Novus Law — E-Discovery Process (2008)

For the first time in InnovAction’s history, an award was given to a non-law firm—in this case, a company that provides services to law firms. Novus Law, LLC, was selected for its documentation of the e-discovery process. Novus developed a program that documents and captures the e-discovery process (a significant cost in litigation) to give clients, attorneys and courts a reliable and predictable method for efficiently completing an important part of the litigation process.

by Lois Haubold

1. What goal were you trying to achieve?

Corporate legal departments typically spend more on litigation than anything else, and the e-discovery process, including document review, represents most of that cost. Due to the rapid increase of electronically stored information, e-discovery is growing increasingly costly, complex and cumbersome for many companies.

While demand for document review services continues to grow, it has been historically very difficult to track quality, predict costs and assure on-time delivery for this crucial process.

Novus Law’s goal was to create certainty for clients around the quality, schedule and cost of document review for litigation, investigations, and M&A transactions.

To achieve this, a team of legal, business, quality, and technology professionals from around the world were asked to collaborate to document the entire e-discovery process, and from it develop statistically and scientifically-based quality control procedures to deliver measurably better and less expensive results.

By mapping out the 864 step e-discovery process, and leveraging global project management best practices such as Lean Six Sigma (quality management methodologies made famous by Toyota and Motorola, respectively), they succeeded in creating the market-leading Novus Process for document review, assuring increased quality, measurable improvement in results and reduced costs for clients.

2.  Why was it important?

The need for accuracy and rigorous quality standards in document review cannot be understated. Beyond counsel’s responsibility and desire to provide the highest quality services to the client, they are legally required to do so.

Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in fact, requires that counsel shall “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.”

The costs of insufficient or inadequate e-discovery can be enormous. Process and quality mismanagement-related sanctions against corporations and law firms for discovery mismanagement exceed $1.5 billion last year alone.

The Novus Process helps clients achieve the vital certainty that the e-discovery process they follow will meet these requirements as determined by the court, and mitigate the risks for costly discovery mismanagement errors.

3. How did you gather the internal support, resources and personnel to make it happen? Was there resistance?

The Novus Law team worked on development of this process for 9 months and countless hours, convening several times per week with a globally dispersed team to create detailed process maps, guidelines, check lists, project tracking programs, quality programs and an online collaboration tool to make working together easier.

The Novus Law team consisted of individuals from different backgrounds and areas of expertise working across multiple time zones. In order for this initiative to be successful, our lawyers had to learn some new aspects of business, quality programs and technology that they had never been exposed to before.

While this proved initially challenging, it quickly grew into a passion. By creating a truly collaborative process for working together globally, team members were able to leverage each others’ specific subject matter expertise and global perspectives to create an innovative new process grounded in well-established, world-class project management methodologies.

3. What was the most satisfying aspect of making your project a reality?

Being able to put this innovative new process into practice in the real world and see the tangible, measurable improvement in results for our clients has proven very satisfying for the Novus Law team.

We also think that as the Novus Process is used more widely across the industry, it will assure an overall increase in the accuracy and efficacy of the e-discovery and document review process, which we hope will have a transformational effect on the legal industry.

4. How have you measured the success of your innovation over time?

The results of a recent independently verified case study for a corporate client and an AM Law 100 firm concluded that the Novus Process proved 34% faster, 75% better and 81% less expensive than traditional document review methods.

Documenting the e-discovery process has also allowed us to better analyze and understand the quality, productivity and cost related of document review for litigation. Using that information we are able to provide better training, more detailed reporting and improved analysis, and therefore have been able to significantly improve quality and provide guaranteed predictable costs for Novus Law clients.

5. How have your lawyers, staff and clients responded to this innovative accomplishment?

Novus Law clients and their law firms have been very pleased with the ability to predict costs and schedules, and feel confident about the quality of the results of their document reviews. Many have said it is the first time they have been able to feel some certainty around work that has traditionally been very unpredictable, and according to a recent survey, we currently achieve a 94% client satisfaction rating.

The Novus Law team is very proud of their work, including the certification it has received from Underwriters Laboratories, the first of its kind in the legal industry, and ISO 9001:2000 registration (a global quality management standard).  Several of our team members have responded by becoming trained in Six Sigma, (a global quality methodology) including one member achieving a Master Black Belt, the highest level of certification possible and a rare accomplishment.

6. What has been the reaction from your competitors, or from the local legal community and media?

Novus Law has shared this honor mostly with our clients, their law firms and friends of our firm and they have all been thrilled.  The legal community reaction has been very positive.  A large and growing number of law firms have approached us to learn more about how to achieve better results for their clients while helping them save money.  Their goals are to develop stronger relationships with their clients or to create a differential advantage in the competitive marketplace for complex litigation.

7. What advice do you have for others who might wish to make something new happen in their law practice or firm?

Sometimes the most worthy initiatives are the most difficult and daunting – otherwise someone would have already done them.  Bringing a team of individuals together who have different backgrounds and experience helps create the best outcome in the most difficult of initiatives and allows everyone to learn more from each other.

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about your experience with this project?

This initiative is one very small part of a larger goal of creating certainty and improving quality in the e-discovery process for litigation.  At Novus Law, we believe that the benefits of a more accurate and quality-focused process can be realized by attorneys, clients and the legal industry.

We are pleased to watch interest grow amongst our clients and within in the legal industry for the positive impact of innovation, and optimistic that the legal community will continue to embrace further advancements in quality.

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