Are Your eDiscovery Bills Riddled With Surprises? By Tom MacKenzie | Vice President, Client Development | TCDI
Does this sound familiar? You established a budget for an eDiscovery service provider, did your diligence with the selection process to find the best value, and moved forward with an engagement. Then your bills started arriving with things you either didn’t think you were going to need, or didn’t think you’d be charged for. Alas, you’re not alone. Pricing miscommunications happen all too often and as long as you’re dealing with reputable providers chances are you haven’t been scammed, you just haven’t communicated. The following are a few things to consider which may enhance communication and reduce surprises.
Fully Outline Project Requirements, Expectations, and Deliverables This shouldn’t need to be said… but it does. The more information you can provide to your eDiscovery provider, the better they can quote appropriate pricing and provide you with a tight idea of total costs. Be as comprehensive as you can with this information. That would include: custodian counts; plan and approach to data collections; anticipated volumes; file types; key dates; plan and approach to document review; and plan and preliminary requirements for productions. You should also be as specific as you can about the services you are requesting, and make sure you both define the services in the same way. For instance, when some providers “process” data they mean they’re going to index the metadata and text. Others actually extract the metadata and text and place it in specific database fields that can be leveraged downstream in the project. Providers also differ on the level of inclusiveness of their services. Some are highly inclusive and others operate strictly á la carte. You may find that your approach to review and production will require some specific capabilities such as email thread detection, concept searching, TIFF image conversion or perhaps Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of redacted documents being produced. If so, you need to know if these services are priced separately or included as a broader range of processing or hosting services. If you’re going to need it, make sure you know where and how it’s covered.
Get an Apples-To-Apples Comparison This sounds easy but can actually be a challenge. Different providers have different pricing structures and components for which they charge. And, as was stated above, some are more inclusive than others. Getting to an apples-to-apples comparison doesn’t mean your providers need to structure their pricing the same, but it does mean you need to account for all the services you’re going to need. Create a list of all of your requirements and ask your provider to either price it or tell you what category of service they include it with. Don’t forget to ask about any extras like setup fees; user and license fees; or project close-out fees. When you think you have a complete list and pricing quote, ask the provider, “Based on the requirements we’ve discussed, are there ANY additional charges we haven’t talked about?” And don’t forget what your Dad told you growing up… if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and you need to do more digging.
Establish a Short-List of Preferred Providers Focusing on a short list of preferred providers makes sense for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it mitigates the risks associated with the sections outlined above. You can be the judge of how long this list should be but limit it to the number of providers you feel you can get to know well. There are benefits on both sides of this limited-list approach. The more you know and work with each other, the more you’ll speak the same language when it comes to service definitions and what is and isn’t included in each category. Your providers will also learn to better understand your processes and approaches to eDiscovery and thus know what your needs are likely to be from project to project. Additionally, you’ll learn each provider’s individual strengths and weaknesses which will help you determine the best fit and value for each project at hand. And finally, if you establish a preferred list of eDiscovery providers, they will likely extend consistent, preferred and understandable pricing for all of their services. And isn’t that what you started out trying to do?