- Dean Kamen
Since time immemorial, lawyers claimed sole proprietorship of all legal concerns. Businesses tended to hire local law firms and stick with them for generations. Companies may have been cost-conscious in many areas, but legal was not one. Generally, the more expensive their attorney, the safer and more confident clients felt.
During the Great Recession, however, law firm clients became much more discriminating about legal costs. Among the first costs targeted by discerning clients were those for excessive hours spent on discovery. The digital transformation that was simultaneously occurring meant that using manual processes or outdated technologies to work on discovery tasks drove firm hours and fees to astronomical proportions.
It is not as if associates performing these tasks were satisfied with the mind-numbingly dull work, either. Nobody wins when valuable time is thrown down the drain. Slogging through mountains of documents, many of them duplicates, searching for relevant information is a tedious task technology performs much more accurately and efficiently than people.
Throughout the digital transformation, automation and artificial intelligence technologies have proven indispensable for efficiently handling eDiscovery projects. Unfortunately, the eDiscovery platforms available in the early 2000's also presented cost, time, and manpower challenges that many small and mid-size firms have yet to overcome on their own.
So instead,are farmed out to alternative legal service providers and legal industry consultants. Some clients even adopt eDiscovery platforms for their own in-house use. In both scenarios, law firms lose out on a substantial amount of work that used to automatically come to them.
Attorneys also lose out on a key function – the ability to read their clients data and form their own intimate and deep understanding of the ins and outs of their clients’ business operations. Instead, they must put their trust in outside parties to tell them what is important and why.
Thankfully, the market is shifting again. Technology that used to be inaccessible to small and mid-size law firms is now affordable and much easier to use and maintain through a. SaaS platforms open new avenues for attorneys to provide end-to-end eDiscovery services in their firms. By doing so, attorneys remove the middle men and rely on internal tools and processes to make that all-important connection between their expertise and their clients’ needs.
Attorneys that outsource eDiscovery lose out on the ability to read their clients data and form their own intimate and deep understanding of the ins and outs of their clients’ businesses.
Using technologies such as automation and machine learning to complete the routine, low-value tasks formerly performed by associates saves clients’ money while keeping work inside the firm. Associates are happier, too, performing higher value work that helps build their legal skills.
Understanding the stories contained within client data is critical for building effective communication between attorneys and their clients. As long as lawyers remain reliant on third parties to translate those stories for them, they remain one step removed from their clients’ businesses.
Lawyers need to access and understand their clients’ data for many reasons including litigation, arbitration, responding to subpoenas and regulatory requests, monitoring compliance, preparing virtual data rooms, performing due diligence activities, and so on. Firms with in-house eDiscovery technology can offer these services directly to their clients, providing the convenience, security, and guidance clients seek from a single source.
Many attorneys realize they cannot continue to fulfill their roles as intimate advisors while they lack the resources to understand their clients effectively.
Yet, it can be difficult to convince the old guard that changes are needed. Of course, attorneys are by nature risk averse. Those who are nearing retirement feel even less impetus to try something new.
To some law firm leaders, changes are always better off made in the future at some point when most of the roadblocks and risks have been eliminated.