By: iDiscovery Solutions on 7/15/2020
Ask attorneys why they went to law school, and they’ll likely tell you it was to make a difference. As a former practicing attorney for a legal aid organization, iDiscovery Solutions’ pro bono program ambassador, Avani Patel, has learned just what a difference e-discovery services can make in the lives of low-income litigants.
Since our inception, iDS has been committed to leveraging the expertise and technology to provide equitable expert services. However, with the introduction of an official pro bono program in 2019, we redoubled our efforts in bringing industry-wide culture change, offering forensic investigation, data analytics, cybersecurity, and subject matter expert testimony work – free of charge – for numerous worthy causes and clients.
Background: The Need For Change
Before joining iDS as a Business Development Manager, Avani had been a public interest law attorney for several years. She was often frustrated by the costly fees lower income group litigants faced when they were unable to retain a pro bono attorney. She knew that for these clients, paying legal fees could often mean not being able to pay rent or put food on the table.
As a litigator, Avani’s practice primarily focused on housing, bankruptcy, domestic relations, and probate matters. At the time, she had little sense of how crucial a role technology could play in many of her cases. For instance, during discovery most parties typically produced paper documents. Forensic collections of a mobile device or social media account or expert testimony of a party’s geolocation were rarely asked for. Her assumption was that such services would be outside the scope of her clients’ budgets.
Avani certainly was not alone. While court reporting and translation services companies often provide free services to indigent litigants, several other service providers tend to offer reduced rates. Unfortunately, even with reduced rates, e-discovery and expert testimony services can still be prohibitively expensive for pro bono budgets in particular, which are often limited.
Thanks to efforts from companies like iDS, barriers to pro bono legal tech expert services are slowly being dismantled. For instance, many attorneys often want to take on a pro bono matter but find it difficult to fit it into their schedule. By partnering with us, we are able to provide support to help alleviate time spent on eDiscovery.
Pro Bono Now
From exonerations to unpaid wages and housing evictions, there are numerous matters that have issues which can benefit from eDiscovery technology and expert testimony services.
Recently, iDS partnered with an AmLaw firm to provide eDiscovery services for a pro bono child custody matter. Our team forensically collected (i.e., imaged) a mobile device, a laptop, an email account, and a social media account. Additionally, we also provided forensic consulting services. Although, this matter is still pending, our client has informed us that our services were “super helpful.”
In uncertain times such as the current global pandemic, these services are even more essential. For instance, iDS has seen an increase in instances of legal issues related to domestic relations and employment. In this critical context, our commitment to equitable eDiscovery continues as we assist individuals and organizations faced with the difficult task of gathering information.
Impacting The Industry
From Guantanamo Bay detainees to victims of predatory debt practices and cyber hacking, our pro bono work has already made a difference for many clients who otherwise would not have had access to these services. But at iDS, we also have another goal in mind: have all companies in our industry provide free pro bono services.
On one level, pro bono outreach involves raising the awareness of litigators. Avani hopes that the ongoing efforts at iDS will continue to make more lawyers aware that they don’t have to cut into their pro bono budgets to pay for eDiscovery services. Not being able to afford eDiscovery services, she points out, is no longer an excuse to ignore them.
Pro bono work not only benefits the clients and communities that receive the services – it also enhances the culture of organizations themselves. As Avani notes, having a greater cause is an essential reminder of what eDiscovery, at its best, is all about. Organizations that fail to keep up with such changes could also become obsolete if they don’t learn to adapt.
Signs Of Change
At the recent Pro Bono Institute’s Annual Conference, signs of a culture shift were on full display. Nonprofits, law firms, and in-house pro bono groups are all trying to do a lot of good. That’s something iDS has also strived to achieve since we opened our doors.
While a handful of eDiscovery organizations have pro bono programs like ours at iDS, such efforts are still far from being an industry standard. Avani hopes that leading by example will encourage other service providers to step up and do their part in making a difference. After all, as we have believed at iDS for over a decade, eDiscovery solutions shouldn’t be available only to those who can afford them.
iDiscovery Solutions, Inc. (iDS) is an award-winning, global, and expert services firm that delivers customized, innovative solutions for legal and corporate clients’ complex challenges. iDS’ subject matter experts testify and consult in connection with electronic discovery (eDiscovery), digital forensics, data analytics, and cybersecurity/information governance.