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After 10 years of TAR analytics and technology-driven workflows, document review is still the largest cost in the eDiscovery process

According to Complex Discovery’s industry respected Summer 2019 Pricing Survey, in considering the relative costs of the 3 core eDiscovery tasks of collection, processing, and review, the current relative cost of each eDiscovery task breakdown is as follows:

  • Processing: 19% of expenditures.
  • Collection: 12% of expenditures.
  • Review: 69% of expenditures.

The obvious reason review persists in being the greatest cost in the eDiscovery process, is that no matter how good TAR and analytics become, data volumes continue to grow and grow. Accordingly, even assuming 80 to 90 percent of the data in an eDiscovey matter can be filtered out with advanced technology, but because the initial data set is massive there are still tens or hundreds of thousands of documents remaining that will require eyeballs to review – and those eyeballs are expensive. People reading documents takes time.

The industry standard for a first pass review is about 50 documents per hour. In view of the fact that most clients are paying over $40 dollars per hour to review only 50 docs per hour, and most cases have tens or hundreds of thousands of documents, it is no surprise that the greatest cost in the eDiscovery process continues to be review.

Reducing the Cost of Review

Because review consumes about $0.69 of every dollar spent on eDiscovery, while collection and processing consume about $0.12 and $0.19, respectively, it makes the most sense to focus cost reduction efforts on review.

As the above findings pointed out, the ever-increasing volumes of data has somewhat neutralized TAR and other advanced analytics ability to reduce review costs.  In 2012, The RAND Institute’s seminal research on eDiscovery costs, “Where the Money Goes: Understanding Litigant Expenditures for Producing Electronic Discovery” found review represented 73% of the costs. So, ultimately technology advances have only kept review costs in check. Similarly, since the average review speed of an experienced reviewer is about 50 documents per hour, increasing the rate of review is very limited.

Thus, the focus needs to be on reducing the cost of labor. For most corporate litigants, contract review is typically handled by outside resources, such as law firms or domestic review service vendors. However, the use of offshore attorneys in English fluent countries such as India, whose labor costs are significantly lower than US labor costs, provides a powerful and proven solution to dramatically reduce costs without compromising on quality.