Three years ago, our firm entered into an eDiscovery managed services contract with Epiq. We believed that a managed services model was the most efficient way to deliver eDiscovery services to our clients at the most competitive prices. Our requirements were based on carefully articulated operational objectives (dedicated infrastructure and technical support) and financial objectives (predictable monthly fees). At the end of the contract term, we had to make a case for renewal. Had Epiq fulfilled our requirements? Did the model meet our original objectives? What was the measure of its success? By analyzing the details of our monthly subscription agreement and robust monthly reporting package we determined that our eDiscovery managed services partnership with Epiq had been successful. We renewed the contract.
In my final blog post on eDiscovery managed services, I will share the tools that our firm is using to determine the success of our managed services relationship with Epiq.
THE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL
A subscription arrangement can help you determine the success of your agreement by offering cost predictability and scalability. Instead of reviewing pages of individual line items on vendor invoices every month, the subscription invoice contains a single rate for bundled services. An entire administrative layer of invoice review (and follow-up) has vanished. In our firm, we commit to paying a monthly fee based on the capacity and services we expect to receive every month. In return, the service provider provides hosting and technical support for the volume of space we’ve elected along with the other services we’ve negotiated in our agreement (user seats and project management hours for example).
Predictable. One of the biggest benefits of a subscription model is that no matter how much money we commit to paying out over the term of the agreement (spread out in monthly installments per our firm’s arrangement), the costs are consistent and predictable. This gives us a baseline for the value we are trying to achieve.
Advanced purchasing in bulk via subscription also allows for seamless scalability. Some months are busier than others, yet we still pay the same price. We never worry about scrambling to find resources for a last minute 1 TB data collection and processing. Likewise, we do not fret about keeping our team busy on slow months. Taking a long view, what we don’t use in one month we will most likely use in another month, spreading our costs out over time to accommodate the busy and slower months.
Simple. Under a subscription agreement, we have shifted our mindsets from the price per the lowest unit of measure (e.g., per page), to the price per the highest unit of measure (e.g., per terabyte). In essence, we look out at an ocean, rather than streams running into the rivers running into the ocean.
Take Amazon Prime: appealing to customers who get more stuff with less effort. I pay one price (per year) and receive my items with two-day shipping along with a plethora of other services (videos, music, discounts at Whole Foods). The first year I signed up for Amazon Prime, every time I ordered I kept a mental list of how much the shipping charge would have been, comparing it to the cost of one shipping company’s 2nd day air delivery charges. Before long I had forgotten to calculate whether a purchase was worth the two-day “charge.” I just looked forward to my purchases and planned for how I would use them.
Same with my cell phone. It wasn’t that many years ago that my 90-year-old grandmother would end our calls with: “I’ll let you go honey, this call must be costing you a fortune!” Our time and attention are valuable, so bundled services with a predictable fee frees up our minds and attention from administrative, time-consuming details. Instead we can focus on only what we need without a meter ticking.
The subscription package under managed services is similar. It appeals to customers by getting more service with less time and effort. Instead of poring over multi-page invoices and negotiating discounts due to perceived errors on individual matters (the printout from the ticking meter), you get to spend more time consulting with case teams. No more analyzing nickels and dimes.
Well-designed reporting illustrates the value of a managed services engagement by showing how subscription dollars are used. It confirms the value of the subscription and offers evidence of efficiency.
Visible. Using the pricing scenario we selected for our contract, we designed reporting that tracks our goals and requirements. Regular (monthly) reports give us visibility into how our program is working, both at a high (enterprise) level and at the more nuanced levels of operations.
Reporting shows us how to leverage what we’ve purchased in one area against/together with other products and services we’ve purchased under the contract. For example, we can evaluate how technical services activities correspond to our selection of hardware; or how project management hours relate to the storage capacity we’ve purchased. Using data from individual cases, rolled up into an environment-wide report, we view our managed services environment as a single entity.
Efficient. The first year or two under a new model may feel a little wobbly. The conjectures we made to get to the beginning bundled price were respected without too much judgment – we had to remember we were in this for the long term. The first months we spent observing, giving the concept time to settle and to fine-tune the details to fit our firm’s work and objectives. Once we hit your stride (and we did hit our stride) we started to see some consistency that helped us make decisions about how to enhance our environment for even greater efficiencies. The monthly reports provide a snapshot of the value offered to clients and can often inspire imaginative new ways of delivering eDiscovery legal services to firms and their clients.
For instance, say we estimated supporting 50 individual matters in the space we purchased. After a few months, reports show that now we are actually managing 75 matters in that space. We are working more efficiently. This is a data point consistent with our firm’s reporting: using repeatable processes and standardization, we manage our data using the same workflows whether it’s 10 TBs or 90 TBs. The steps required to manage data are the same. It’s just more efficient to manage 50 TBs with one set of specifications than to manage 5 TBs with 10 sets of specifications.
In conclusion, eDiscovery managed services in law firms has exponentially improved overall discovery efficiencies in significant ways. It’s an innovative way to pull together eDiscovery projects at your firm under one umbrella. It’s a model that encourages you to take a high-level view while still tracking the details of operations and environment-wide value through careful reporting.
I am excited to see how this aspect of discovery continues to evolve, with talented and knowledgeable project managers in law firms, in law departments and with eDiscovery service providers. I’m equally as enthusiastic to watch new tools arrive on the market: database plug-ins as well as artificial intelligence, project management software, and financial reporting software. As efficiencies improve, new ideas will develop and flourish in these innovative environments.
Thank you for reading the blog posts in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them! If you have any questions about our experience with managed services, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I love talking about this topic and would be more than willing to listen to what you are thinking about for your firm or department.