You’ve probably heard large law firms are tightening their belts by cutting attorney ranks and eliminating professional staff. This is no surprise after law firms raced to hire lawyers throughout the last two years to keep up with the deal demand. But the market is adjusting itself, resulting in rising interest rates, high inflation, and recession fears.
Refinitiv released data that indicated the lowest activity of mergers and acquisitions in more than a decade in the first quarter of 2023. As some large firms continue to advise on fewer deals with smaller values, others have trimmed their attorney ranks.
Shearman & Sterling, Davis Wright Tremaine, Goodwin, and Cooley have laid off staff, citing a slowdown in work. Lowenstein Sandler, an Am Law 200 law firm, has laid off 16 business professionals across three offices. One of the most successful Biglaw firms, Kirkland and Ellis have released staff across 4 offices, though they have maintained that this was performance-based.
On a case-by-case basis, firms are also taking into account postponing the start dates of their new associates. As young lawyers face a challenging job market, the ones who do have jobs have the pressure to bill more hours or face layoffs. Paralegals and support staff — the backbone of firms — are either being given more responsibility or have completely been let go.
As fears of more layoffs continue to rise among new associates and paralegals, let’s look at another side.
A way to keep the team intact and avoid the dreaded 'L' word? Enter legal software.
The Cost of Layoffs for Large Law Firms
With a 2% drop in demand for transactional work and the third-straight quarter of decline in profits-per-lawyer, overall law firm demand has declined.
When employees see their colleagues losing their jobs, it can create feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about their own job security. This, in turn, can lead to decreased morale and job satisfaction, as employees feel less invested in their work. This can lead to a mass exodus at your firm.
Combine this with a toxic work environment and you have a recipe for a cultural disaster. This is where we'll do our obligatory mention of that notorious Paul Hastings slide. As far as culture is concerned, Biglaw already had an optics issue. The non-negotiables from Paul Hastings didn’t help.
While some say it isn’t surprising, some think it was an intentional publicity stunt, and still others were shocked and disturbed, we’ve seen wider discourse on mental health issues within the legal industry, and a lot of discussion on rampant toxicity in firm culture. Rounds of layoffs certainly don't do much to heal that image, even if your firm is great to its employees.
Law firms are not only paying the price of reduced demand but also dwindling optimism in firm culture. As such, it could be hard to find quality candidates when you're ready to hire again.
The Role of eDiscovery Software in Reducing Costs
Whether it's re-aligning business priorities or reducing costs, there's a better way to weather the storm than sacrificing jobs.
Because even with layoffs, vendors might not be out of the picture. That’s a problem.
You know when you're trying to impress someone by ordering the fanciest drink on the menu, but then you realize it doesn't even taste that good, it’s just expensive? That's kind of what it's like when law firms turn to vendors instead of doing work like eDiscovery themselves.
Firms can have associates and paralegals do eDiscovery work that they would normally pay outside vendors to do. Why would they? Because getting rid of vendors means you can bring more eDiscovery work in-house without adding new resources. By doing it in-house, firms can cut costs for clients and can maintain their own profits by billing back for the cost of eDiscovery.
That’s right, you can essentially implement eDiscovery technology for free because you can bill the software cost right back to your clients. Plus, charge them for the hours used for conducting eDiscovery.
It's a win-win, and you get to feel like a legal Liam Neeson.
Instead of asking associates and paralegals to “explore options elsewhere,” firms can equip them with the technology that enables them to put in more billable hours. Paralegals are the discoverers, so why not give them the tools to be even more discover-y?
Data processing and culling can be performed in-house through tools like Logikcull which automate these processes. Give the task to an associate or paralegal and let the billing roll.
Plus, you’ll have happier clients. Think about it: What can make clients hate you..?
Legal software for law firms takes the friction out as you keep your staff and say goodbye to third-party vendors. Tools like Logikcull allow you to handle discovery without vendors, run-away bills, or angry clients.
Overcoming Barriers to eDiscovery Software Adoption
Digital data is exploding. That’s no secret. The 2020 Data Attack Surface Report estimated that by 2025, data stored in the cloud will reach 200 zettabytes (that’s 200 with 21 zeros).
Identifying relevant information is more important now than ever and unstructured data can add to the chaos. Security concerns continue to haunt firms, especially in the absence of strong data protection laws.
So why aren’t more firms adopting eDiscovery software? Let’s uncover the barriers to adopting eDiscovery software for law firms.
eDiscovery costs can be huge, making up 20 to 50 percent of all costs in federal civil litigation, according to some estimates. In some cases, the discovery process can end up costing clients hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, like in the case of Samsung ($13 million in discovery costs).
When it comes to eDiscovery software, the significant upfront investments can discourage law firms to commit their dollars, especially without clear returns on investment. Apart from upfront costs, eDiscovery software costs can include upgrades, support, and of course the cost of data storage.
However, without good software, eDiscovery can end up costing you more than money. Insecure and slow solutions carry serious risks, including potential security breaches, court sanctions, and straight-up loss of sanity. And then there are opportunity costs (like time lost to slow software).
With the right eDiscovery tool, like Logikcull, there are no hidden fees for support, and huge amounts of data can be stored at no additional cost. This means your costs are predictable right from the start. Plus, if you’re having your associates and paralegals do eDiscovery work, you’re essentially getting the tool for free by billing the cost back to clients.
Data comes from various sources, including desktop computers, laptops, servers, messaging apps like Slack, smartphones, and cloud storage like Google, Microsoft, Box, and more. Each source will have its own unique format, structure, and metadata, making it challenging to handle the complexity.
Any eDiscovery software will have a learning curve, but the right tool should be fairly intuitive to pick up. Training can be intimidating for law firms who have done something the same way for years. But the time spent learning new tech will pay off when you’re billing more hours for conducting discovery work in-house.
Logikcull aims to be as intuitive as possible. Direct integrations with commonly used tools like Slack and Vault make things easy. After all, why make you upload heaps of data manually or by importing it on a spreadsheet when we can process it directly? For all the other data, it’s a simple drag and drop. The goal is to get your team started as quickly as possible, and we’ll be there to support you (at no additional cost).
Law firms can get comfortable with existing processes and systems and that’s a no-brainer. Naturally, making a progression toward eDiscovery technology can be hard.
Existing workloads can discourage employees from even considering eDiscovery software. In fact, change management is a typical problem with legal technology because of how stretched implementation timelines can get, taking away time and resources and disrupting existing workflows. Not to mention that technology favoring efficiency doesn’t always jive well with the billable hour.
But eDiscovery software for law firms includes dozens of process improvements, such as organizing and filtering data, surfacing responsive documents, streamlining doc review, and making it easier to search for evidence. And when we’re talking about people’s jobs being on the line, managing the change and training your associates and paralegals to use eDiscovery software allows you to keep those roles intact while billing more hours.
Mitigate Layoffs — Say Hello to Cost-Predictable eDiscovery!
While technology has improved vastly over recent years, eDiscovery costs have not. We still see vendors driving the costs of even modestly sized cases into the five-figures-a-month range.
Law firms can have their associates and paralegals do eDiscovery work, making costs much more predictable as the work is brought in-house, and they can bill back the time for the use of eDiscovery tools, paving the way for revenue growth. Not only that — eDiscovery platforms empower firms to improve service levels by leveraging the time and efficiency gains for shorter turnarounds. You keep the clients happy with quick turnarounds, the firm happy with eDiscovery billing, and the staff happy by keeping them employed.
If you’d like to see how Logikcull can help you reduce costs and increase revenue all while keeping your staff intact, book a quick demo with us today.