Category Archives: Enterprise eDiscovery

Important SaaS Architecture Considerations for Legal Tech Software

by Kunjan Zaveri

With nearly all eDiscovery software now being offered on a SaaS basis, the cloud architecture decisions supporting the vendor’s platform are pivotal. Decisions on architecture design can lead to either very successful or very poor outcomes. The right architecture depends on the company’s SaaS delivery strategy, their customer profile and size, and the volume and nature of their anticipated transactions. These considerations are especially important in the legal tech space, which has some unique requirements and market dynamics such as heighted security and customization for large clients, and channel support (requiring platform portability), which are generally not as relevant to general SaaS architecture considerations.

At a high level, it is important to understand the two main SaaS architectures: multi-tenancy and single-tenancy. In cloud computing, tenancy refers to the allocation of computing resources in a cloud environment. In SaaS, tenancy is categorized into two formats: single-tenant SaaS and multi-tenant SaaS. In the single-tenant SaaS environment, each client has a dedicated infrastructure. Single-tenant products can’t be shared between clients and the buyer can customize the software according to their requirements. Multi-tenancy is an architecture where a single instance of a software application serves multiple customers. In a multi-tenant SaaS environment, many organizations share the same software and usually the same database (or at least a portion of a common database) to save and store data.

Single-tenancy and multi-tenancy SaaS each have their advantages and disadvantages, and the selection of either approach by a legal tech SaaS vendor should depend on their overall product and go-to-market strategy. Here are some of the advantages of a single-tenancy architecture:

1. Improved Security

With single-tenancy, each customer’s data is completely isolated from other customers with fewer and more trusted points of entry. The result is better overall security from outside threats and the prevention of one customer accessing another’s sensitive information, either intentionally or inadvertently.

2. Reliable Operations and Individual Tenant Scalability

Single-tenant SaaS architectures are considered more reliable as there is not a single point of failure that can affect all customers. For example, if one client uploads a massive amount of corrupt data that taxes resources and crashes the system, it won’t affect another clients’ instances. Single-tenancy is actually more scalable within an individual client instance, while multi-tenancy can better scale the addition and management of many customers.

3. Customization

Many large customers need specific features or unique security measures that require custom development, which can be very difficult in a multi-tenancy environment. Companies that use single-tenancy architecture can upgrade their services individually. Rather than waiting for the software provider to launch a universal update, users can update their accounts as soon as the download is available or decline patches that are not needed by a specific customer.  

4. Portability

With single-tenancy, a vendor can host their platform in their own SaaS environment, a channel partner’s environment, or enable their customers to install the solution behind their firewall or in their private cloud. Multi-tenancy SaaS does not allow for this flexibility.

Multi-tenant SaaS Advantages

Multi-tenancy is commonly utilized as most SaaS offerings are consumer or otherwise high-volume commoditized offerings, which necessitates such an architecture. Here are some of the key advantages of multi-tenant SaaS architecture over single-tenant:

1. Lower Costs

Since computing services are all shared under a multi-tenant architecture, it can cost less than a single-tenant structure. Scaling across the customer base is easier as new users utilize the same uniform software and resources as all the other customers.

2. Efficient Resources Spread Across all Customers

Because all resources are shared and uniform, multi-tenant architecture uses resources that, once engineered, offer optimum efficiency. Since it’s a changing environment where resources are accessed simultaneously, multi-tenant SaaS software needs to be engineered to have the capacity for powering multiple customers at once.

3. Fewer Maintenance Costs

Maintenance costs are usually associated with a SaaS subscription and aren’t passed through to the customer or incurred by the channel partner like with a single-tenant structure.

4. Shared Data Centers

Unlike a single-tenant environment, a vendor doesn’t have to create a new instance within the datacenter for every new user. Customers have to use a common infrastructure that removes the need to continually add partitioned instances for each new tenant.

So which architecture is the right one for a legal tech SaaS vendor? It completely depends on the company’s strategy, pricing, and nature of the offering. To illustrate this point, consider the examples of two hypothetical legal tech SaaS vendors: Acme and Widget.

Acme provides do it yourself data processing on a high-volume, low-cost basis, handling about 700 matters a week at an average project value of $400. Acme’s customer base is primarily small to medium size law firms and service providers who have multiple projects on different cases over the course of a year. Acme’s clients do not want to fuss with hardware or any software maintenance requirements.

Widget offers an enterprise-grade compliance and security data analytics platform, sold at an average sale price (ASP) of $400,000, but as high as $2 million for a dedicated annual license. Widget has 32 active enterprise customers and hopes to grow to 70 customers in three years with an even higher ASP. About a third of Widget’s clients prefer that Widget host the solution in Widget’s cloud instance. Another group of clients are large financial institutions that, for security and governance purposes, insist on self-hosting the platform in their own private cloud. The rest are instances sold through channel partners who prefer to host the platform themselves and provide value added services. Many Widget customers have particularized compliance requirements and other unique circumstances that require customization to support their needs.

For Acme, the correct choice is multi-tenancy. Acme offers a commoditized SaaS service, and it needs a high volume of individual customers to drive more transactional revenue growth. A single-tenancy architecture would prevent the company from scaling, would be too expensive, and unmanageable. However, some legal tech companies who have opted for this architectural approach have made the mistake of pursuing a more low-market commoditized strategy without making the initial considerable investment in engineering expertise and resources to build such an architecture.

In contrast, single-tenancy is the optimal architecture choice for Widget. While single-tenancy cloud is slightly more challenging to support, Widgets’ premium enterprise offering requires portability for the channel and rigorous security minded clients as well as customization, and thus is a clear fit for single-tenancy. In the future, Widget may have closer to a thousand customers or be acquired by a much larger company that will want to deploy the solution to their extensive client base. It would be a good idea for Widget to architect their single-tenancy platform in a manner, such as employing microservices, that will allow it to readily port it to a multi-tenancy environment when warranted.

So, for legal tech executives, the question to ask is whether your strategy and product offering is more in line with Widget or Acme. But the bottom line is to make sure your strategy drives your choice of architecture and not the other way around.

Kunjan Zaveri is the Chief Technology Officer of X1. (www.x1.com)

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Filed under Best Practices, Cloud Data, eDiscovery, Enterprise eDiscovery, SaaS

Relativity and X1 Publish Updated Joint Legal Whitepaper on ESI Collection Best Practices

By John Patzakis

Relativity and X1 have published an updated joint legal whitepaper addressing full-disk imaging as a disfavored collection practice in civil litigation, with Relativity eDiscovery attorney David Horrigan as the lead author. This paper is a substantive update from the original published a year ago, adding discussion of important and relevant new case law published in the past 12 months. The paper notes that “if the preliminary data from the first five months of 2022 are any indication, we may be seeing that the law of proportionality is becoming more settled — and that courts continue to disfavor full-disk imaging.”

The paper delves into all the legal reasons, including detailed analysis of case law, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Sedona Principles establishing why forensic collection is not required in civil litigation. The paper primarily focuses on the principles of proportionality in its legal analysis as well as case law issued prior to the 2015 amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which gave greater prominence and clarification of the proportionality rules.

One of the recent updated cases included is Besman v. Stafford, where the appellate court reversed and remanded a trial court’s order of a forensic examination of a law firm computer, holding the trial court erred in failing to take precautions to protect the privileged and confidential information on the device. “Generally, courts are reluctant to compel forensic imaging, largely due to the risk that imaging will improperly expose privileged and confidential material contained on the hard drive,” Judge Anita Laster Mays wrote for the appellate court.

This is an important topic as a key problem in eDiscovery that drives inefficiencies and higher costs is that default collection methods often involve full-disk imaging—a forensic examination of an entire computer—when searching for responsive data. As the whitepaper notes, “it turns out full-disk imaging is not required for most eDiscovery collections. In fact, courts often disfavor the practice.”

A copy of the whitepaper can be found here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, collection, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, proportionality, Relativity

Industry Experts: Proportionality Principles Apply to ESI Preservation and Collection

By John Patzakis

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties may discover any non-privileged material that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Lawyers that take full advantage of the proportionality rule can greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise overbroad eDiscovery production. In a recent webinar, eDiscovery attorney Martin Tully of Redgrave LLP, addressed how to use processes and best practices to operationally attain this goal, particularly in the context of preservation and collection. In addition to being a partner at the Redgrave firm, Tully is currently the chair of the Steering Committee of the Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production (WG1), providing additional import to his comments on the subject.

During the webinar, Tully noted that the “duty to preserve is directly aligned with what is within the scope of discovery….so if something is not within the scope of discovery – that is its either not relevant or its not proportional to the needs of the case — then there should not be an obligation to preserve it in the first place.” Tully discussed at length the recent case of Raine Grp. v. Reign Capital, (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2022), which holds that under FRC 26(a), parties “have an affirmative obligation to search for documents which they may use to support their claims or defenses.” In meeting these obligations, the court provided that a producing party may utilize search methodologies, specifically mentioning search terms. Tully explained that the court—in addressing the concept of reasonable, proportional discovery under the Rules – provides that producing parties are obligated to search custodians and locations it identifies on its own as sources for relevant information as part of its obligations under Rule 26, but that such identification and collection efforts should be proportional.

Further to these points, Tully weighed in on overbroad practice of full-disk imaging, noting that it should not be the default practice for eDiscovery collection: “Too often there is a knee jerk approach of ‘let’s just take a forensic image of everything – just because.’” According to Tully, alternative and more targeted search and collection methods were more appropriate for eDiscovery and can better effectuate proportional efforts: “Indexing in-place is key because it doesn’t just preserve in-place and reduce costs, but it can give you insight (into the data) to further justify your decision not to collect it in the first place, or if you need to, you are in much better shape to go back and collect the data in a tailored and focused way.”

Co-presenter Mandi Ross, CEO of Insight Optix also provided keen insight, outlining her typical workflow applying the aforementioned proportionality concepts through custodian and data source ranking and keyword searching performed in an iterative manner to identify key custodians, data sources, and the potentially relevant data itself. To effectuate this, Mandi noted that the enterprise eDiscovery collection and early data assessment process should enable a targeted, remote, and automated search capability, with immediate pre-collection visibility into custodial data.

In fact, both Tully and Ross emphasized in their comments that none of the cost-saving, targeted collection efforts permitted under the Federal Rules can be realized without an operational capability to effectuate them. Ideally, the producing party can employ a defensible, targeted, and iterative search and collection process in-place, prior to collection to effectuate the proportional discovery process approved by the court in this decision. However, without such a capability, the alternative is an expensive, over-collection effort, where the data is searched post collection. Enabling the search iteration and targeted collection upstream brings dramatic cost savings, risk reduction, and other process efficiencies.

A recording of the webinar on proportionality can be accessed here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, Case Study, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, Information Management, Preservation & Collection, proportionality

Usage-Based Pricing Model Increasingly Driving eDiscovery Software Growth

by John Patzakis

Legal Tech software CEOs often grapple with two competing challenges: Growing revenue in a manner that supports how customers buy their products for their individual cases, while at the same time maximizing shareholder value by recording recurring revenue, which the investor community typically favors. Recurring revenue generally comes in the form of fixed annual or monthly subscription licenses.

However, eDiscovery software providers are increasingly aligning their SaaS pricing strategy with the amount of product usage their customers consume. Instead of paying a fixed rate, the pricing is based upon actual usage. The benefits of this approach include a shorter and simpler purchasing process and increased customer satisfaction and retention.

In the eDiscovery space, customers often prefer to pay by “matter”, i.e., per lawsuit or legal case. Law firms and service providers typically utilize eDiscovery SaaS software specific to an individual case on a pass-through cost basis, where their end-client ultimately pays for the services. In the case of corporate law departments, oftentimes the organization prefers to purchase annual subscriptions for eDiscovery and apply the license over multiple matters in the course of the year. However, such buying decisions vary by organization, with corporate counsel sometimes deferring eDiscovery workflow and tech decisions to their law firms, which favors a usage-based pricing model.

While tech companies with recurring annual term revenue will typically garner higher valuations, eDiscovery software firms with usage-based pricing models are now seeing similarly elevated valuations. Investors are recognizing the very unique economics and buying dynamics specific to the eDiscovery software space. But it is incumbent on eDiscovery software execs, their investment bankers, and board members to educate the broader market on this dynamic unique to the eDiscovery space. In some situations, investors new to this space attempt to apply a steep discount to usage-based SaaS revenue, as it doesn’t fit in with their “paint by the numbers” ARR models. Rick Weber, Managing Director of Legal Tech investment banking firm Arbor Ridge Partners notes, “while the usage model is not annual recurring, it is ‘monthly re-occurring,’ and thus projections and modeling can be made based on company history and industry norms and should be treated like ARR contracts.”

In fact, usage-based pricing is now gaining wider acceptance in the broader SaaS software market beyond legal tech. Cloud infrastructure providers AWS and Microsoft Azure are obvious examples of successful usage-based pricing strategies, but many startups and medium sized companies have successfully implemented the model as well. While usage-based revenue may seem less predictable compared to other pricing models, companies using this model are often growing faster, retaining more revenue, and valued at high revenue multiples. But again, this realization requires a closer look by investors and an intelligent education effort by the companies and their advisors.

One caveat for investors is to confirm that the value of the SaaS usage offering is mostly based upon proprietary software tech versus services that are dressed up as SaaS. Some eDiscovery service providers attempt to position their services as SaaS, without a true standalone propriety software component. An analysis of the cost of sales/gross margins and assessment of the actual proprietary nature of the software is determinative. Gross margins should be at least 80 percent. And while some services are often provided in conjunction with a SaaS usage-based offering, a qualifying factor is whether the software is also separately offered purely as a traditional license to end users without any services required, which is how many customers will opt to buy.

But for true usage-based SaaS offerings, the flexibility, simplicity and supporting of legal customers purchasing dynamics are key to rapid growth and customer satisfaction. As summarized by Weber, “many of the PE firms and investors that have made big bets on such companies in recent years seem to understand the nuance and opportunity while many still lag behind and simply need to think outside of their box.”

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Filed under Best Practices, Cloud Data, Corporations, eDiscovery, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Management, SaaS, Uncategorized

ILTA eDiscovery Survey Highlights Targeted ESI Collection as the Preferred Methodology

By John Patzakis


The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) recently published a very informative and comprehensive law firm eDiscovery practice survey, “2021 Litigation and Practice Support Survey.” ILTA received responses from litigation support professionals from 82 different law firms ranging in size from medium to large, on a variety of subjects, including eDiscovery practice trends and software tool usage. While the survey addresses a variety of aspects of legal tech and litigation, the survey reveals a couple of very notable insights regarding ESI collection in the enterprise.

The first important insight reflects that targeted ESI collection is the clear preferred method over forensic collection for litigation support purposes. Fifty-nine percent of respondents preferred “targeted collection (non-forensic)” as their standard methodology, while 13 percent still preferred forensic imaging. Forensic collection is rightfully on the decline as a method of ESI collection, as legal counsel seeks to leverage proportionality concepts that greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise inefficient eDiscovery.

However, attaining the benefits of targeted collection requires the ability to operationalize workflows as far upstream in the eDiscovery process as possible. For instance, when you’re engaging in data over-collection, which in turn runs up of a lot of human time and processing costs, the ship has largely sailed before you are able to perform early case assessments and data relevancy analysis, as much of the discovery costs have already been incurred at that point. The case law and the Federal Rules provide that the duty to preserve only applies to potentially relevant information, but unless you have the right operational processes in place, you’re losing out on the ability to attain the benefits of proportionality. That is why we see forensic imaging, the epitome of data over-collection, on a steep decline.

The second notable takeaway was that network file shares and “loose files” were the most common form of collection data sources, even outpacing email. Network file shares are a significant challenge with data volumes, typically 10 to 20 terabytes, but can be much higher. Nearly every company and government agency maintains such large file shares, sometimes hundreds of them, depending on the size of the organization. Large network file shares can be found on premise or in a company’s cloud environment.

Traditional eDiscovery collection methods fail to efficiently address these large file shares, due to significant logistical challenges. The data cannot simply be searched in-place by traditional forensics tools or other crawling methods. Consequently, the data is typically copied in bulk and then migrated to another location for processing, where the data is finally indexed and then searched and culled. This approach does not enable the targeted, proportional collection methods preferred by law firms, as noted above.

To accomplish the goals of both targeted collection and addressing large file shares, index and search in-place technology should be utilized. Indexing and search in-place in this context means that a software-based indexing technology (as opposed to an expensive and cumbersome stand-alone hardware appliance) is deployed directly onto the file server or an adjacent computing resource. This indexing occurs without a bulk data transfer of the data. Once indexed, the searches are performed in a few seconds, with complex Boolean operators, metadata filters and regular expression searches. The searches can be iterated and repeated without limitation, which is critical for large data sets.

These capabilities supporting targeted and proportional collection of loose files, emails, and large network file shares are uniquely provided in the X1 Enterprise Platform.

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