Corporate Counsel Buy into Legal Tech for the Long-Term
Like other non-revenue-generating departments, corporate legal departments are often under immense pressure to cut costs and improve efficiency, but the amount of ESI and case data involved in litigation continues to grow from year to year. Even in 2010, it was estimated that the amount of enterprise data doubled every three years, and the International Data Corp recently estimated that enterprise-generated content will exceed 240 exabytes daily (1 exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes) by 2020! Unfortunately, the exponential increase in data hasn’t been accompanied by a parallel spike in technology adoption.
Earlier this year, Zapproved surveyed in-house counsel about their discovery processes and among the methods listed, a 41% majority reported that they are still using manual eDiscovery processes – and they clearly aren’t happy about it. 70% of respondents reported a negative view of manual processes. So why are they still using manual processes? One potential explanation can be found in the fact that 60% of survey respondents rated their satisfaction with cost as positive. It might seem easier to use manual processes when faced with a big upfront technology bill that management will balk at, but that’s a short-term view.
What corporate counsel has started to recognize is that hiring outside counsel and service providers who can offer efficiency-improving technologies will ultimately free up time for attorneys to focus on the work a computer cannot do, like developing a strong argument and helping the business achieve a positive case outcome without wasting resources on a trial. More and more corporate legal departments are calling on firms and service providers to differentiate themselves with cost-saving tech. In a recent article for Above the Law, corporate counsel Celeste Harrison Forst says that law firm growth has been stagnant because firms aren’t changing the status quo. Forst writes,
“Ultimately, what I would love is for my outside law firms to help me help them remain a client. Show me how you are saving me money. Show me the initiatives your firm has implemented that make providing your legal services faster and cheaper than in the past year.”
There are plenty of technology-based initiatives that firms and service providers offer to save their corporate clients time and money in various areas of litigation, particularly around eDiscovery.
Legal Research: One area where legal tech is well-established and has so clearly demonstrated its value is in legal research, which has been evolving from print to digital research over the past few decades. With the digitization of legal documents and the development of comprehensive legal databases like LexisNexis and Westlaw, technology has changed the game by reducing the time it takes to conduct research while also ensuring better research results, freeing up corporate counsel for more strategic work than just “finding the law.”
Collaboration: Legal work requires a great deal of collaboration even when it only involves internal teams, but bringing in outside counsel can be an organizational headache. It’s imperative that in-house and outside counsel find efficient workflows for sharing knowledge and status updates in order to avoid duplicating work, missing deadlines, and generally stepping on each others’ toes. Where legal tech can be a major time-saver is in case management platforms that allow you to easily and securely share documents, keep them organized, and update them in real-time for the entire team to reference. Platforms like kCura’s Relativity enable you to collect and organize required data, analyze data to be reviewed, collaborate with reviewers and Case Managers to identify responsive documents, and produce the documents with necessary metadata for the court or opposing counsel – with all team members working in one system.
Data Reduction & Automation: Attorney review accounts for an estimated 70% of eDiscovery costs, so as the amount of data has risen, so have the number of tools to help reduce, filter, and prioritize data for attorney review. Many eDiscovery platforms offer de-duplication and email threading to trim the fat and give attorneys a better view into their data sets. There have also been significant developments in keyword searching and concept searching features over the past few years as litigation support specialists look for better ways to hand off only the most relevant documents to attorneys for review. Similarly, firms and service providers are looking for more ways to decrease the amount of manual review attorneys need to do, so we’re seeing a rise in predictive coding and automation tools. For example, as more regulations arise around PII, PHI, and IP, it takes more time to comb data sets for sensitive information and redact it. Manual redaction is a tedious process, so redaction automation tools are proving to be immensely valuable by automatically searching case documents and applying redactions, saving attorneys’ time for QC.
In a recent Corporate Counsel article entitled “Overlitigation Is Killing Us: How In-House Counsel Can Get the Service They Deserve,” Merril Hirsch digs into the reasons why litigation spending is going through the roof, particularly around eDiscovery, even though many commercial cases never go to trial. Hirsch suggests that corporate counsel become informed consumers and to ensure that their client – i.e. business management – is informed, as well. There is a clear and direct benefit to corporate counsel knowing which services outside counsel and service providers can offer in order to reduce the cost of litigation. It’s also corporate counsel’s responsibility to make sure that corporate management understands the potential value of working with a firm or service provider who offers efficiency-improving technologies, even if their services cost more upfront. Rather than getting stuck in a short-term cost reduction mindset, corporate counsel must take advantage of legal tech offered by outside counsel and vendors. Doing so will ultimately create more space for in-house counsel to focus on how the legal department aligns itself with the corporate goals and can add long-term value to the business.
For more information on how legal tech can help reduce the cost of litigation, check out this free white paper. To see a list of the law firms and service providers who are already using Blackout to eliminate tedious manual redaction, check out milyli.com/blackout.