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Lessons from One Law Firm's Journey to SaaS e-Discovery

Keely McKee

Many organizations and firms are working toward cloud mandates—or already have them in place—and the race to find cloud solutions for nearly all enterprise applications is on. What many realize as they embark on this journey is that not all cloud solutions are created equal.

In a recent Relativity webinar, “Going Cloud: How to Tackle 5 Hurdles to Transforming Your Business,” Chris Haley, director of legal technology at Troutman Sanders eMerge—alongside leaders from FTI Consulting and BDO—shared his experiences moving e-discovery to the cloud and why eMerge decided to go with a Software as a Service (SaaS) model for their practice.

Deciding on the Cloud Route

When Troutman Sanders eMerge decided to reevaluate the infrastructure behind their e-discovery services, they realized that traditional infrastructure wouldn’t cut it in the future. It became clear that moving to the cloud was the best option to set the firm up for success.

“The cloud affords us scalability and performance that can be adjusted from day to day, or even minute to minute, as opposed to a traditional infrastructure model where we have to go out and purchase extra hardware, software, and resources for our busiest times even though we might not use it some or even most of the time,” said Haley.

Security was, of course, another top concern for Troutman Sanders eMerge. With clients trusting their attorneys and legal teams with their most sensitive data, the firm makes it a top priority to ensure they’re keeping client data secure.

Overall, they determined the cloud was the best approach for the firm’s needs. “We wanted to make sure that the infrastructure solution was highly secure, highly performant, and highly scalable. And the cloud provides all of those things. The mass movement of corporations to Office 365 is a prime example,” said Haley.

Hitting Roadblocks with DIY Cloud Infrastructure

Making the decision to move to the cloud was just the beginning for Troutman Sanders eMerge. At the time almost two years ago, the firm looked but couldn’t find a SaaS e-discovery option that was able to handle the large volumes of data and customizability to meet their needs, so they explored the idea of going to the cloud on their own.

After evaluating their cloud options, they decided on Microsoft Azure. “Relativity and other e-discovery tools are built on Microsoft technology, and when we looked at what our clients were doing, most of them were already using Azure or were on their way to Azure, directly or through Office 365,” explained Haley.

The firm hired a Microsoft partner to help them get Relativity set up in Azure and support a healthy and secure cloud computing environment, but they ran into challenges when starting the migration.

“We had some issues and it became clear that there were some difficulties in working with someone who wasn’t fully versed in what we do, our industry, and the applications we use. e-Discovery is very different than other industries. We have to deal with millions and millions of very small files, very complex databases, and high security requirements,” said Haley.

Troutman Sanders eMerge eventually paused the project to reevaluate which path to the cloud made sense for their business. 

Taking Another Look at the SaaS Path

The firm took a step back to reexamine their cloud options. After encountering some of the complexities of managing a DIY cloud infrastructure, they started to reconsider a SaaS approach to remove some of the burden from the firm, allowing them focus on serving their clients and growing their business.

“Don’t underestimate the effort that’s needed to migrate and maintain your own cloud infrastructure,” said Haley. “A SaaS solution could take a lot of the headache, worry, and effort away from us and put it on the SaaS solution provider so that we can focus on what we do best—providing great legal and e-discovery services for our clients.”

But it was more than the effort and worry that made them seriously consider a SaaS solution: Cost played a large role in the firm’s decision.

“What pushed us over the edge to a SaaS model rather than managing our own infrastructure in the cloud was looking at the true cost. That meant that we needed to look at not only the cost of the technology but the people and processes necessary to build, maintain, patch, upgrade, and secure the infrastructure not just on day one, but ongoing, month after month and year after year. The pace of change in technology, the cloud itself, our industry, and keeping up with the security/regulatory requirements would be a significant cost to us over time,” said Haley. “So we decided to take another look at RelativityOne.”

“What pushed us over the edge to a SaaS model rather than managing our own infrastructure in the cloud was looking at the true cost. ... RelativityOne allowed us to complete our transition to the cloud in a fraction of the time and with significantly less effort than it would have taken us to do it on our own."

In addition to the scalability, performance, and security standards that Troutman Sanders eMerge required, there was another box they needed to check before making the move to SaaS. Because they use various custom solutions built by the firm’s team, as well as third-party applications, it was critical that RelativityOne have the capability to run these applications and for the Troutman Sanders eMerge team to have the ability to create new customizations on the platform.

“We use our custom solutions and our expertise in Relativity to help market our business and provide advanced solutions to our clients. It is a key differentiator and one of the many reasons why our clients choose eMerge—it had to go with us to the cloud,” explained Haley.

The firm worked closely with Relativity to address their requirements and spent significant time evaluating RelativityOne before determining that the SaaS solution met their needs. “RelativityOne allowed us to complete our transition to the cloud in a fraction of the time and with significantly less effort than it would have taken us to do it on our own. We look forward to spending less and less time dealing with infrastructure management issues and more time helping our clients save money and reduce risk,” said Haley.

Learn More About Transforming Your Business with the Cloud

Keely McKee is a member of the creative team at Relativity, specializing in content development.