Lichter created a working group within the firm to examine the best approaches with an eye toward making a decision by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
"My focus is on ensuring we provide the best litigation discovery support to clients and if the best way is to make particular investments in technology, that is what we'll do," he said.
But backing the wrong horse in terms of investing seven figures in technology that might quickly become obsolete is a concern, Lichter said.
Regardless of whether Pepper Hamilton takes the "all-in" approach adopted by firms such as Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, WilmerHale or, more recently, Drinker Biddle & Reath, the firm needs to remain flexible and have the ability to give clients more than one offering considering many clients are creating their own preferred relationships with vendors, Lichter said.
David Cowen's company, The Cowen Group, focuses in part on placing e-discovery lawyers with law firms and law departments. He recently surveyed a number of his clients and found that more than 40 Am Law 200 firms are looking to move in the opposite direction of an "all-in" model and considering using managed services providers.
"It's quite remarkable the number of firms outsourcing to a managed services model," Cowen said.
The law firms that are making the capital investments in the people, processes and technology to bring e-discovery services in-house have a strong handle on what their clients' needs are and are making a strategic decision based on that rather than an opportunistic move, Cowen said.
Even if firms own a license to e-discovery software, Cowen said there is a "very healthy appetite" to outsource the infrastructure. The legal technology, which runs the bell curve in terms of sophistication within law firms, is often the first to go. Then firms start looking at whether to outsource the project managers and technicians as well, Cowen said.
Jennifer Schwartz of The Cowen Group cautioned that just because firms are outsourcing doesn't mean they are washing their hands of the e-discovery process.
"Firms aren't interested in owning the commoditized process piece, but still want resources to manage the quality of that work," she said.