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Beyond the Search Bar: Navigating the Full Spectrum of eDiscovery Efficiency

In the complex landscape of eDiscovery, the emphasis on speed often overshadows a crucial aspect of the legal process: ...

In the complex landscape of eDiscovery, the emphasis on speed often overshadows a crucial aspect of the legal process: efficiency. While the rapid retrieval of documents via search functions is undoubtedly important, it's the "time to first item reviewed” (TFIR) that truly measures the effectiveness of an eDiscovery process.

This blog post explores why legal teams should shift their focus from mere search speed to the overall efficiency of the eDiscovery workflow, highlighting key metrics related to all aspects of speed in the process, such as data collection, legal hold application, search, and export.


The Misplaced Emphasis on Search Speed

The legal industry has long been captivated by the allure of quick search capabilities within eDiscovery tools.

The faster a system can search through terabytes of data, the better, right? Not always.

While search speed is a valuable metric, it only represents a single piece of the eDiscovery puzzle. It's akin to having a sports car on a trip with random traffic jams, you may be able to take advantage of the car's top speed in short intervals, but until the other traffic jams are removed the overall trip will suffer.  

The real game-changer is the time it takes from the initiation of an eDiscovery request to when the first relevant item is reviewed by the legal team – the TFIR. This metric more accurately captures the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire eDiscovery process, from data collection to legal review.


Key Takeaway: 

The faster a system can search through terabytes of data, the better, right? Not always.

Key Metrics of Early Stage eDiscovery Efficiency

To truly understand and improve left-side eDiscovery Reference Model (EDRM) efficiency, legal teams must consider more than just keyword search alone. The Cloudficient approach to early-stage eDiscovery centers around our  Expireon platform.

Expireon is a next-generation cloud archiving solution designed to streamline data management and eDiscovery processes with targeted indexing, flexible data autonomy, efficient search capabilities, and rapid export processes that allow you to get your data into downstream review as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This approach considers the entire left-side EDRM process including the following metrics:

  1. Data Collection Speed: The rate at which data can be identified, collected, and preserved from various sources. Slow collection processes can delay the entire review timeline, making it the foundational step in improving TFIR.

  2. Legal Hold Application Speed: The ability to quickly apply legal holds to relevant data sources is critical in preventing data tampering or loss. Swift legal hold application ensures that all pertinent data is preserved for review, setting the stage for an efficient discovery process.

  3. Search Speed: While not the sole focus, search speed remains an important metric. Efficient search tools can drastically reduce the time needed to locate relevant documents, but it's the effectiveness of these searches—yielding accurately relevant results—that truly matters.

  4. Export Speed: The capability to quickly export relevant documents for review and production is the final step in the left-side EDRM eDiscovery process. Delays in export can bottleneck the review process, affecting case timelines and overall legal team efficiency.

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eDiscovery Efficiency: A New Perspective

To illustrate the importance of evaluating the entire eDiscovery workflow, rather than focusing entirely on search speed, let’s examine the timeline of a typical workflow within the Expireon platform. Use this as a comparison against what you may see in your current environment.

This real-world example contains the following metrics:

  • Dataset within the archive: 200TB
  • Data types: Journal email, user email, files (as attachments)
  • Amount of data within the individual case: 4TB
  • Number of items within the case: ~28,000,000
  • Export size, after indexing and keyword search: 19GB

Legal Hold Application

The legal hold process included defining custodians and date ranges to guarantee data would not be deleted during the case. The custodians were defined as all users within a certain domain in the organization, defined by their email suffix. The date range for the hold was set to the last two years of email.

This process took approximately 13 minutes. In my previous experience with other products, I would estimate this process taking at least two hours, potentially many more. This step of the process has already become more efficient, as we can now measure the legal hold process in minutes rather than hours.


The indexing process is vastly different within the Expireon platform. Traditionally, cloud archive vendors index all data upon ingestion. This introduced a significant tradeoff, however. While having a fully indexed data set would provide lightning-fast search speeds, it came at a significant monetary cost.

There is also a technical benefit to indexing on demand. With traditional cloud archiving platforms, when indexing technologies change you must rebuild indexes to utilize the new features. When indexing technologies change in the Expireon platform, you will automatically use the new engine upon next use.


Key Takeaway: 

We have found that 80% or more of eDiscovery workflows focus on custodians and date range exports only, leaving the more advanced downstream eDiscovery review and production tools to handle these tasks. The remaining 20% rely on keyword searches as a first pass review or early data assessment exercise to further cull data.

Our philosophy is to perform indexing on demand as an option, alleviating the cost burden of having a full-indexed dataset that may never be interrogated. In the example above, if data is exported based on custodian and date range only, bypassing the keyword search completely, hours could be saved from the overall timeframe.  Additionally, if you decide to index data and perform keyword searches, the process is made more efficient by limiting indexing to only the targeted custodians and date ranges on hold (4TB), rather than the entire data set (200TB).

In our real-world case example above, the indexing process on 4TB of data (28,000,000 items) took 4 hours and 37 minutes.

Keyword Search

The process of performing keyword searches across large datasets within most cloud archives will be very similar. Most cloud archiving vendors boast search speeds in terms of seconds. Expireon is no different, providing results from complex Boolean search strings in one to five seconds.

Because of this, we do not consider search speeds to be a differentiator any longer. Emphasis on search speed is outdated and misguided.

In our real-world example above, the keyword search process against 4TB of indexed data (28M items) took less than two seconds.


The final step of the process is exporting data to make it available for downstream review promptly. Having the ability to cull down data is important but getting it into review quickly is equally important, and often overlooked. Export steps vary between cloud archive vendors. Some provide the ability to download all relevant data into one large data set, while others will export data per custodian. One thing they all have in common is that the process takes some time.

Expireon exports data in native formats, ready for import into downstream review tools. The export process in our example (19GB of relevant data) took 4 minutes and 30 seconds. In comparison, we have seen similar exports in other cloud archive platforms take anywhere from one to eight hours.

Workflow Overview / Recap

This workflow timeline showcases the significant advancements in specific eDiscovery tasks such as legal hold application, indexing, keyword search, and data export. This real-world sample workflow demonstrates the evolution from first-generation technologies to the state-of-the-art Cloudficient Expireon, emphasizing the need for legal teams to adopt modern eDiscovery solutions that enhance overall process efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate the time to review.

This was an example of one case but imagine if you run multiple cases per year or even per month. Are you running keyword searches in the early stages of every case or leaving that to the more advanced downstream tools? If the latter, you can save even more time.

Earlier in the blog I mentioned that 80% of our customers and prospects do not perform any keyword searches in the early stage of a case, choosing to leave that for downstream review. The hours you save, per case, are now exponentially more valuable when you consider how many cases you run per year. For one customer, we estimate a time savings of over 100 hours per year with most of that time saving coming from the Legal Hold and Export processes.


Rethinking Efficiency in eDiscovery

By prioritizing the TFIR, legal teams can adopt a more holistic approach to eDiscovery. In the quest for efficiency in legal discovery, the emphasis should shift from the narrow focus on search speed to a broader consideration of all early steps in the workflow. Focusing solely on the speed of search overlooks critical inefficiencies in other areas of the eDiscovery process such as bottlenecks and inefficiencies from data collection to document export.

By improving efficiency across all key metrics - legal hold application, index, search, and export - Expireon significantly reduces the total elapsed time for the eDiscovery process. This efficiency not only accelerates the time to first item reviewed but also enhances the overall effectiveness of legal teams in managing and reviewing case-related documents.

It's time for the legal industry to look beyond the search bar and navigate the full spectrum of eDiscovery efficiency, ensuring that every aspect of the legal workflow contributes to the timely and effective review of relevant documents.

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