3. Institutional knowledge
Also important to mention is the institutional expertise of the litigation support team that spawns from working side-by-side daily with a firm's lawyers in high-pressure situations. It creates efficiencies in a multitude of areas from daily project management through trial preparation and presentation. Internal litigation support teams have a deep understanding of the typical e-discovery project profiles and the historical technology solutions employed across the various practice groups, giving life to internal automation. After all, reducing the amount of manual tasks on a project can reduce risk.
Having a grasp of the various lawyer personalities and work preferences cannot be underestimated. For example, the institutional knowledge litigation support brings from assisting with witness preparation and running the courtroom presentation at multiple trials with the same lawyers further streamlines the litigation process. The litigation support professional has been close to the electronic evidence and exhibits throughout the entire project, and may be able to organize and recall exhibits "on the fly" more effectively than an outside vendor.
Litigation support professionals and lawyers working alongside each other on a daily basis also builds trust. Why is this important? As the rules and technology constantly evolve, it's nearly impossible for most busy litigators to stay on top of all of the changes. Yet some of the technological marvels that are meant to provide the greatest reduction in e-discovery costs can be the hardest for lawyers to embrace. Take data analytics and predictive coding, for example. Coming from a faceless, often unavailable, vendor, this technology may seem like voodoo magic. However, when presented jointly or endorsed by the same people who have slugged it out with them at trial, or saved their bacon with last-minute production deadlines, it is viewed more openly. One cannot understate the importance of trust.
Litigation support teams have more at stake than vendors when it comes to accountability on a case. The lawyers they work with are part of the same internal team with the mutual goal of obtaining the best possible outcome for clients. If a mistake is made by a vendor, the vendor may take responsibility, but there is a separation from outside counsel that can insulate them from complete accountability. At the end of the day it's the law firm that may get slapped with a sanction. To be fair, many e-discovery vendors provide high-quality services with the utmost professionalism (Reed Smith partners with several vendors that fit that mold). However, lawyers often find it more difficult to have the same level of confidence in a vendor that isn't in the trenches with them every day, like their internal litigation support team is. Most law firm litigation support teams operate under a slightly different set of expectations. They reside in the same office, walk the same halls and have to face the legal team day in and day out. As a result, there's an extra incentive to execute at a high level.
6. Vendor management
No matter how many e-discovery services a law firm brings in-house, it will always have a need for e-discovery vendors. There are certainly scenarios where a vendor is a better choice for a project: A specialized service (ex. backup tape restoration), a client request, or perhaps a decision based on scope.
Therefore, it's important for a law firm to have a deep understanding of the e-discovery vendor community in order to match the appropriate solution and price to the project. However, it's not easy to stay current with such a dynamic industry. Hundreds of vendors purport to provide high-quality and defensible e-discovery solutions. In any given year, dozens of acquisitions, mergers and new shops are sprouting up in the community.
According to the 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant Report, there have been more than 25 major vendor mergers and acquisitions in the past three years, and more than 40 instances of this in the past five years. This doesn't even take into account the smaller regional instances. Separating the proverbial vendor wheat from the chaff is time consuming. It's a constant process of evaluating the people, processes and technology utilized by each.
This is an area where an internal litigation support department provides additional utility by managing this continuous evaluation. The end result is an internal guide to e-discovery vendors and technology for the law firm and its clients to leverage.
FOLLOW THE 'EVIDENCE'
In this multibillion-dollar industry, many law firms have built internal business units to handle e-discovery service segments traditionally outsourced. According to the 2012 Am Law Market Snapshot published by the Cowen Group, 70 percent of law firms reported an increase in workload for their litigation support and e-discovery departments. Forty-three percent of firms anticipate adding to their litigation support and e-discovery staff, and 50 percent of firms reported plans to increase their e-discovery technology spend.