(2) eDiscovery Usage in Family Law vs Other Segments

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(2) eDiscovery Usage in Family Law vs Other Segments


The research identifies eDiscovery-associated costs and handling increasingly large amounts of data as two challenges or pain points of using eDiscovery for smaller/family law firms. For each challenge, descriptions; available supporting statistics or data; quotes of lawyers, firms, or industry leaders discussing the challenge; available companies offering solutions to the challenge or alternatives to overcome this pain point; have been included. Additionally, useful insights into the general challenges faced by users of eDiscovery solutions were included.
Primary eDiscovery Challenges for Small Law Firms (2015 Survey)

Creative Solutions

  • There is limited data on more recent challenges or pain points of using eDiscovery for smaller firms and/or family law firms.
  • Alternatively, we leveraged slightly dated sources to identify the challenges and alternatively provided useful insights into the general challenges faced by users of eDiscovery solutions.
  • See the Research Strategic section for more information on our logic and approach.

Complete Findings

Challenges or Pain Points of Using eDiscovery for Smaller/Family Law Firms

Note: The challenges or pain points provided below significantly reflect historical trends of challenges that small law firms faced, as they were largely based on dated but limited sources. Thomson Reuters' 2021 State of the Law Firm Report further indicates low adoption rates (17%) and fewer planned implementations (1%) of eDiscovery among small legal firms. However, some of these sources indicate that these trends surrounding the challenges or pain points were being addressed, as industry players are rolling out different solutions, such as cloud eDiscovery solutions and flexible pricing structures, to alleviate these pain points and cater to small law firms—as seen demonstrated for each provided challenge. Advancements in technology have significantly reduced the cost of developing robust eDiscovery software. This reduction in development costs has lowered the barrier to entry for new eDiscovery providers, fostering increased competition within the market. As a result, small law firms now have access to a wider range of affordable eDiscovery solutions. However, only 17% and 20% of small legal firms recently agreed to increase their budget for legal-specific software/tech in 2022 and 2023 respectively, whereas the majority chose to maintain the same budget as the previous years (78% and 72%, respectively).

#1: Cost


  • eDiscovery can be a costly and resource-intensive process. This is particularly challenging for smaller firms and family law firms that may not have the budget or manpower to handle large volumes of electronic data.
  • eDiscovery software has had little flexibility in their pricing models, associated costs, and application platforms, which put the software out of reach of many small law firms.”
  • EDiscovery providers often employed a unit-based pricing model, segmenting projects into individual tasks and charging clients a premium for each step. This resulted in a complex fee structure that included charges per user per gigabyte for file hosting, per gigabyte for file processing, per page for optical character recognition (OCR) and Bates stamping, and per document for near-duplicate detection. This granular approach led to inflated eDiscovery costs.
  • Therefore, smaller firms often struggle with the high costs associated with eDiscovery. This includes expenses related to software, data storage/processing, and the specialized personnel required to manage eDiscovery processes.
  • Furthermore, if their caseload predominantly involves matters with minimal eDiscovery needs, investing in high-priced ediscovery software becomes financially unviable. Moreover, their budget constraints may preclude them from hiring dedicated eDiscovery consultants. These factors restrict their ability to compete for new business opportunities involving extensive eDiscovery requirements.

Available supporting statistics:

  • In a survey of small law firms conducted in 2015, 50% of respondents revealed that the most important issue regarding eDiscovery was the price. This showed that cost was the leading concern for small legal firms regarding eDiscovery.
  • According to Thomson Reuters' report on the state of small law firms in 2021, 17% used eDiscovery technologies and 1% planned on implementing them in the next 12 months.

Quotes of lawyers, firms, or industry leaders discussing the challenge:

  • Tom O’Connor (one of the first experts to respond to the famous EDna challenge) makes the following estimate: “If a forensic collection starts with 800 GB of data (the size of the hard drive of one typical computer), and that data set eventually yields 200 GB of reviewable material, a typical e-discovery company will charge $200 per GB for the processing ($160,000) plus $50 per month per GB ($10,000) and $90 per month per user for the hosting. If the case lasts 18 months, this cost alone will be just under $350,000. And if we accept the commonly cited statistic that housing cost will account for only 30 percent to 40 percent (of) the total project price, and the review process will account for the remaining 60 to 70 percent, then we’re looking at a project cost that will eventually be close to $1 million for only 200 GB of data.”

Companies offering a solution to this project or alternatives to overcome this problem:

  • “Recognizing that small law firms constituted the vast majority of the marketplace, software vendors began to modify their applications for different modalities, such as web-based portals, with flexible pricing.”
  • Companies like GoldFynch now offer affordable eDiscovery solutions that are designed to scale, and so prioritize things that matter to small law firms.

#2: Handling Increasingly Large Amounts of DataIncreasingly Large Amounts of Data


  • Smaller firms often struggle with managing large volumes of data due to limited resources and expertise, as they typically deal with cases involving less than 100 GB of data. However, with the growing amount of online data, they are increasingly required to handle larger volumes of data, which can be challenging.
  • Hence, over time, eDiscovery vendors have mostly targeted large law firms that have the required budget and capacity to collect, store, and process larger amounts of data for large civil suits. This was because the majority of eDiscovery software originated in the 1990s and early 2000s, a period when eDiscovery was still in its nascent stages and primarily utilized by large legal firms.
  • This focus on larger firms led software developers to prioritize solutions designed for extensive data processing, often requiring specialized hardware that exceeded the capabilities of standard office computers. Consequently, scaling down this technology for smaller projects proved challenging.
  • Furthermore, while there are existing eDiscovery solutions available for small legal firms, a significant portion of these options are either simplified versions of enterprise software or outdated systems relying on technology from the early 2010s — with limited capacity for handling larger data volumes. The crux of the matter, therefore, lies in the return on investment (ROI), and with 80% of small law firms not investing in eDiscovery as of 2019, it's believed that this is the primary concern.

Available supporting statistics:

  • In a survey of small law firms conducted in 2015, the second most important issue regarding eDiscovery, behind the price of eDiscovery solutions (50%), was technical competence (33%). Review expenses (20%) and processing (costs) (10%) followed, respectively.

Quotes of lawyers, firms, or industry leaders discussing the challenge:

  • According to Jim Gill, “This isn’t to say there aren’t options (eDiscovery solutions) currently on the market, but most of these are stripped down versions of enterprise software, or legacy systems that are still using technology circa 2011. The key here is ROI return on investment and with 80% of the market still not investing in eDiscovery, my guess is that’s the issue.”

Companies offering a solution to this project or alternatives to overcome this problem:

  • Cloud eDiscovery services offer an affordable solution with near-unlimited storage space, scalable storage options, and lower costs compared to private servers. Cloud-based discovery automation streamlines the entire eDiscovery process, eliminating the need for manual task-by-task handling and enabling legal professionals to rapidly identify crucial documents through smart filtering. This technology eliminates the time-consuming process of waiting for discs or vendor data ingestion, allowing eDiscovery projects to commence instantly.
  • GoldFynch is an example of an eDiscovery application tailored for small and midsize law firms, offering a cost-effective, secure, and simple-to-use cloud-based service. “Logikcull is another cloud-based eDiscovery solution trusted by hundreds of legal teams to automate discovery and legal holds for disputes, subpoenas, investigations, record requests, and more.” These cloud services are now capable of culling through vast amounts of data and narrowing down on the most important documents.
  • While the corporate and AmLaw 200 markets garner significant attention, smaller law firms that have embraced technology and modernized their workflows have achieved remarkable success. This technological adaptation has enabled them to handle larger cases without expanding their workforce, ultimately passing on cost savings to their clients. This trend is poised to continue in the next 5–10 years, particularly in light of the post-pandemic shift in business practices.

Helpful Findings: General Challenges Faced by Users of eDiscovery Solutions

  • Public sector agencies, in particular, face the challenge of managing increasing data volumes with declining budgets. This issue is prevalent across various sectors as well. Additionally, "logistical issues can also become eDiscovery challenges, including financial concerns, as this can be a very expensive process, involving significant personnel costs, such as legal and IT staffing, as well as technology costs for hardware, software, and storage."
  • The evolving nature of data types and sources, such as social media and cloud storage, presents a significant challenge in eDiscovery, requiring users to constantly adapt their strategies and tools. Furthermore, the variety of data formats, from emails to multimedia files, complicates the eDiscovery process, requiring versatile tools and expertise to handle different data types effectively.
  • Technology and metadata challenges are faced when opposing counsel lacks specialized eDiscovery software, leading to difficulties in producing documents in desired formats with the necessary metadata. The solution lies in agreeing upon and utilizing eDiscovery software that is capable of handling these requirements, ensuring that both parties have the tools to produce and share ESI in the required formats.
  • There is a growing need for legal professionals to be competent in eDiscovery processes, including understanding the technical aspects and legal implications of electronic data.
  • Ensuring data privacy and security during the eDiscovery process is a critical challenge, especially with the increasing emphasis on data protection regulations globally.
  • Managing eDiscovery within tight legal timelines is a significant challenge, as it requires quick yet thorough processing and review of large volumes of data. Streamlining processes, focusing on essential electronic records, and maximizing the use of software and technology can help reduce these costs by minimizing the volume of records that need to be processed and reducing manual workloads.
  • The shift to widespread remote work environments has introduced new challenges in eDiscovery, such as managing distributed data and ensuring secure remote access to sensitive information. Furthermore, "collecting useful documents for eDiscovery can be hard when those records aren't stored in the same place. Some records may be on local and networked computers, while others are on mobile devices, cloud services, or social media accounts. This can make it difficult to identify and preserve all relevant data in a timely and efficient manner."
  • Challenges may arise involving difficulties in recovering deleted information or collecting specific types of Electronic Stored Information (ESI). It requires an in-depth understanding of the client’s ESI, anticipating the need for recovering deleted data or unique file types. In certain situations, involving computer forensics specialists may be necessary for effective data recovery and collection, especially when dealing with atypical forms of ESI like Slack or MS Teams data.

Research Strategy

The research team has utilized the most advanced research methodologies, such as generative AI-powered search, industry and research databases, and advanced web search techniques to facilitate our research. We leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including eDiscovery Today, Goldfynch, and Logickull, among others. Through these sources, we identified two challenges (surrounding costs and increasing volume of data) faced by small law firms regarding eDiscovery solutions. For each challenge or pain point, we provided their descriptions (what is and why is it considered a challenge) ; available supporting statistics or data; quotes of lawyers, firms, or industry leaders discussing the challenge; available companies offering solutions to the challenge or alternatives to overcome this pain point.

However, note that these sources were largely dated because more recent data is limited. While this suggests that the challenges once existed and are actively being addressed by the industry players through targeted innovative solutions for small legal firms, we found no recent data to prove otherwise, as recent data and survey reports indicate low adoption and planned implementation rates. Therefore, we leveraged some dated resources to address the research objectives, add robustness, and/or corroborate our findings, considering the highly specific nature of the topic and the limited availability of more recent reputable sources.

Additionally, because there is limited data surrounding the project that is recent, we further expanded the scope, as requested, to provide useful insights into the general challenges faced by existing users.

Next Steps

During the research, we successfully addressed the project by identifying two challenges or pain points of using eDiscovery solutions for small law firms. Additionally, we provided useful insights into the general challenges faced by users of these solutions. To gain more understanding of the eDDiscovery market, we propose further research to understand the global or US market size and growth of eDiscovery, who the top players are based on revenue or other similar metrics, and a competitive analysis of these players across competitive sets, such as competitive edge, value proposition, and target audience, among others.

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