance being the various types of financial data.  He feels he needs some form of web review tool because he will need to engage some offsite contract staff to assist in the review as well as share data with the clients insurance carrier.  Ernie’s problem is that, consistent with the numbers above, he has been given quotes of $100-150,000 to process the data and $10-12,000 per month to host the data.  When review costs are added in, Ernie is looking at $500,000 just to handle the EDiscovery.  After analyzing the case and discussing it with his clients insurance carrier, Ernie believes he cannot spend more than $10,000  for ESI processing and hosting services over the anticipated 19 month life of the case.

When he called me, Ernie mentioned reading a recent E-Discovery Journal interview with Craig Ball in which Craig said,  “…. I’m seeing some behind the firewall products, even desktop products, that are going to be able to allow lawyers and people with relatively little technical expertise to handle small and medium-sized cases.  Some of the hosting services are putting together pricing where [they] are starting to sound rational and less frightening.” 

His next question to me is the essence of the Ernie Challenge: “Where are those programs? Is there really something I can use myself to process or host this data? If not, how can I keep costs down to the budget I have set?”

So then, what advice would you give Ernie? Is there any way to process and review a couple of hundred GB of data for no more than $10,000?  Post your answers here and I’ll use them to generate an article which I’ll also post several weeks from now.

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7 Responses to To Edna and Beyond: The Ernie Challenge

  1. Tom,

    Interesting hypothetical. Here’s what do at Sensei Enterprises to meet Ernie’s objectives. Assuming attorneys are working with active data only and that they give us ACCURATE criteria (which often doesn’t happen!), we can use Nuix to do the pre-processing of the data using file types, custodians, search terms, dates, hash values, de-NISTing, deduping, etc. Cost to process 1.8 TB would be roughly $6000. That’s based on our time only (we do not charge for run time) – not on a per GB price – and is vastly less than what the large EDD providers offer.

    Many of our attorneys do their own review cheaply, using dtSearch or Microsoft Office itself assuming only typical Office documents are involved. If there are more file formats involved, they use Quick View Plus.

    While not a single tool, this hybrid process seems to work nicely for the Ernies of the world – and saves them a heck of a lot of money.

    • John Martin says:

      Sharon’s approach brings up an interesting point – as my sensei (no pun intended) used to say ” the best way avoid getting hit is not to be there”. Using our Collector software to do the initial capture is the best way to avoid getting hit with extra Gigabytes in this case.

      The Collector has three on-board databases so that during the Preserve (5 Ps Model) process deNIST/deDupe happens automatically. Only unique files are captured and duplicate file facets are simply logged. This is the core of Faceted DeDuplication (FDD), if you don’t collect the extra/erroneous/duplicative files in the first place you don’t have to deal with them “down-stream”. This means smaller volume and faster speed.

  2. John Martin says:

    I would opt for an iMac system running EDNA (Electronic Discovery Network Application). 2TB storage with Time Machine 2TB storage for backup and 6 virtual Macs for remote access. This effectively eliminates the hosting charge by adding redundant broadband connections to the iMac and allowing remote users to access the on-board VMs (Virtual Machines) remotely for free.

    The system allows for native review, multiple visualizations, deNIST/deDupe, full text search, SmartFolders, Flag/Tag/Label and Attorney Notes. Native File production is also included.

    Flat fee – $10K (system is returned in 24 months).

  3. Keith Slyter says:

    Having tested Digital War Room Pro, http://www.digitalwarroom.com/, I would opt to implement Digital War Room Remote or the Server Version.

    This is almost exaclty the situation I am encountering in my Mobile Litigation Command Center (Mobile War Room) with small to medium sized firms. The traditional options were not working, but Digital War Room is the best option out there for this situation. I use a self standing NAS with 2TB storage to house the data and clients can access the information a couple of different ways.

    It does everything soup to nuts and is pretty easy to set up. In fact, my first install took 50 minutes start to finish, including running a full production of 1100 images. Native files were Word, pst and pdf. Everything was converted to TIFF, OCR and Bates stamped. Load files were generated for Concordance and Summation. The most difficult and time consuming part was loading SQL Server Express on a laptop to get everything to run correctly.

    This is the best usable solution I have found for small to medium firms who have some tech experience or who want to hire me to implement and train them on the best practices for their product.

    I am still working on how best to use this during trial with Trial Director and Sanction, but I think we have figured that out as well. I just need a trial to test it in.

  4. 1 Place says:

    Great Challenge: perhaps it would help to add in an open source document management system such as KnowledgeTree to help meet this “Ernie Challenge”:

    KnowledgeTree has:
    1) security with assigned access rights for particular teams so that a data room can be formed to exchange documents with the “other side”;
    2) search and numbering features to organize, store, and search documents including metadata;
    bulk upload options – also has workflow etc;
    3) global and mobile access to documents from OS systems including Android;
    4) runs on Linux & Microsoft operating systems with document access from all platforms including Apple/Mac;
    5) runs with MS Office applications so directly links with Outlook & Word;
    6) has syncing with Cloud version so docs can be synced automatically;
    7) Can obtain KnowledgeTree as a VM so to run in minutes – see VMWare: http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/770963
    8) has stability – I have used it for years in our firm starting with the open source version & then moving across to the commercial version – it has never failed me;
    9) does not require any more expertise than asking a question on a blog if you have a question – however, it KnowledgeTree is very intuitive.
    10) I have had good experiences with KnowledgeTree over the years; otherwise, I have no affiliation or connection with KnowledgeTree (other than being a client).

    The Open Source version is at http://sourceforge.net/projects/kt-dms/
    Commercial Version is available at http://www.knowledgetree.com/

  5. Pingback: Litigation Paralegal, LLC Applauds Digital WarRoom Pro | Litigation Paralegals, LLC – Mobile War Room

  6. Pingback: To Edna and Beyond: The Ernie Challenge | Litigation Paralegals, LLC – Mobile War Room

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