For law firms who seek to bolster their internal e-discovery capabilities -- either to capture more billable work or to provide better client value-add -- one of the most daunting challenges is getting the various appendages of the firm to become aware, and appreciate the value, of the tools and resources the firm has invested in.
There is an assumption that just because a firm has "brought [insert software of choice] in-house," that said solution is being used by everyone all the time. Often, this is hardly the case. And the problem can grow more acute the bigger and more diffuse the firm is, both in geography and operations -- though there are certainly exceptions (e.g. Winston & Strawn; Vinson & Elkins, etc.).
It's useful thinking about larger law firms as federations of solo attorneys operating under one marketing banner. There are shared resources available to each, but it doesn't mean they are being consumed.
Below are observations and ideas derived from, and specific to, a conversation we had with a national e-discovery manager at an AmLaw 200 firm. The firm has more than 30 offices across the United States and has two in-house e-discovery solutions, but neither is being used to capacity.
Multiple obstacles to increasing adoption of internal tools exist
Ad hoc approach to vendor selection increases costs, headaches
The challenge to increase internal adoption of a given e-discovery solution is largely one of education. In this case, the e-discovery manager is not just the discovery operations and logistics quarterback, she is the champion, liaison, marketer and head of customer (i.e. firm attorneys) success. In a sense, she is a rainmaker working in tandem with the provider trying to acquire the business of attorneys and other potential users -- and it is interesting in that light to hear the manger refer to attorneys as "internal clients."
This battle is one that must be hard fought, no doubt, but worth pursuing if it leads to more internal efficiency and, thus potential billable hours; cost reduction and avoidance; higher quality of work life for those involved in the e-discovery process; and the other potential value adds that may result from unifying and streamlining the discovery process (e.g. more data security; less risk exposure arising from vendor error or poor quality of work; less potential for fee disputes). Centralizing the e-discovery function inside a firm also generally results in consolidating decision making with the person or group of people who are most knowledgable about e-discovery and its associated costs, complexities, and potential value adds.
What we've found is that it helps to have the e-discovery function consolidated around an internal operations group with some amount of authority -- whether that's litigation support, IT, an e-discovery practice group, or a department that exclusively deals with discovery. The fact that this specific firm hired a top-notch national e-discovery manager -- a role new to the firm -- to track usage metrics, run point on high-value e-discovery projects, and develop value propositions for certain tools and vendors over others suggest that decision-makers at the firm understand this consolidation of authority is needed and of value.
Litigation support professionals and others who are waging this internal battle should be forthcoming with their vendor or software provider about the resources they need to develop the value proposition and show ROI. They should demand from, and work with, the provider to develop collateral, metrics, training opportunities and other materials to make a strong internal case for broader adoption. By the same token, the provider should be enthusiastic about these efforts, and work to reduce the friction involved in such collaborations. After all, in this struggle, both parties are on the same side.
Authored by the Logikcull Success Team. They can be reached at email@example.com.