A lot of what I write suggests to law firms that their clients’ interests and, indeed, their own, may lie in delegating much of their eDiscovery / eDisclosure function to others. I usually link this to Professor Richard Susskind’s observation about how law firms must find ways of working which are quicker, cheaper, more efficient or to a higher quality “using different and new methods of working”.
Outsourcing, in its various guises, must be considered in this context, whether that be by using software which is hosted and managed by someone else or by taking advantage of the many (and competing) managed review services which can often perform this most expensive component of eDiscovery / eDisclosure to a quality and at a cost which few law firms can match.
I am careful always to make it clear that outsourcing is not the answer in every case, but is something which should be considered alongside purely internal solutions. As the UK moves towards costs budgeting and enforced proportionality, the ability to offer alternative ways of giving disclosure becomes more important. You do not need to be driven by the rules of any one jurisdiction to want to be able to offer clients and the court a range of options.
This is not really a debate, in the sense that there is no right answer – that varies with the size of the case and the resources of the firm among other things. What lawyers need is a summary of the pros and cons of (at the widest) choosing to insource litigation support or to send it out. I do not have to attempt this, because it has already been done.
An article on Law Technology News by Bryon Bratcher and Tom Baldwin of Reed Smith is headed 6 Reasons to Insource Litigation Support. It opens with a link to Ralph Losey’s article from last year called 5 Reasons to Outsource Litigation Support. As you would expect from the article’s title, Reed Smith has built the in-house litigation support department which qualifies them to write about it. As they make clear, they in fact adopt a hybrid approach, using outside vendors when necessary, so are far from one-sided in their views, nor do they seek to challenge what Ralph Losey says. This is a horses for courses discussion.
None of their six points are unexpected. They identify cost savings for clients, expertise, institutional knowledge, trust, accountability and vendor management, and one could throw any of these into the other side of the argument, as they acknowledge. Much of the decision-making turns on factors like anticipated volume and size of cases (and the ambition to grow that) and on the firm’s appetite for investment in technology and people.
Reed Smith itself has a large Relativity environment, and use Equivio for its analytics and for e-mail threading. The article refers to Axcelerate from Recommind and Viewpoint from Xerox as other examples of software which can be brought in house, making it clear (as I do) that there are others of equal calibre. What Reed Smith chose is no indicator of what is right for anybody else – any firm undertaking this kind of investment will do a full survey of the market, comparing not only the in-house route with outsourcing but all the competing products available for in-house use. They will also consider a mixed model, allowing them to undertake work up to a certain capacity whilst sending the rest outside.
The range of choices may appear bewildering. On the whole, however, it is good to have options. There is still time to book a flight to LegalTech in New York next week where you can see all these things for yourself and talk to both the people who offer them and those who use them.