Michael Conner is Director of Global Business Development at NightOwl Discovery. I interviewed him at Legaltech in New York about the relationship between clients, lawyers and eDiscovery providers.
Much of NightOwl’s business involves offering services directly to clients, generally on multi-year agreements. The clients have direct relationships with both the eDiscovery provider and the lawyers and this, Michael Conner says, can set up “a nuanced relationship”.
Who then is in charge of the eDiscovery project? Logically, it ought to be the client. Michael Conner says that it is generally left to the law firms and the service provider to get on with the job, with an assumption on the part of the client that they will work together. One of the issues here, Michael Conner says, is that law firms often have their own relationships with service providers and, perhaps, would rather work with them. This attitude fades, he says, after two or three projects.
One of the benefits of the multi-year relationships is that NightOwl can invest in the client, getting to understand its systems and to know its people. Corporations are now selecting fewer firms and fewer providers to work with, and the same combinations get to work with each other more often. This allows faster productivity and reduces the costs. Although cost is obviously important, it does not seem to be the main driver for all clients.
I quoted Professor Richard Susskind’s observation (derived from surveys in both the UK and the US) that the only area in which the lawyers are uniquely qualified is dealing with tactics, strategy and, in the US at least, advocacy. For many lawyers, dealing with the mechanics of eDiscovery gives them no great pleasure of profit anyway.
Michael Conner said that as technical evolution speeds up, becoming more specialised and more technical, many lawyers preferred to focus on the things they do well while NightOwl delivers the technical elements.