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A piece of data about how often law departments handle e-discovery in-house

“For matters valued under $500,000, 71% of in-house counsel said they try to do as much EDD [electronic data discovery] as possible in-house.” This quote comes from research by ALM Legal Intelligence sponsored by T. Wade Welch & Associates, published in a supplement to the September issue of Corporate Counsel. ALM based this finding on 41 survey responses (35 in-house lawyers and 6 other roles, including 13 general counsel.).

Data is always welcome in the world of law department costs and operations, but you have to wonder if, based on this sample, this finding has much worth. Approximately half the law departments represented were in companies with less than $500 million in revenue, so their number of law suits, let alone the number of lawsuits that have significant value or burden of EDD, must be few.

The small, and possibly very unrepresentative, sample also diluted the value of the finding, but so does the finding itself. If 25 in-house lawyers (71% of 35) state that they try to do as much EDD within the company as possible, isn’t that likely what most people would say, because the “as possible” has such lack of objectivity? Perhaps one or two might say, “We have almost everything done externally.” Perhaps, but most people would say we do what we can inside and use external providers for the rest. By contrast, if the finding were that for smaller cases, “we do it all or virtually all inside,” that would be much more potent.

Another quibble goes to $500,000 case value. To start, how do in-house litigators know a case’s value and at what point? Second, this implies a reasonable correlation between amount of EDD and whatever constitutes case value. Wouldn’t volume of EDD be a better yardstick than case value (See my post of June 11,2011: three thresholds for EDD being handled inside.)?