Despite efforts to increase efficiency and save money, most businesses set aside substantial budgets for litigation costs. With the ever-changing landscape of litigation, discovery is usually one of the most expensive line-items. In fact, Inside Counsel points out a Gartner forecast showing, “revenue in the enterprise e-discovery software market will grow from $1.8 billion in 2014 to $3.1 billion in 2018”.
Although discovery costs are necessary, the way a business operates can have a significant impact on its bottom line. The following list provides six steps companies should consider implementing to make the discovery process more efficient and save money.
1. Determine Which Parties Are Most Important to the Case
In discovery your attorney needs to determine where essential documents can be located and who has knowledge most relevant to the case. This can result in attorneys having to interview several people within a company to determine: (a) who is the best candidate to represent the entity as the Person Most Knowledgeable; (b) where crucial information can be found; and (c) who has access to that information. Doing some of the initial legwork yourself can save your business many hours of attorney fees and will allow your legal counsel to hit the ground running.
2. Be Aware of Deadlines
When attorneys receive discovery requests from opposing counsel, they are on the clock. In California for example, attorneys have 30 days to respond to most forms of written discovery. This entails analyzing the discovery requests, determining which objections should be made, drafting responses, and providing the client time to review and approve the responses. To prevent delays, tell your attorneys at the outset of the case how much time you will need to review discovery responses. You can also request to be notified when discovery requests are received to plan ahead and set aside time in your schedule to review the responses.
3. Provide Reliable Modes of 24/7 Communication
Poor communication results in increased costs in all industries, and litigation is no exception. Unanswered emails, missed telephone calls, and other communication misfires can quickly rack up fees. This is especially true when a discovery deadline is approaching and counsel needs to reach you to acquire information for discovery responses or verification forms. Inform your counsel of the best ways to reach you. If you do not typically respond to work emails or phone calls after a certain hour, let your attorney know. Consider creating an email chain with all parties involved in the case copied to ensure information is communicated simultaneously rather than multiple times.
4. Determine Your Theme
Litigation can be an art, but usually benefits from an organized, structured presentation of the legal issues raised in a case. A company theme, or Good Company Story, is often used to provide a common thread during a jury trial to help counteract opposing counsel’s efforts to vilify a company. By creating a theme at the outset of a case, companies can often maintain a more focused discovery process, thereby minimizing discovery into unnecessary tangent issues.
5. Create a Comprehensive Filing System
Larger corporations amass abundant volumes of records over the years, often storing them away with minimal organization. When documents are constantly rotated and reexamined for litigation, a comprehensive filing system may be most cost effective as it eliminates countless hours of searching for documents down the road. A comprehensive document-control index will only be useful, however, if policies and procedures are developed to ensure that digital and hard-copy documents are promptly and systematically returned to their respective places after viewing. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time and resources on a comprehensive index only to find its true benefit has been compromised by disorganized handlers.
6. Embrace Diversity in your Legal Team
Some companies opt to have their entire caseload handled exclusively by partners, while others prefer when junior associates do the brunt of the work with minor supervision by partners. However, a diverse team of attorneys with various levels of experience can holistically tackle legal issues in a shorter amount of time. Partners provide a significant amount of wisdom and experience. Mid-level or senior associates oftentimes have comparative expertise at a lower price-point, and junior associates provide a fresh perspective on mature legal issues.
These tips may not work for all businesses, but keeping an open mind and working with your counsel to streamline business operations, before discovery, can result in significant bottom-line savings.
Regardless of your business size or sector, now is the time to begin planning for discovery.