Earlier today, Clearwell announced Version 5.0 of its e-discovery platform. Unlike prior versions which focused on processing, early case analysis, and first-pass review, this release extends Clearwell's capabilities in two directions: upstream, by adding pre-processing; and downstream, by adding document-by-document review and production. I wanted to say a few words about what motivated these changes, and why the new release greatly increases Clearwell's value to enterprises, government agencies, law firms, and litigation support service providers.
Over the past year, the benefits of early case analysis and first pass review have driven hundreds of companies to adopt Clearwell. They have saved huge amounts of money and time, and often become evangelists for the product. But despite that, we continually hear that the overall e-discovery process remains expensive, unpredictable, and risky. When we investigated why, we found the problem lies less in the features of the products being used than in the number of products used.
Once data is collected, a typical e-discovery process today may involve as many 4 different tools: one for filtering by custodians or date range, another for de-duplication and keyword search, another for load file creation, and yet another for review and production. Each time data moves between these tools, and there's a handoff from one to another, there's the risk that document counts do not tie out, data does not convert correctly, or any of a hundred other things go wrong. This risk is magnified by the fact that e-discovery is highly iterative: custodians are often added or keywords changed as new information comes to light, forcing people to redo many steps of the process. As a result, timelines are unpredictable and it's hard to stick to a budget, even with extensive project management which itself is not cheap.
Since the problem lies in the handoffs between different products, it's impossible to solve this problem by making any one part of the process better. The only solution is to have a single product that can manage collected data from soup (filtering / pre-processing) to nuts (production). Prior to today's announcement, that product did not exist: there was no single, integrated product that could do everything from process data to review and produce it. And that, in summary, is why Clearwell is releasing Version 5.0.
With Clearwell's new product, there are no handoffs, no uncertainty about how long it will take to export out of one tool and into another. There's no need to cobble together a string of different products or train lawyers on multiple different interfaces and workflows. As a result, the risks of cost overruns or missed deadlines are greatly reduced.
To our mind, this is just part of a natural evolutionary process that affects many markets, not just e-discovery. Who wants to carry a Palm Pilot, iPod, and a mobile phone when you can carry a single device like the iPhone? Who wants a cable receiver and a TiVo when you can get both in a single set-top box? As markets mature, there develops a logical package of functionality that customers prefer to buy from a single, integrated provider.