fbpx

Why Mobile Data eDiscovery Is Different Than Email eDiscovery

It’s 2021, which means it’s highly unlikely that this is the first blog post you’ve read saying you need a mobile data eDiscovery plan. Most of us get that by now.

However, you can’t always take the same technology and approaches you’re currently using for email and superimpose them on mobile data. It just doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, it can be hard to wrap your head around just how different texting and email really are until you’re neck deep in a project.

Today, we wanted to walk through some of the main things you need to account for while collecting, processing, and reviewing mobile data. By understanding the differences between these channels, you can not only ensure that you’re including mobile data in your eDiscovery strategy, but that you’re doing it right.

“Texting” is actually 3 different things that LOOK like 1 thing.

Generally speaking, emails are emails. After the initial collection, it doesn’t really matter much if those emails came from Macs or PCs, or if the company ran their emails through Microsoft 365 or Google Drive. Emails can be imported into a review platform, and reviewers don’t really have to care that much about where they initially came from.

What a layperson thinks of as “texting” is actually a combination of as many as three different types of communications: SMS, MMS, or iChat. We act like they’re the same thing because generally, our phones make them look like one thing. I don’t have a separate app for sending SMS messages vs. MMS messages. My phone doesn’t yell at me when I reach the character limit for an SMS, it just automatically converts it without me having to think about it.

During data processing, these messages that seem identical on the front end often get sorted out into different buckets on the back end. That means that if custodians were iChatting, lost wifi, and then switched to SMS, that single conversation may get ripped apart and reviewers have to piece it back together.

When you’re identifying potential sources of data, it’s important not to just ask about “texts.” If possible, try to figure out how texts break down into SMS, MMS, and iChat. The best mobile data eDiscovery technology can thread these messages together, and depending on how many phones you’re collecting, it might be worth that investment. At the very least, making sure you know how texts break down into SMS, MMS, and iChats helps you better assess how long review should take.

Mobile Communication Has No “Subject Line” 

Most work emails have a subject line; generally, emails in that same conversation also have that subject line. Sure, sometimes conversations naturally flow away from that initial subject, but at least it’s a valuable starting point that helps discovery teams understand what messages belong together, and which ones might be duplicates; this is the basis of how review platforms utilize email threading.

Not only does texting lack a “subject line,” it’s also a place where users simply don’t even try to sort their conversations out into multiple threads the same way. Earlier today, I frantically texted my mother about a jacket I left at her house, and within minutes she was asking me to text her a recipe for banana cake.

Those two conversations coexisted in the same thread, with messages right on top of each other. That’s just how a lot of us text. I pity any review team that would have to go through my phone and find messages relevant to their case with so many less relevant messages randomly scattered across my conversations. (On the bright side, they might get a nice banana cake recipe out of it!)

Threading messages into conversations is one of the most important things that any good review platform does for reviewers; it’s even more important when users aren’t naturally “threading” their conversations together by default.

Mobile Communication Usually Requires More Redactions

On a related note, professional communication is more likely to co-mingle with personal communication in text messages compared to email. That’s especially true in companies where employees still use their personal device for company business. With email, we tend to have a dedicated work account apart from our personal email account. Users understand that there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in their work emails. That’s not always true in mobile, particularly at companies that don’t issue company-owned phones or have clear Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies.

What if that thread where two work friends texted about trade secrets also mentioned things like doctors’ appointments or included pictures of their kids? Legal teams need to be able to redact irrelevant personal information in order to protect custodians’ privacy. That irrelevant personal information rarely shows up in emails, so redacting isn’t a concern to quite the same extent.

Some review platforms support redactions more easily than others. A cumbersome redaction process might not be the end of the world when you’re primarily dealing with emails, but it can seriously hinder progress when there’s a lot of mobile communication and redactions are needed more often.


When there’s a lot of mobile data in your eDiscovery project, it’s important to consider how technology and user behavior shapes this data. This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the reasons why texting and email are different, but we hope it’s enough to get your wheels turning. What kinds of stumbling blocks have are tripping up your mobile data investigations? Reach out today and let us know!

Curious to know more about how Contact Discovery attacks mobile data investigations? Check out MobileRev™!

Contact Discovery’s MobileRev™ solution turns text messages into near-native images for review

4 Questions to Ask During an International eDiscovery Project

eDiscovery is often unpredictable. The variables only multiply when you introduce an international component. Knowing what questions to ask is crucial, and the sooner you get the answers to those questions, the better off you are. By anticipating those additional challenges ahead of time, you can build the right strategy that sets you up for success.

1. What are the laws that govern data privacy?

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is likely pretty obvious already: different countries have different laws! Sometimes an organization can simply hand over the personal data of its employees, but you certainly shouldn’t take that for granted. Sometimes, an organization’s ability to transfer that data in the first place is limited by local policies.  

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most famous of such regulations. The GDPR establishes standards of what data organizations can store on an ongoing basis. Compared to the U.S., there’s much stricter standards governing the level of consent that an organization must get from the employee in order to keep their information on file, or more importantly, share it with a third party. Organizations can incur hefty fines if noncompliant.

However, even if your project falls outside the purview of the GDPR, you still can’t assume that you should approach data the same way you would domestically. Jurisdictions all over the world are still hashing out their data privacy policies. Japan has their Act on the Protection of Personal Information, with new amendments set to take effect in 2022. Stateside, the most well-known is also have the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), but we’re already seeing other states use that as a blueprint for their own rules. Virginia’s governor signed the Virginia Comprehensive Data Privacy Act earlier this year, and it will go into effect in 2023. A similar bill was also introduced in the New York State Senate.

There are fairly decent odds that between the time of this writing, and the time that you find this blog post in your internet meandering, some government somewhere has enacted or amended a privacy law. Make sure your team does their homework and is compliant with all relevant regulation.

2. How will we translate communications in other languages?

There are all sorts of ways in which language barriers can make discovery harder, but one of the hardest ones is translating relevant information into English for U.S. attorneys.

“[Machine] translation apps struggle with slang and can misinterpret the provided content,” says Jamente Cooper, Lead Forensic Analyst at Contact Discovery. “The data itself is still in commonly used databases or files but understanding the content as it was intended is still a daunting task.”

In a perfect world, you’d have actual humans who know the language in question doing review. This is your best shot at understanding how a native speaker might’ve intended their words.

In the imperfect world we actually live in, that’s not always possible. Oftentimes the most practical solution is something in the middle that utilizes technology and human knowledge. Maybe one or two reviewers actually know the other language, but English speakers can review digitally translated content and refer any trickier conversations to their teammates who can read the source language.

Before you start collection, start formulating your game plan for how you’re going to handle data in languages other than English. You’ll likely have to start looking for qualified reviewers earlier than you usually would to account for the extra challenge of a foreign language.

3. What apps are common in this market?

There are a few old standbys we go back to over and over again in the discovery world: emails; the word docs and pdfs that get attached to emails; in more recent years, text messages and other mobile apps have reached a similar level of prominence. However, messaging apps can vary in popularity depending on where you are on the globe.

During an international case you simply can’t take it for granted that custodians are communicating the same ways they would domestically. WhatsApp for example has a global userbase of over 2 billion, but only 75 million in the states. That means roughly 2/3 of the app’s users lie outside the United States. One study of Android devices showed that WhatsApp is the most popular chat app in 58 different countries. A Japanese-based app called LINE is virtually unheard-of in the U.S. but incredibly common in its home nation and some other Asian markets.

Every case is different, and you never want to confine yourself to business-as-usual data types without covering all your bases, even domestically. However, the possibility of overlooking an important data source goes up when you’re in a foreign market that has latched onto different communication channels.  

4. How much data is there?

So yes, this is a common question regardless of where you’re doing your discovery project. However, you might be surprised at how much the sheer quantity of data changes when there’s an international dimension to your case.

In the U.S., we generate a lot of data. Personally, I’ve worked in U.S.-based offices where people commonly used email to communicate with coworkers who were literally in the same room. Many people see it as more polite to send an email or Slack message so that their teammate can get to the issue on their time rather than call someone or pop into their office without prior warning. The U.S. has also normalized talking about work outside regular hours, and using channels outside official company email accounts. 

The result is piles and piles of data. In some ways that makes cases easier since your odds of finding relevant information go up when everything is so well documented. However, identifying and collecting that data becomes that much more daunting.

When discovery goes abroad, the social norms of how people communicate are different. In some places, it might be unthinkable to send work-related texts on a personal device. Maybe conversations that Americans would have over email instead happened over the phone. It could be a total waste of resources to collect lots of devices assuming that there’s more relevant data than there really is.

As important as it is to think of differences in the laws and technology, don’t underestimate how these kinds of alternative social norms can put a wrinkle in discovery. Do your research about how people tend to communicate, and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced in international discovery that you think more people need to be aware of? Let us know in the comments!


3 Things That Are Wasting Your Legal Budget

Virtually everyone across all industries is currently trying to “do more with less.” The legal world is no different. More and more attorneys want to know what investments will actually get returns, and many have become skeptical of pay models that once seemed infallible.

The best legal budgets that “do more with less” are a perfect calibration of technology investments, internal functionality, and strategic outside partners. At Contact, we pride ourselves on helping legal teams find the right balance that works for them. There are certain challenges we encounter over and over again, and today we’re letting you in on some of the common stumbling blocks that result in overspending.

1. Too Many Vendors

There’s often money to be saved by reducing the total number of vendors that you rely on to help you with litigation. Almost any vendor will offer you better pricing on services if you buy more from them. It also mitigates risk to limit sensitive data to as few people/organizations as possible.

The thing is, no managing partner or general counsel wakes up one day and says “I’d like my sensitive data scattered across as many vendors as possible.” So why is it such a common problem?

One issue could be misunderstanding which vendors are capable of what services. If you hired eDiscovery “R” Us for a processing job last month, but no one thought to ask if they also had forensic services, you might go to a separate vendor for this month’s collection. Meanwhile, you could’ve gotten a better deal by bundling forensics and processing together at eDiscovery “R” Us.

Another issue could be overestimating the need for “specialized” vendors. Many vendors position themselves as “specialists” but it’s not always clear if they’re adding more value than more generalized vendors who can do the same job. Such specialists certainly play a valuable role in the eDiscovery industry; however, it can be incredibly difficult for lawyers to decide if a specialist is necessary for a given matter.

Still another issue could be poor communication between team members who are all hiring vendors. Ideally, you don’t want different lawyers each blasting their own unique network of vendors for each new matter. What if Tom, Dick, and Harry each have their own internal investigation? You might be able to get a better deal by buying legal technology services “in bulk” from one vendor rather than letting Tom, Dick, and Harry each pick their favorite from their own address books. 

We recommend having some kind of system that allows all attorneys to pull their vendors from the same pool, and routinely weeding out the ones that underperform or are overpriced. There are even tech solutions such as Contact’s M8™ that are specifically designed to help you with this. It’s also good to have eDiscovery expertise either internally or in a trusted consultant. This expert can help determine if you need to bring in specialized vendors or if giving the entire job to one comprehensive vendor is the better move.

2. Investing in outsourcing rather than training.

As the old adage goes, “give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

Oftentimes, your internal team is capable of more than you think, they just need the right training. This is especially true as long as law schools focus on the theory and history of the law but devote relatively little time to teaching lawyers how to use technology.

It’s a waste of money to buy technology your team never adopts, but it’s also a waste of money to pay vendors to do things you could do internally. The best way to walk the fine line between these two forms of malinvestment is usually some combination of the right technology paired with proper training on how to use it.

Sometimes legal teams choose to switch to more modern technology, but grossly underestimate the growing pains of that transition. Don’t make that mistake. Understand that there will be an adjustment period, and give your team the requisite empathy. Ask them what resources they’ll need to become confident on the new solution and act on that intel. Maybe you’ll want to plan training workshops, or temporarily hire some extra support staff that can be on-call to answer your team’s questions. 

3. Paying lawyers to do things non-lawyers could do

Lawyers have hard-earned expertise and deserve to be compensated for it. The most efficient organizations tend to make the most of their attorneys’ knowledge and talent. They can’t do that when those lawyers are stuck sifting through spreadsheets or combing through the internet for trademark violations.

Efficient organizations let their lawyers focus on lawyering. If there’s enough grunt work to justify hiring more support staff, they do. That could take the form of an outside service provider, or bringing on more internal hires.

While it could seem counterintuitive to hire more people when budgets are tight, firms that give lawyers the support they need can usually afford to take on heavier caseloads and generate more revenue in the long run. In corporate settings, the legal department is less of a bottleneck when lawyers have ample support staff.

Every case is different, and there is a myriad of different reasons why you might not be making the most of your legal budget. It’s important to get to the root cause of such inefficiencies and come up with long term solutions that will work for you.  

If you have any other questions about how to make the most of your legal budget, reach out to Contact today.

Can eDiscovery Free Britney?

DISCLAIMER: This article revolves around an ongoing case where many specifics are sealed from the public. Much of it is speculation intended to educate, and should not be taken as any kind of legal advice. 


In 2008, one of the most famous people in the world was placed under a conservatorship shortly after having one of the most famous public breakdowns in the world.

That person was of course Britney Spears, and that conservatorship is still in place 13 years later. Over the last couple years, the legal arrangement has come under more public scrutiny, especially as it seems clearer and clearer that Britney herself is dissatisfied with the current arrangement. While most of the details of this court case are sealed from the public, it’s safe to assume that someone, somewhere is sifting through electronically stored information (ESI) looking for answers.

Some Quick Background

Conservatorships, or guardianships as they are referred to in some states, allow for the court to place another person in charge of a legal adult’s personal and/or financial affairs. They exist to protect those whose mental faculties may not be fit for high stakes decision making, such as elderly people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or younger people with developmental disabilities.

As the self-proclaimed #FreeBritney movement has gained more traction online, more and more people are asking the question… “how can someone who spent much of the last decade putting out new music and performing regularly also be so incapacitated that she can’t be trusted to make decisions for herself?”

Different people have drawn different conclusions. Many in the #FreeBritney camp believe that Britney isn’t really sick enough to justify the conservatorship going on this long, but her father/co-conservator Jamie Spears makes too much money off the status quo to let his daughter have more autonomy.

According to a 2016 article in the New York Times, Jamie makes a yearly salary of $130,000 as conservator, and he also got to take home 1.5% of the gross revenue for her Las Vegas residency. In 2018, Billboard reported that gross revenue number was $137,695,392, which would make Jamie’s cut a little over $2 million.

On the other side of the coin, some close to Britney reject this as conspiracy theories spawned by outsiders who don’t know enough about Britney’s mental health or legal case for their claims to hold any water. They say removing the conservatorship could risk another potentially life-threatening breakdown a la 2007-2008. They point to the comparative stability since as evidence that the conservatorship is doing its job.

At the time of this writing, Britney’s team has not filed a petition to end the conservatorship altogether. However, it does seem clear that she wants her father removed from his role. Jamie Spears served as co-conservator from the beginning of the arrangement in 2008 until 2019 when his own health issues forced him to step aside. At this point, the courts appointed temporary co-conservator Jodi Montgomery, and Britney unsuccessfully tried to make this change permanent. According to Britney’s lawyer, “it’s no secret that [his] client does not want her father as co-conservator.”

So Why is The Britney Conservatorship Case So Complicated?

The conservatorship has been in place for 13 years, and technology has evolved at a rapid pace during that time. There’s also the fact that the case centers around someone who may have had varying levels of mental stability throughout those 13 years. Should Britney’s communications with other parties be taken seriously or not? It might take mental health expert witnesses to bolster either side’s case, and that’s an additional logistic concern for legal teams.

You also have to consider that (as far as the public knows) virtually everything Jamie did over these 13 years was technically legal. Britney’s team isn’t necessarily looking for evidence of a specific crime per se. Instead, they have to look for evidence that Jamie’s choices regarding Britney’s affairs were unjust enough that the courts should reconsider their previous arrangement.

Those unjust choices could take different forms. You could argue that Britney’s illness was bad enough that Jamie shouldn’t have approved the amount of work Britney did during this time frame. Since the conservatorship began, she’s put out four studio albums, done two world tours, and a Las Vegas residency consisting of 248 performances over 4 years. She was also in the process of planning and rehearsing for a second Vegas residency which was canceled in early 2019. One potential strategy is to argue that Jamie exercised poor judgement in letting someone so mentally ill take on such an ambitious workload.

You could also argue a case that directly contradicts that one: that Britney was well enough to be recording and performing regularly, but that she was so healthy in fact that the conservatorship should have been phased out long ago. Jamie shouldn’t be allowed to deprive a reasonably healthy Britney of rights that any other reasonably healthy adult is legally entitled to.

Either strategy would require a team to establish a multi-year narrative assembled from bits and pieces of data scattered across the digital landscape. The same is true if you’re on Jamie’s team. They’ll be trying to show that Britney really does still need a conservator, but that any work she did over the last 13 years posed a low enough risk to her mental health that a conservator could reasonably allow it.  

Such long-term patterns are often a far harder thing to prove than one clearly defined “crime.” That gives discovery teams far less specific parameters to guide their search for relevant data.

The Longer the Story, the Trickier Discovery Gets.

Britney Spears’s conservatorship began in 2008. Think of how we communicated back then. The first iPhone had only launched one year prior, and many people were still using flip phones. Camera phones were relatively new to the scene as well. Pictures weren’t always great quality, and phones weren’t always built with enough memory to also function as multi-year photo archives. While cloud technology had existed for decades, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google were only just beginning to experiment with large-scale implementation.

That means that more conversations happened over regular phonecalls than text messages, and those are harder to capture. It meant people were more likely to delete messages and photos regularly since they didn’t have easy access to cheap cloud storage. It also means we didn’t have all the cloud backups that sometimes function as data safety nets in modern cases. These are all factors that any discovery team has to consider whenever a matter has gone on this long.

Alright, but what about her phone from more recent years?

Nowadays, the public has no way of knowing what kinds of electronic devices Britney has access to, or how much oversight other people have over her device usage. In 2019, TMZ claimed that Britney only had a flip phone and wasn’t allowed internet access. Whether that’s true or not, it poses some unique challenges for the discovery professionals on Britney’s case team.

Imagine collecting data from a device, but still having to wonder who really typed this message if not the primary custodian? If Britney’s phone usage really is highly regulated by her conservator, was she potentially able to communicate on other phones behind their backs? Could there be valuable ESI hiding on other devices we might not usually think to collect?

Then there’s the conversations that don’t involve Britney directly. The ones between her conservators and other members of her management team; the ones between conservators and medical personnel; the ones between her team and other relevant parties such as Caesars Entertainment, the company that signed her to the aforementioned Vegas residency.

It’s quite easy to imagine messages that are either proof Britney is a victim of conservatorship abuse or proof that Britney’s mental state is still unstable enough to justify continuing the current arrangement. It all depends on which side you’re trying to argue.

Maybe there’s a way for teams to cross-reference messages with medical reports or other custodians’ messages to give validity to Britney’s version of events. Maybe there isn’t. Either way, it’s not going to be easy. Legal teams have the difficult choice of what rabbit holes are worth their time and how far they should go before picking another strategy.

Good eDiscovery tells a complete story.

In eDiscovery, sometimes one single piece of evidence is enough to back up your side’s entire case. It’s also quite common that case teams have to build a case from the ground up. They find pieces of ESI that would never mean much individually. Sometimes these seemingly random puzzle pieces were scattered across multiple devices or were generated years apart from each other. It’s only when a skilled discovery team brings those pieces together that they have any legal significance.

This is a challenge for both sides in the Britney conservatorship debacle. Again, this case isn’t really about one isolated “crime.” That makes it really hard to imagine what a “smoking gun” would even look like.

Instead, this case is all about inner workings of both personal and business relationships over 13 years. There likely won’t be any single piece of data that can prove either Britney or Jamie’s version of events is correct, at least not by itself. Instead, teams on both sides have to string multiple data points together into a story that makes sense to a judge.

So how does an eDiscovery team come in handy?

There’s a lot of decisions to be made, and none of them have easy answers. First there’s the question of what documents you think are going to be most relevant. You oftentimes need a general idea of what your strategy is before you’ve seen all the data, that way you can convince a judge that the right documents should be included in discovery. Conversely, you might argue that certain documents that would be more helpful to your opposition than to you shouldn’t be included. 

You also have to weigh the odds that maybe you can find deleted or encrypted data that isn’t immediately obvious on the surface. Is it worth the resources to include certain devices in your search even when you know they might not give you anything useful?

There’s also the chance that as you get deeper and deeper into discovery, you may have to pivot to new strategies. Sometimes documents that you thought would be helpful aren’t. Even if everything is going according to Plan A, it takes a staggering level of precise coordination to turn a decade’s worth of communication between numerous parties into something that can be presented in court. Reviewers code documents as they go so that project managers can see trends emerge, even if those documents weren’t initially assigned to the same reviewer. 

All of these are areas where lawyers can gain valuable insight by consulting discovery experts. Service providers don’t just exist to take your data and give it back to you in a reviewable form; they can help you navigate the complex minefield of decisions that comes along with any case, and make sure your discovery strategy aligns with your larger legal strategy. They can also help you adapt as more information comes to light and the case inevitably evolves. Good service providers can keep the circus of discovery from driving you crazy before things get too toxic.

7 Deadly Sins of Service Providers: Part 3

Note: This post is the conclusion to our blog series, “The 7 Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers.” You can find the first 3 “sins” in Part 1 and the second 2 in Part 2. Here are the final two things alternative legal service providers do, either intentionally or unintentionally, that hurt their clients in the end.

Sin #6: Seeing your independence as a threat

All too often, eDiscovery service providers try to perpetuate client dependency. They want constant meetings/emails with you. They want you to be in the dark unless you go through them. They fear that giving you the ability to do more discovery work yourself, or more information about the work you’re paying them to do will hurt their business. This should give you pause.

If your service provider truly consists of experts in the field, they should be secure in the knowledge that they will always be helpful to you, no matter how much you internalize discovery. After all, how many lawyers worry about their clients suddenly firing them to defend themselves in court?

They don’t, because they know that their knowledge and expertise eclipses their clients’ knowledge of the law, and likely always will. True expertise will always be in demand. If your service provider is trying to monopolize as much of the process as they can out of fear that you’ll one day learn how easy it is to do it yourself… are they really experts?

Good service providers will let you keep control over the parts of discovery you’d like to control. (As we mentioned in part 1, an all-or-nothing approach is another sin!) Great service providers will even help you take more of the work in-house. That’s because they know that ultimately, they’re the discovery experts and they will always be able to help you in ways you can’t help yourself, much the same way lawyers can always be helpful to their clients.

Sin #7: Putting their own growth above efficiency

Service providers are businesses, and it’s totally normal for businesses to want growth. However, growing too quickly without carefully strategizing how you’re going to scale often leaves once-happy clients frustrated.

The story goes something like this:

  1. Let’s start an eDiscovery business since we know the space well, and are pretty good at it. Great! Clients are happy!

  2. There’s so much work to do! Time to hire more people. Great eDiscovery practitioners can be hard to come by, so maybe we’ll hire a few people here and there that are decent, but not great. We’ll also need more people in different cities to take care of clients in those other markets, which might hinder communication between teams if we’re not careful.

  3. You know what would really help though? Getting an injection of capital from investors who know absolutely nothing about eDiscovery. That way we can hire more new people and open more offices.

  4. Several years have gone by now. Remember those investors who knew nothing about eDiscovery? They’ve continued to take on more and more clients regardless of their team’s ability to keep up. They’ve instituted rigid procedures that their subordinates (who do know how eDiscovery works) have to follow; more work has to get subcontracted out; the ability to routinely reassess and improve procedures as discussed in Part 2 is significantly compromised; worst of all, those once-happy clients find that their once-reliable vendor is getting more and more difficult to work with as each year goes by.

Too often, vendors that do this are able to coast by on the prestige and name recognition they’ve built up despite their decline in quality. They grew, and will likely keep growing, but at the expense of efficiency and client satisfaction.

Now, none of this is to say that any eDiscovery business that’s big is automatically bad. Certainly there are advantages that come along with scale. It’s simply to say that as a service provider scales, it’s important to constantly ask “how will this affect my clients?” Careful, deliberate growth is a good thing, and usually benefits clients as well as service providers. Clients can streamline their outsourcing to fewer vendors as those vendors get big enough to expand their capabilities. Reckless growth that disregards client needs often creates inefficient workflows and lowers that vendor’s ability to tailor services to the matter at hand.


That concludes our 7 Deadly Sins series. We hope these blogs gave you an idea of what to look for in an ALSP if you’re in the market for one, and we hope they help other ALSPs better serve their clients. If you have more questions, or simply want to let us know what you think makes a good ALSP, you can reach out to us at info@contactdiscoveryservices.com or on social media.

7 Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers: Part 2

Last week we shared with you the first 3 Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers. Well, we’re back at it now with part 2! Here are two more “sins” of eDiscovery service providers.

Sin #4: Not reevaluating their own processes often enough

A man once said “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.”

eDiscovery is an ever-changing industry, and it’s easy to get so caught up in client needs that providers never turn their focus inward. However, it’s precisely because of that fast pace and constantly shifting nature of the industry that self-reflection and improvement is important. A workflow that made sense six months ago might not make sense now.  Maybe there’s new software improvements that could streamline processes you’re currently using multiple solutions for.

A good service provider has to be vigilant about their own processes as well as all the work they do for clients. At the end of the day, an eDiscovery vendor that isn’t taking care of itself will struggle to take care of you. Let me repeat that.

An eDiscovery vendor that isn’t taking care of itself will struggle to take care of you.

You probably wouldn’t hire a personal trainer that doesn’t take time for their own workouts. This is no different.

Another great perk to hiring eDiscovery providers who are routinely reevaluating their own processes and implementing their own improvements is that that they can apply that experience to their work for clients.

If a service provider has recently evaluated different technology and implemented it internally, they’re in a great spot to answer your questions about the pros and cons of those solutions. They know what curveballs you should anticipate through implementation. They can help you train your team on new platforms. Their first hand experience translates into valuable knowledge that benefits their clients.

At Contact, we recently decided to merge two departments into one. It’s not that it was bad or wrong to do things the way we were before, we just realized that advancements in technology allowed us to train employees in things they couldn’t do before. Sure, we still would’ve been a functional eDiscovery vendor if we had stuck to our status quo. However, training more employees in more disciplines and making it easier for them to communicate with each other will make us an even more well-oiled machine.

On that note….

Sin #5: Not cross-training your employees

A lot of eDiscovery marketers (myself included) love to talk about their “specialized expertise.” And why not? eDiscovery is a discipline all to itself, apart from the discipline of lawyers. More than that, eDiscovery is the intersection of several very different disciplines, notably technology, law, and business. For that reason, no one can truly be a “specialist” in every last part of the process.

People who make great data engineers are not necessarily well suited for managing document review, and vice versa. People who understand the litigation process inside and out may be completely clueless when it comes to implementing new information governance practices that are compliant and secure. Discovery takes a village.

Sometimes eDiscovery service providers are so dead set on hiring ”specialists” that they lose sight of this bigger picture. They have a lot of people who are great at one specific thing, but lack the knowledge to effectively communicate with their teammates and clients.  

At Contact, we’ve found the key lies somewhere in the middle: hire specialists, but also make sure team members have a firm grasp on each other’s specialties. Our team is able to understand our clients’ larger strategy and how their specialty fits into it. This allows for more collaboration between people of different backgrounds, which often leads to better-fitting solutions for clients’ challenges.

Service providers who use this philosophy are also usually able to deal with the regular (or not-so-regular) curveballs of business with fewer disruptions to service. In March 2020, when nearly every company on the planet had to completely rethink how they do business, we were able to shift to our new COVID-world model with zero disruptions to clients’ cases. That’s partially because so many of our team members understood work outside their specialty.


Curious to know what the final two sins of eDiscovery service providers? Follow us on social media for updates!

The 7 Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers: Part 1

Ah, the wonderful world of alternative legal service providers, or ALSPs. Like it or not, they’re a necessary part of the modern legal landscape. This is especially true in areas of the law where complex matters with large sums of data are commonplace. Such areas include intellectual property, corporate law, and antitrust, just to name a few. There comes a point where lawyers just can’t do it alone.

The problem is that legal service providers can all look pretty similar on the surface. This is especially true in fields such as eDiscovery that rely heavily on technology to get the job done. They all have “cutting edge technology;” they all have the “highest standards of security” and “certified experts” doing the work.

Usually, as long as lawyers have worked with someone before and the work got done adequately in time for the deadline, they’re happy. Unfortunately, a service provider can meet these criteria and still fall short in other respects without their clients realizing it.

That’s why we’ve put together the “7 Deadly Sins of Service Providers.” If you’re an ALSP reading this, we hope this helps make you a better ALSP. If you’re a law firm or in-house team, we hope it helps you figure out if you’re really getting the most bang for your buck out of these companies.


Deadly Sin #1: An “all-or-nothing approach”

Some of the marketing buzzwords that legal service providers use for this include words like “comprehensive,” “end-to-end,” and “all-inclusive.”

It sounds great on paper, the idea of one solution or company that can solve all your eDiscovery woes. Full disclosure: I’ve written versions of this pitch for Contact’s eDiscovery Managed Services, and I fully believe such all-inclusive approaches can be right for some clients, especially if it’s what that organization actually asked for.

However, it shouldn’t be the only thing on the menu.  

Sometimes clients and potential clients aren’t in this boat. They know there are certain aspects of the EDRM they can handle just fine, either internally or with other vendors, and they’re only in the market for a specific service such as processing, hosting, or forensics. Maybe they want to license software to address specific challenges such as mobile data, but are content to do most of the work themselves and maintain 90 percent of their status quo.

Some eDiscovery providers can’t handle that. Their model is based on the idea that clients should abandon anything and everything about their existing workflows to adopt whatever new technology or services that company is selling. They don’t know how to be helpful without completely turning their clients’ worlds upside down, and sometimes that can do more harm than good.

If your vendor’s answer is ALWAYS to throw the baby out with the bathwater and buy something new, they probably don’t have your best interests at heart. 

Deadly Sin #2: Believing new automatically = better

Sometimes new is better. Sometimes it isn’t. Remember that time Coke tried to make “New Coke?” That can happen in the eDiscovery space too.

On the tech development side of the industry, it just doesn’t look good to sit on your hands and say “yup, that thing we built two years ago is still the best!” There’s a perpetual pressure to innovate, exacerbated by the fact that all the competitors are constantly launching new products as well. That can spill over into legal service providers feeling like they have to offer the latest (but maybe not greatest) tech.

New technology can be great, especially if it’s addressing other impactful changes in the law or how technology is being used. For example, a solution that can better handle data from collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams will probably prove more helpful than a platform that is simply giving a prettier interface to emails and pdfs. This innovation was spurred by other industry developments rather than the pressure to get something new on the market just because everybody else is.

Sometimes the new solution is in fact better, but comes with significant adoption challenges like migrating data from one system to another and training staff on the new system. Perhaps the benefits of “new” are still there, but not in large enough quantities to outweigh the costs and justify the switch.

Either way, good legal service providers can help you weigh the pros and cons of implementing new technology. They won’t sell you something new that you don’t need just to make a quick buck.

Deadly Sin #3: NOT evaluating what your current investments can actually do

This is somewhat of an extension of sin #2. If you believe new tech is automatically better than older tech, it can lead to underestimating the problem-solving capacity of resources you already have.

Oftentimes legal service providers and tech companies are so excited to sell their flashy new products that they fail to assess whether or not those new products are really necessary for the matter at hand.

At Contact, sometimes clients come to us looking for new technology not because they don’t have suitable technology already, but because they don’t understand what their current technology could do. Sometimes the answer isn’t new tech, but just good ol’ fashioned know-how.

Your provider should always ask in-depth questions about what tech you already have before they try to sell you something new. If there’s outside counsel with their own resources, that should be taken into account as well. Service providers should ask about your team’s specific challenges so they can figure out if the issue is truly technology limitations, or just users who haven’t learned the ropes of that technology yet.

Oftentimes, we find that just a few tweaks to the technology our clients already have can solve their problems more economically than implementing new technology.


That concludes Part 1. Curious to learn what the other about Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers? Follow the Contact Blog for updates. Visit us on Social Media and let us know what your biggest red flags are when dealing with service providers.

Have an IP Matter? Ask These 3 Questions When Hiring a Vendor.

In the legal world, outcomes often hinge on ultra specific details that might go unnoticed to the lay person. For that reason, working with law firms and vendors who have experience specific to your case is often preferable to working with those that don’t. Such is the case with intellectual property.

IP law is not for the faint of heart. In addition to the same strong foundation of legal knowledge required of all lawyers, the best intellectual property attorneys usually need expertise in science and technology, or any other areas where they’re likely to litigate.

For all those same reasons, intellectual property lawyers and general counsel for companies where IP litigation is inevitable should look for vendors with IP-specific experience. Here are some of the questions such people should be asking potential legal tech and eDiscovery vendors before giving them an IP case.

1. Can this vendor handle my data types? 

Some data types show up over and over again regardless the case: Microsoft Word docs and Excel sheets; PDFs; jpegs. For that reason, you can probably count on any eDiscovery provider worth their salt to navigate these data types without blinking an eye.

Intellectual property cases are usually different. Crucial evidence often lies in design programs such as Solid Works, Catia, AutoCAD, Fusion360 and more. Maybe your intellectual property is thousands upon thousands of lines of computer code written in multiple programming languages. Either way, you have data outside the basic .doc and .pdf file types.

Somehow, you’re going to have to translate those off-the-beaten-path file types into user-friendly, reviewable files without wonky formatting discrepancies. Since these alternative file formats are often much larger than a typical word document, you’ll also need processing power that can handle larger files in a timely manner. Some service providers that could handle .pdfs in their sleep might still get tripped up by these more niche types of data.

Before you hire anyone to help you with a patent case, make sure they know exactly what kinds of data you have. Have they worked with those data types before? What’s their game plan? You deserve to know.

2. Does this vendor understand IP at all levels of jurisdiction?

Compared to some areas of law, IP features wider discrepancies between international, federal, state, and local policies and precedents. How do you make sure that U.S. patent will still protect you when you sell that product in Europe? Will that judge in West Texas rule differently than that other judge in Delaware? If you register that trademark in New York but someone already has a similar trademark in California, does it matter?

There aren’t easy answers to any of these questions, and no good IP-focused vendor would claim there are. A good service provider, just like a good lawyer, knows how much outcomes depend on where the case is happening.  There are great vendors located all over the globe, so you shouldn’t necessarily pick someone just because they’re near your business; what does matter is where your vendor’s caseload comes from. A California-based provider whose client base is 99% California-based companies might not be the best partner for your lawsuit in Texas.

A provider that has tried cases all over the world, and specifically one that’s tried cases in the jurisdiction where you’re facing litigation, will likely prove more suitable. The more jurisdictions they understand, they better they are able to put you in a good position for future litigations, which brings me to my next point.

3. Is this someone I can work with long term?

If you’re managing your intellectual property cases well, each one should be a little bit easier than the last. That’s because a lot of the data you need to win your current case is likely the same data you needed to win the last case. If you’re doing it right, your IP defense will get stronger and stronger each time. Maintain that consistency long enough, and you’ll probably see an overall reduction in cases. After all, who wants to sue some that keeps winning over and over again?

For that reason, your intellectual property strategy should always be bigger than one particular case. If it isn’t, that might lead you to a six-figure settlement that makes perfect sense right now, but ultimately leads to 10 more six-figure settlements over the next few years.

If you invest that money in building a strong case and maintaining that data so you can easily recall it when the next case comes along, that legal spend will pay dividends later. Settling cases usually doesn’t.

Still have more questions about IP and the role vendors play in these cases? Click here to talk to an expert.

Why Great Legal Technology Still Needs Great People

Necessity is the mother of invention. Thus, the legal technology market is full of great inventions. There’s so many that it can be intimidating, especially when everyone seems to be making the same claims that sound too good to be true.

There’s great legal tech coming from all corners of the market. Some solutions come from established names, others from up-and-coming players within the eDiscovery space. None of it does everything for everyone, but much of it can do something for someone. At Contact, we use all sorts of different platforms depending on what a given project calls for: Relativity, Nuix, Cellebrite, OpenText, CloudNine, ReadySuite, Magnet, and Metaspike, just to name a few.

As more great tech bursts onto the scene, many imagine a future where automation has significantly lessened dependence on service providers if not eliminated them altogether. It’s great that tech is empowering people with less-specialized skillsets to do more than they could before. However, those that do have more specialized skillsets in legal technology are still a necessary part of the equation.  

More Capabilities Require More Knowledge

Technological advancements usually mean that tech can now do more things than it could before. However, increased functionality can be a blessing and a curse. Oftentimes, as the list of things that tech can do gets longer, it becomes harder and harder for the average user to navigate extensive menus and solve the specific problem at hand.

For that reason, the widely prevalent and seemingly logical notion that better tech = less need for human help is actually not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of true. The more technology can do for us, the more it requires advanced knowledge of its capabilities. The more it can do, the further true visionaries can push it. It’s the same way that almost anyone can hop in a canoe and row around a small pond, but if you want to get on a cruise ship and travel the world, you’re going to need a staff of people who has sailed before and already knows the ropes.

The “increased functionality” that tech companies brag about doesn’t count for much if end users don’t even know it’s there. It counts for negative points if it’s cluttering an interface and making it harder to do tasks that were quite simple back when there were five options on a menu instead of 100. 

When your review platform has so many thingamabobs but you don’t know what to do with them.

One potential workaround is to simply live without those other 95 options in favor of a simpler, streamlined, but less advanced platform. Essentially, pick the canoe in a small pond instead of the cruise ship. For some organizations, that may very well be the best option. For many more, there will come a day when they need one of those other 95 options.

Legal tech specialists who work with these advanced platforms day in and day out understand the full gamut of what they can do. They can make these platforms conform to your needs. What’s more efficient, teaching every single attorney and paralegal every capability, or letting an expert evaluate your matter and coach your team on the 1-2 functions that will be most useful?

Investing in great technology means all those extra tools are still in your toolbox when you need them. Having great people means you can actually make sense of all the whozits and whatsits galore and put them to use while ignoring the ones that don’t make sense for the matter at hand.

Both the law and technology are constantly changing. People can change with them.

Rushing to a new platform in an effort to eliminate human service providers may very well work in the short term. But what happens when states pass new laws or suddenly a platform that worked great six months ago is obsolete? Even the best technologists can still only adapt to changes in the law so fast. Trust us, we like to hire the best technologists so we know better than anyone.

Meanwhile, there are always new solutions coming out from various legal tech companies. Some of it comes from real advancements, some of it is repackaging existing technology to varying degrees. Innovation is great, but “new” doesn’t automatically equate to “innovation.”

We can’t undervalue the human element because humans need to be the ones who decide what changes are actually necessary. Humans need to be the ones who balance healthy caution with innovation. Humans can become aware of legal changes as they happen and start adapting discovery strategies when technology hasn’t caught up yet.


New technology is usually designed to solve a problem that already exists. It is not designed to solve problems that might potentially exist one day in the future if not mitigated now. Humans on the other hand can imagine various scenarios where things could go wrong in order to ensure that they don’t go wrong. They can not only find ways to give attorneys what they need right now, but help attorneys make improvements so future matters run more smoothly.

It’s easy to imagine a world where AI can scan a pile of documents and find relevant information for a particular litigation or investigation. Heck, we don’t even have to imagine it, it’s here! However, it’s a lot harder to imagine a world where AI can scan a document, see a loophole that others might potentially exploit, and close that loophole years before anyone gets the chance to litigate it. It’s equally hard to imagine a world where AI tells you how much easier the next litigation will be if you make some tweaks to current information governance policies.

Technology can be a beautiful thing. When done right, it empowers attorneys to do their jobs better without having to rely on a massive team of support staff. In the future, attorneys will be more independent thanks to solutions that are being developed now. It’s not an if, it’s a when. The important thing is forming long-lasting relationships with the right kinds of experts who are there to advise and support when you need them, but don’t view your independence as a threat.

What Are eDiscovery Managed Services and Why Would I Need Them?

If you’ve been on more than a few legal technology websites, you’ve likely come across the term “Managed Services.” Everyone seems to offer them, and they usually come with enticing, yet vague claims about “simplifying discovery” and “end-to-end solutions.” 

That’s all well and good, but how do you decide if your organization is the right candidate for a Managed Services approach towards eDiscovery? Will Managed Services actually help you run your business or law firm more efficiently, or will it result in paying for things you don’t need or already have? Those are the questions we’re here to answer.

What are eDiscovery Managed Services? 

“Managed Services” is an industry term that refers to a comprehensive eDiscovery solution provided for a flat rate. The “services” in question can vary depending on the client’s needs, but the goal remains the same: make discovery more streamlined and predictable without compromising outcomes. Oftentimes, the services are some combination of data hosting, processing, project management, forensics, and eDiscovery. The exact services and price you pay depend on the deal you negotiate with your specific provider. 

Who Needs Managed Services? 

The typical Managed Services client usually comes from a field where complex investigations and litigation are fairly common, such as corporate law, financial law, and intellectual property. If you’re only involved with cases of this scale once in a blue moon, a pay-as-you-go model might make more sense. However, if such matters are business as usual for you, Managed Services is worth considering. 

Another major factor to think about is your internal discovery capabilities. If you’re already able to handle the vast majority of your discovery internally, Managed Services might result in overspending. However, few organizations are able to achieve the same economy of scale that legal service providers do. It’s quite common for the optimal discovery program to be some mix of internal and external workflows. Sometimes, that means doing most of your discovery internally and calling in reinforcements if and when you need them. However, it could also mean a Managed Services plan where you pay for data hosting and access to advanced review software, but still rely on your internal team to manage projects.

Reasons Why Organizations Switch to Managed Services 

In addition to lower prices from bundling services together, limiting how many vendors you work with usually lets you make more use of what you are paying for. Hours spent briefing newcomers about a matter are just as billable as the hours that a longstanding partner spends actually solving problems. Even if you have a few trusted vendors who know your team fairly well, it can still be inefficient if they’re working with you for a month, then not talking to you for six months, then coming back again. A Managed Services model means your team and your service provider stay in regular contact, and when workloads suddenly grow, you don’t have to spend a lot of time (and money!) helping vendors play catch up. 

Predictability

Competitive Advantage


Oftentimes, a company’s legal spending is seen as a necessary evil, but it can also help you get an edge over your competition. In the case of a law firm, it’s easier to win new clients if you’re not passing exorbitant discovery costs on to this client. Oftentimes, firms with a Managed Services plan can price themselves lower than they would have otherwise without it affecting their bottom line.

For in-house legal teams, a Managed Services model can be the difference between winning a lawsuit, and paying out settlements just because “discovery is too expensive.” Managed Services can help you mitigate matters early for relatively low costs since you’re already paying for the help. On the other hand, a pay-as-you-go model might result in neglecting matters until they’re mission critical simply because you don’t have the internal capabilities to be proactive. If you only seek outside help when litigation is on the horizon, that vendor can exploit your lack of options and costs can spin out of control. 

Minimize Risk 

Consolidating vendors usually means minimizing risk. Every time you rope a new vendor into your network, you’re increasing the number of people who could inadvertently mishandle sensitive information. A good rule of thumb for any business or law firm is to keep information on a need-to-know basis. Organizations who are using a single provider for the bulk of their legal services are almost always going to have a shorter list of “need-to-know” people than an organization who’s sending data to new vendors every other month. 

Extra Capabilities 

If you pay for Netflix, you’ve likely watched at least one movie that you wouldn’t have cared enough to see in theaters or rent on its own. Likewise, many Managed Services models bundle the services you know you need with services you never would’ve thought to buy separately, but are still nice to have. 

For example, many clients reach out to legal technology companies because they need help hosting data. They may do this after an investigation is already underway, and it becomes clear that the volume of data is too large to handle internally. However, if they had already been paying for Managed Services the whole time, they could’ve also had help with automating legal holds and preserving that data before the investigation, all at no additional cost. 


Ultimately, Managed Services isn’t for everyone. Whether or not it’s right for you can depend on a number of variables such as the size of your organization, frequency of litigation, internal capabilities, and need for scalability.

Still have questions? We’re happy to help!

Reach out today to find out if Managed Services is right for your organization.

(If it isn’t, we’ll design a custom solution that is.)