Yesterday, I sat on a panel to discuss the recent eDiscovery Business Confidence survey results, which for the first time separated Canadian responses from those in the US. Canadians made up 20% of the respondents with 50% being law firms, and the other being made up largely of Government agencies and eDiscovery serrvice providers.
The survey results highlighted a few interesting subtleties in the Canadian eDiscovery marketplace:
1. General Climate
Canadians are notably more optimistic about the state of the industry and revenue growth, particularly when looking into the future.
The statistics on hand regarding revenue projection indicate law firm eDiscovery operations are feeling optimistic about top line revenue when it comes to eDiscovery. This can likely be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the Canadian eDiscovery market is maturing and law firms are leading the charge on formalizing and operationalizing eDiscovery in a way we haven’t done before. We are settling on key technologies, stabilizing infrastructure costs with managed services engagements, and formalizing disbursement models.
More and more law firms are seriously looking at vendor rationalization across all operations, and eDiscovery is no exception. In Canada, the majority of firms are opting for turnkey solutions that optimize technology capabilities, create predictable cost models and deliver more sophisticated and consistent offerings to better serve their clients. This allows firms to focus on combining their core value proposition with a mastery of leading edge technology, to deliver unprecedented value to their clients.
The survey results suggest that all parties building out eDiscovery services are feeling the impact of a competitive marketplace, namely; data volumes, budgetary constraints, and lack of personnel.
In Canada, if we were to characterize the pain points of the average eDiscovery stakeholder, we would say that managing electronic data volumes in a cost-effective manner while acquiring, developing and retaining qualified personnel is the most significant challenge in what is still a relatively small marketplace. In-house eDiscovery teams are characteristically challenged to advance and maintain expertise in a manner similar to vendors who manage multiple complex cases day in and day out, with the benefit of a more robust and secure infrastructure. The nuances and variables associated with eDiscovery alongside the pace of change in our industry make this a tall order even for those on the front lines. As a result, many firms and corporations are aligning themselves to specialized vendors to address these challenges along with the others cited in the survey: security, increasing types of data, inadequate technology.
While ranked lower in the survey results, we know from regular conversations with our clients that challenges around security, increasing types of data, and inadequate technology are very real and present for them. We predict that when challenges with email are addressed through a technology-driven approach to review, issues with data volumes will receive a lower ranking, and increasing types of data will become a more prevalent challenge. There was also speculation on the panel that while eDiscovery technology is still not perfect, people are looking to streamline more than they are looking for fine-tuning of the "bells and whistles".
One universal conclusion we can all draw is that eDiscovery is not for the faint of heart.
We are in an industry that is undergoing constant change and pressure from multiple inputs. It will be interesting to see how the increasingly global representation in future eDiscovery Business Confidence surveys will begin to highlight key market trends, and where the Canadian market stands as it enters a new phase of maturation and growth.