Aside from Blair, there are two partners and three directors with the rest of the group split between associates and technologists. The more senior lawyers advise clients on litigation readiness and the rest of the team handles the spectrum of e-discovery, from collections to processing and hosting to review.
Blair said the vast majority of firms have someone like her a lawyer who understands e-discovery. But often that work is done part-time, she said. The predominant model at this point, she said, is for there to be a lawyer who understands the legal and tech issues, has a few litigation support people in-house to assist and outsources the rest of the process. Oftentimes firms will do some processing and document review through Concordance or Summation, she said.
At Morgan Lewis, the firm still uses Concordance for its smaller matters and had purchased Recommind's Axcelerate technology with predictive coding for the firm's largest, most sophisticated matters.
Blair said the firm realized it didn't always need the "big guns," as many matters could be handled in more "middle-market" technology. So this summer the firm invested in a third software platform, kCura's Relativity with Equivio.
Morgan Lewis does e-discovery work for its own clients and also goes out and competes against vendors and other firms to serve as discovery counsel even when Morgan Lewis isn't the merits counsel on a matter, Blair said.
The associates in the eData practice serve as project managers, shepherding the document review process along and doing some of it themselves. Morgan Lewis also has a contingent of 200 to 300 document review contract lawyers on staff. The contract lawyers aren't hired for specific matters, but rather serve at the firm continually, and often for years at a time, Blair said. Document review is not outsourced to vendors, she said.
Morgan Lewis has four document review centers two in Philadelphia, one in Washington and one in San Francisco. The firm also has a small center in New York for specialized matters, such as foreign language review.
"There's a certain level of competency every lawyer has to have now and every firm needs to meet that threshold and competently give legal advice related to discovery," Blair said. "Now whether you want to make an investment, and it really is ... some might say that's not our sweet spot or core competency and we'll just develop the basic level needed and outsource the rest. That's perfectly reasonable."
Blair said Morgan Lewis felt it was worth the investment to insource and could structure the department to deliver cost-effective, high-quality work. She said the eData practice also gives her colleagues in other practice areas a competitive advantage when they are pitching for work.
Blair said it could be challenging to bring work in-house in the current environment because clients have become very good at unbundling the litigation process and often put out the discovery piece to a competitive bid.