Think carefully before hitting that send button. The cost of having independent attorneys review 2500 documents (mostly internal emails) that Merck had claimed subject to the attorney-client privilege was $400,000. That $160/email expense is, of course, just the cost of the independent review, and does not include the cost of attorneys litigating whether the documents should be produced to the other side. Judge Eldon Fallon ruled some documents were privileged, and others must be produced; both sides claim victory in reporting by Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog.
The explosion in document creation has caused a litigation explosion in document discovery. This has had multiple effects: first, it encourages the settlement of meritless claims, because of the expense of defending such claims when document discovery can take place. This in turn encourages the bringing of meritless claims, as their extortion value goes up if plaintiffs can force defendants to spend millions of dollars defending themselves.
Separately, the explosion in document discovery has caused a leap in the demand for attorneys, and, in my opinion, is a large part of the recent increase in law-firm associate salaries. And applications to top law schools would drop precipitously if incoming law students had any idea what percentage of high-paid associates’ time is taken up on document discovery disputes over questions of attorney-client privilege.