The outsourcing of legal functions is suddenly topical as a result of Rio Tinto’s decision to set up an outsourced legal resource in India and Pinsent Masons’ plan to have first pass litigation review done in South Africa – see Do two outsourcing stories in one week presage a trend?
Those who think that this is taking outsourcing too far, as it were, should bear in mind that the principles, the potential savings and the ability to add e-disclosure skills and resources to their litigation armoury are available much closer to home. Furthermore, they need make no upfront investment beyond a little training, and can get started tomorrow.
The first generations of litigation support applications generally required that a law firm purchased the software for in-house use and that they employed staff to administer it. The world has moved on since then, and those tools and resources and are more usually brought on board by having the documents data hosted by a third party, usually the software provider. This has many advantages, not least the fact that someone else incurs the capital outlay and takes responsibility keeping the data available 24/7. The law firm simply gets a bill for the rental of the server space, the provision of the software and any consultancy or data services which are required. The bill can be passed on to the client as a disbursement.
Epiq Systems are providers of a litigation review application called DocuMatrix which they host at a new data facility designed for the purpose. In addition to the bare hosting, they will take over as much or as little of the litigation support function as is required by a law firm or directly for the client.
Mike Brown, International Sales Director for Epiq Systems, recently published an article about this in the Legal Executive Journal. Called A Problem Shared, the article explains what you can expect to gain by delegating the mechanics of litigation support to someone whose business it is to provide it. One of the obvious advantages is that the services are equally available to a small firm with no in-house support and a large one with massive resources. That means that the smaller firm can take on litigation work which might otherwise be beyond its reach.
There can be a variety of reasons why a firm does not give disclosure of electronic documents electronically – the Practice Direction to Part 31 CPR may have escaped their notice, for example; their clients might still be writing letters and hoping that the Post Office will deliver them; perhaps all the document-heavy litigation is going to other firms. The non-availability of skills and resources is not, however, an answer which holds water.
Epiq is not the only provider which backs its hosting services with consultancy services aimed at allowing lawyers to focus on being lawyers whilst delegating the technical management of electronic disclosure to others – many of the companies whose names appear at the side of this post will do this for you. People often say, in response to this suggestion, that electronic disclosure is too expensive for their cases and/or that the skills are beyond them. Gentle questioning usually reveals that they have never actually asked anyone to give them a quotation and are vague (to put it politely) as to what outsourced services exist. Pick two or three logos from the right hand side, and ask the suppliers to come in and tell what can be done and at what cost.