It was Twitter, of course, which first brought the news that Guidance Software had agreed to acquire CaseCentral. The first tweet came so early that the Guidance web page announcing the deal was a blank placeholder; its page title confirmed that the story was true, but there was as yet no content. The tweets multiplied and the official Guidance Software announcement appeared shortly afterwards.
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for eDiscovery Software, published in May 2011, opened with two “Strategic Planning Assumptions”:
By 2014, consolidation will have eliminated one in every four enterprise e-discovery vendors.
By 2013, software as a service (SaaS) and business process utilities will account for 75% of the revenue derived from processing, review, analysis and production of electronically stored information (ESI).
Although the report was, as its name suggests, concerned with eDiscovery software vendors, the consolidation prediction was made in respect of the wider eDiscovery vendor market, implying, correctly as it has turned out so far, that we would see aggregation of the various components of the externally-provided eDiscovery process.
The Magic Quadrant itself appeared opposite the Strategic Planning Assumptions, showing Guidance Software as a Leader and CaseCentral amongst the Visionaries. Of those whose names appeared there, Autonomy had already acquired the digital assets of Iron Mountain by the time the Magic Quadrant appeared, and has itself since been acquired by HP (who was not itself qualified to appear in the Quadrant). Symantec has bought Clearwell. Epiq Systems had just increased its size and its range by the acquisition of Encore eDiscovery Solutions, extending both its software and its services portfolio, and has since added De Novo Legal which combines processing, hosting and review services.
We have a long way to go to 2014, but Gartner’s prediction looks sound. No one really disagreed anyway and, wherever two or more eDiscovery people are gathered together, one will gently probe the others for clues as to the next most likely acquisition. For the avoidance of doubt, I know nothing, but will not be surprised when Twitter brings the next announcement.
A second relevant strand here lies in a report commissioned by FTI Technology and published in January which I wrote about here. One of its conclusions was what I described as “a clear trend towards the reduction in the number of providers used by any one company”. My summary continued:
Last time this question was asked, the average was around five; now it is down to three as clients seek greater control through fewer points of contact, better insight into what is going on, and more ability to negotiate economies of scale and other terms.
The desire for fewer points of contact reflects more than mere administrative convenience and, in that charming phrase, having only “one butt to kick”. The fewer the handovers between providers, the less the risk that the ball will be dropped between them or that unnecessary expense will be incurred on the transfer. That in turn encourages providers to simplify the transition from one stage to another, either by a shared data structure or by connectors which manage the transition without human intervention.
This, as well as the need to own as much of the process as possible (particularly that 75% of the revenue which Gartner predicts for SaaS) will have been a major driver for Guidance Software in acquiring CaseCentral and the large client base which it has for its cloud-based services.
Guidance brings legal hold, identification, collection, preservation, processing and first-pass review; CaseCentral has early case assessment, review and production capabilities. They therefore meet in the middle at the ECA stage. Guidance Software CEO, Victor Limongelli, says that clients will be able to choose whether the ECA is done locally or online.
The last vendor booth which I visited as LegalTech was closing was CaseCentral’s, catching up with Steve d’Alencon to follow up a conversation I had with him at the tail end of last year. I had spoken to Victor Limongelli the night before at the Electronic Discovery Institute dinner. It is just as well that I am not an investigative journalist or I would have cursed the missed opportunity for an early scoop on the news which broke five days later.
CaseCentral was, as it happens, the very first US eDiscovery company with which I had any dealings, back at the dawn of time in 2001. I was then a developer of litigation software and was instructed to manage the export of data from my application to CaseCentral. My eclectic data repository includes a CaseCentral advertisement from 2000 which shows that CaseCentral took Stand 43 at what was called Legal Tech London, in May at the Barbican. Under the rather curious headline Roll the wheels of justice gently over their heads, the advertisement reads:
Introducing casecentral.com, the document repository service with the power of the Internet. Gain instant, secure access to all of your case materials, any hour of the day or night. Coordinate the efforts of multiple legal teams. Eliminate the errors and delays caused by handling mountains of paper. Best of all, use the power of our document storage, searching, and collaboration tools to beat the living daylights out of the opposition.
There are not many eDiscovery product descriptions from 2000 which work almost as well twelve years later.
The Orange Rag’s Charles Christian, tweeting about the acquisition, went straight to the point as always, asking if CaseCentral’s Case in Point cartoons were to continue. The prompt answer from CaseCentral is that they will, continuing to bring a smile to those of us who look for any light relief in the serious business of electronic discovery.
I wish both companies well as they join what Victor Limongelli described as “the largest pure-play e-discovery software company, with nearly 500 total employees, and thousands of users.”