Originally published November 13, 2013, on the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) Pulse Blog
Increasingly, companies are committing to making a positive social or environmental impact on the communities where they operate. But despite their growth in popularity, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are not easy to execute effectively.
At Integreon, we designed our CSR program to build upon our operational strengths. As a global outsourcing company providing integrated legal, research and business support solutions, our strengths include an educated, global and multilingual workforce, as well as integrated technology that connects our associates around the world.
We’ve created a series of live-streamed educational classes that allow our associates to teach classes to underprivileged children who lack access to quality education; so far, teaching hearing impaired children in India from Fargo, North Dakota. Soon, we will be expanding our relationship with this school by involving more of our associates, who can teach courses in many different subjects, including English. These experiences give our associates and the children they teach the opportunity to learn from each other by crossing cultural boundaries with the help of video conferencing technology. This is just one example of our CSR efforts at work; below are additional tips for maximizing a CSR program.
The future of KM in Legal Services
For those that remember the Monty Python sketches of long ago, this is the cue to a rant about the Romans and the question of what they have ever done for us – well; roads, sanitation, medicine, health, fresh water, education… but apart from that, what have they done for us..?!
There has long been discussion about Knowledge Management (KM) within professional services; what does the terminology mean? What does it achieve and what is the ROI? Within law firms in particular, the growth of KM took a rather traditional route, typically initiatives aimed at gathering of the firm’s experience and processes into a series of standard forms, checklists and guidance – all very good and crucial, but not generally successful without a cultural change within the firm, and certainly not when merely delegated to a small group rather than owned by the organization as a whole. Achieving an excellent starting point for the firm’s next transaction is only of maximum benefit if the firm’s know-how is factored into the development of pricing and fully leveraged during the work carried out, all the way through to billing of the client.
As highlighted by Lucy Dillon in her recent Briefing Interview the term “KM” usually implies that the firm’s knowledge can be managed by a discreet set of people, rather than knowledge being expertise that should be owned and used by everyone within the business.
But the future of KM within law is all about utilizing the knowledge and systems that the firm needs to be efficient, more profitable and more innovative; doing more with less and providing best in class services for the client at lower cost.
There are many skillsets, processes and actions needed and few are thought of as part of KM; For example project management; workflow analysis; pricing models; process mapping; utilisation analysis, etc. A classic opportunity is to look at the life cycle of individual matters to identify where costs may be building up as well as looking at how matters are managed, examining how and where processes are carried out and questioning whether they could be done elsewhere / differently / better / faster / at lower cost.
This may sound logical, and surely law firms have always been doing that? Perhaps there is an element of; “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. It can be hard to ask experts to capture and share their expertise. The inference is that they could be doing their job better than they have been doing previously, so there is a certain amount of defensiveness about sharing their knowledge with peers – fear of criticism? Perhaps even fear of giving away an advantageous position? Further, the financial model within some business structures does not always encourage the sharing of knowledge; it can instead encourage the building of niche expertise that nobody else can bring to the job. However, I find that the overriding reason for not sharing knowledge and expertise is time – or rather lack of time.
Which is where KM can help; KM can provide the insight into key priorities to achieve improvements in the processes, systems, and the platform and mechanisms to stimulate innovation and make the gathering and utilisation of expert content as quick and easy as possible.
A good knowledge worker has to be both a facilitator and a diplomat, gradually building a Knowledge culture that rewards learning and development and discourages the hoarding of knowledge for individual advancement.
Can we measure ROI?
Within professional service firms an issue for those working within the knowledge field is often the objective measurement of how KM benefitted the profitability and performance of the organisation.
Full analysis of how much time is saved, how much risk is reduced, how much the quality is improved, how much write off is saved and how much more profit is made by good use of Knowledge work, can often be over shadowed by whether the relationship with the client was well managed or not. That perception of “good work” or repeat work is difficult to isolate to any one contribution. Rather Knowledge work contributes to the whole final product. Even learning about how to improve client relationships can be a very personal and subjective thing; knowledge toolkits can help lawyers to improve their contact in their own way – if the time can be spent capturing experience and building toolkits to start with.
Does KM have a future within legal services?
The term information overload is just as apt today as it has ever been, with the changes in technology making it all too easy to access more and more information to the point of becoming overwhelmed. The demand for finding the right information at the right time combined with the explosion of mobile devices is made more difficult because information is stored in different formats across multiple internal and external systems. The ability to find, correlate and leverage information from all of these channels without becoming an IT software company is a challenge for every knowledge worker.
KM can help to bring some order to all of this, and enable innovation of processes and systems that allow for the contextual provision of quality knowledge at the right time; supporting international firm expansion, driving efficiency, quality, best value and client service.
The future is bright for those firms willing to embrace Knowledge Management as it should be.
(1) Where knowledge goes next – Rupert White talks to Lucy Dillon, p6 Briefing July 2013.
Originally published in The Australian (Outsourcing is not a dirty word, July 26, 2013)
Earlier this month, the Australian Law Students Association (ALSA) published its Position Statement on Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) in Australia. This Statement raised some concerns about the proliferation of LPO and the impact on law students. I would like to give an ‘insider’ perspective on this.
To begin with, LPO is not the catalyst for law firms changing their recruitment strategies. Since the Global Financial Crisis, irreversible change has occurred within the legal profession – there will be no return to the pre-crisis status quo that facilitated year-on-year increases in law firm hourly billing rates, with no pushback from corporate clients. In short, clients are increasingly demanding better ‘value for money’ legal services. They are no longer willing to pay inflated junior associates hourly rates for routine, commoditised work that can be delivered at the same or higher quality by alternative legal services providers who specialise in it. As a result, Law firms are realising the barriers to growth under the traditional, leveraged pyramid model. Whether through LPO, alternative business structures, automation and technology advancements, and/or other alternative legal service delivery models, such as those providing lawyers ‘on demand’, law firms are responding to change. To date, this change has been apparent to a larger extent in the US and the UK. Now, Australia is traversing this evolutionary path.
How should law students respond to this change? Speaking as an Australian-qualified lawyer now employed by an LPO provider, I am a prototype for a new, alternate career path in the legal sector. Through this experience, I have gained on-the-job project management and business development skills that complement my technical and academic expertise. These skills can and should be identified and developed early in every young lawyer’s career. Academic institutions have a critical role in preparing law students for the real world of today’s legal practice. They should be arming their students with knowledge relating to different ways of working and/or alternate career paths within the legal sector. In this new world, LPOs are one of many new potential employers of tomorrow’s lawyers. In my opinion, driving change through the academic institutions should be the real focus of ALSA.
ALSA also references the apparent ‘threat to security and confidentiality’ associated with LPO. This is a common misconception, often held by those new to the LPO industry. LPO providers place paramount importance on the security and confidentiality of client information. The leading LPO providers have physical and data security policies and procedures in place that far exceed those implemented by many law firms. For instance, my employer, Integreon, has three levels of security: physical security at all offshore premises (access restricted via swipe cards); a strict data security policy for staff (no access to phones or internet at work); and legally binding contracts with all staff prohibiting the disclosure of confidential information. In addition, leading Australia organisations, including King & Wood Mallesons, Telstra and Rio Tinto conducted extensive due diligence into their chosen LPO providers, before their appointments. These appointments would not be in place if security was in issue.
It is also a sweeping generalisation to assume LPO decreases quality. As, arguably, some law firms do not produce the same quality of output as others, the same may also hold true for LPO providers. However, in Australia, as we have seen around the world, law firms looking to engage LPO providers are extremely risk-averse and take a highly cautious approach to ensuring their appointed LPO provider meets a high threshold in relation to quality as well as security. A lesser-known fact is the stringent quality regimes LPO providers apply. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are commonplace.
LPO is not only about labour arbitrage; it is also about achieving continual process improvement and efficiencies, while producing defensible legal output. In this regard, the legal market is astute to the limitations of LPO for highly technical legal work, which I agree should remain the exclusive domain of law firm experts. Less technical legal outputs however, for example document review, can often be undertaken at the same or higher quality level output by an LPO provider.
ALSA also raises the issue of the financial stability of LPO providers. This is not something endemic to the LPO industry. The fact LPO providers have, over recent years, been highly desirable targets for acquisition suggests the opposite. However if one is going to make the point that in partnering with an LPO company that this somehow increases the firm’s financial exposure, surely, to be balanced, one must acknowledge that it also provides financial security by turning certain labour costs from fixed to variable. As law firms struggle with often spikey demand for services in an increasingly competitive environment, having the ability to call on LPO resources as a variable cost transfers the risk of under-utilisation from their shoulders to those of the LPO provider. This reduces risks for firms, enabling them to switch the tap on and off when required.
I encourage ALSA to take the opportunity to delve deeper into the issue of LPO in Australia and consider the shape of the legal industry over the next 5-10 years. In my opinion, LPO and the variety of other alternative legal services providers operating in today’s legal market represent a tremendous opportunity for tomorrow’s young lawyers.
Although LPO might not these days be the darling of the press, I remain as bullish, in fact more so than ever about its prospects. The LPO industry has matured and transformed itself over the last 7-8 years, but that journey, that evolution has in reality only just begun. In a recent interview with Managing Partner magazine I discussed the implications of the introduction of the Legal Services Act (LSA) on the LPO industry. The LSA permits external investment in and ownership of UK law firms. Click here to read the full interview.
In short, I believe that the continued deregulation of the legal profession, following the LSA will act as a catalyst, propelling LPO into new areas of legal practice and even more innovative, groundbreaking delivery models. While industry commentators appear fixated on the number of law firms applying for Alternative Business Structure (ABS) status, there has been little discussion to date about the interrelationship between ABSs, law firms and LPO providers in this rapidly changing legal landscape. How will the changes brought about by the LSA transform the LPO marketplace? As law firms examine their own operating models, LPO providers continue to grow, and ABSs become a commonplace fixture within the legal profession, questions arise over who competes with whom, and for what? Should traditional law firms view these changes as a threat or an opportunity?
I was asked in the Managing Partner interview, as I often am, whether LPOs will apply to become ABSs or if they will seek to buy or invest in law firms? While I do not suggest that in the short-term LPOs will look to acquire law firms still constrained under the antiquated pyramid operating structure, it is entirely conceivable that some might go down this path in the future. I can certainly envisage law firms hiving off their volume practice areas to LPO providers looking to expand into the high-volume consumer legal market. In the medium to longer term, as I mention in my interview…..anything goes!
Read Full Article from Managing Partner (PDF)
Four years ago hardly a day passed without at least one Google alert appearing in my inbox for an article extolling the benefits of LPO and predicting this nascent industry’s transformative impact on the legal profession. Today, I’m more likely to receive a notification of an upcoming London Philharmonic Orchestra performance than a positive news report on Legal Process Outsourcing.
What’s more, over the last six months much of what I’ve read in the legal press has been prophesying the demise of LPO, referencing survey results that appear to show law firms overwhelmingly now engaging in captive operations. This despite a number of innovative law firms publicly announcing partnerships with LPO providers. When those surveyed come from within private practice, asking them whether their clients prefer captive law firm operations or third party LPO providers is a bit like asking the turkey to objectively cast a vote for the Christmas feast.
So if we are to believe the legal press, then is it now time to pack up my LPO bags and move back into private practice, or are these reports of the death of LPO, as Twain might put it, greatly exaggerated?
Although LPO might not these days be the darling of the press, perhaps predictably I remain as bullish, in fact more so than ever about its prospects. The LPO industry has matured and transformed itself over the last 7 years, but that journey, that evolution has in reality still only just begun. Let’s set aside for a moment the steady revenue and headcount growth across the LPO industry (albeit not as spectacular as some early forecasters predicted). Instead let’s look at the growth in law firm captives and the pace of technological innovation which some perceive as a threat to the very existence of LPOs.
Law Firm Captives vs. LPO
It is in my opinion an overly simplistic sound bite for the legal press to portend trouble in the LPO waters due to the increased prevalence of law firm captive operations. The very presence of these captives is good news for the legal market generally, and shows that law firms now understand the need to respond to corporate pressure for (1) a suite of options in providing support to their clients, (2) lower cost and innovative pricing models, and (3) process improvements. I view these moves as an explicit endorsement of the LPO approach. It is the LPO (not the law firm) mantra of unbundling legal services that is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception. Innovative law firms are following in our footsteps. Once unbundled, more work will move to lawyers in lower cost locations. Whether these lawyers work for a law firm, law department, or LPO provider, the point is that an increased percentage of the global legal services spend will be funneled in this direction.
Here it is important to note that neither LPO providers nor law firms can individually deliver the holistic, end-to-end services corporate clients are now demanding. While some within private practice argue that those law firms with captive LPO units can do so, I disagree. Law firms with captives only go so far. Running a captive center, especially offshore, requires a scale that only the largest law firms possess. In addition, LPO typically offers several other advantages over a captive. These include better capacity utilization by aggregating demand across many clients; conversion of fixed to variable costs; ongoing investments in technology and continuous improvement; expertise in delivering performance with service level agreements (SLAs) and metrics; and of course business continuity assurance with multiple delivery locations.
Let’s focus on that last differentiator for a moment. Global Delivery Platforms (including onshore AND offshore) are quickly becoming a prerequisite for in-house counsel demanding 24/7, “follow the sun” multi-lingual support. While a near-shore or onshore law firm captive is demonstrative of BigLaw’s belated recognition that an alternative legal services delivery model is indeed required, it is hardly an end game for those LPO providers offering a true global delivery capability.
A common misconception held by proponents of captives is that working with a third party LPO provider means loss of control. In my view, control is more about governance than ownership. For example, some captives are “out of control” because they have not been properly set up with SLAs and rigorous metrics. Conversely, a proper SLA and governance structure can in fact give the law firm more control over a third party LPO provider than they might typically have over their own staff.
Technology: Disruptive or Harmonious for LPO?
It is indisputable that developments in technology assisted document review, automated contract meta-data abstraction, and document assembly technologies are speeding up or significantly reducing the necessity for manual labor. Some might argue that this technological innovation represents a challenge to LPO. Again, I disagree. LPO is no longer a pure labor arbitrage play, and frankly hasn’t been for several years. A more accurate description of LPO would be that of an operating model built upon a best practices framework, with process efficiency, quality control and enabling technology at its core.
Yes it’s true – the days are quickly fading in which huge teams of attorney reviewers tackle hundreds of thousands – or millions – of seemingly unfiltered documents. My colleague and Global Head of Document Review at Integreon, Julie Hanna succinctly states in her article, What Does Predictive Coding Mean for Managed Document Review, that, “the rationale for the dour predictions about the role of human review seems predicated on an extreme hypothesis that pits computers against humans with little consideration for practical realities.” Although LPOs have emerged over a relatively short period of time to grab a significant piece of the document review pie, it is still, to this day, the standard modus operandi of many corporate legal departments to rely on their outside counsel for support. Integreon and other leading LPO providers are constantly developing, testing, and refining innovative technology assisted review (TAR) workflows to lead to smarter review processes. Many years from now, when we look back at the development of e-discovery and document review, the AmLaw 200’s traditional “associates in the basement” approach will be one long consigned to the history books with future industry commentators reminiscing with incredulity, asking themselves, “Did we ever really handle e-discovery and document review this way?” So who will in-house counsel increasingly turn to for support? As clear as night follows day, it will be the LPOs.
Technology is an incredible enabler. I cannot stress that enough, and those that embrace technology as integral to their offering will succeed. At Integreon the first port of call for any engagement involving the review of a large volume of contracts (often triggered by the implementation of a contract lifecycle management system, or post acquisition, or as a response to an audit) is to determine whether automated meta-data abstraction and field population technology can speed the process and reduce the costs associated with a purely manual review.
So why is it then that the tone of the conversation has changed? Well clearly some within private practice tend to view LPO as an encroachment upon their turf. They like the way things used to be and endeavor to translate the current trends into the language of yesterday. Perhaps this is nothing more than an acknowledgment that what the naysayers thought was a passing fad, is clearly here to stay. As the proverbial “they” are wont to say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”
I believe and always have believed that innovative law firms that truly embrace LPO as an opportunity to differentiate their firm will actually enhance their own brand and gain market share as a direct result. The reason that I remain more optimistic than ever about LPO is that I look back over the relatively short lifespan of this industry and I’m remarkably proud of how far we’ve come and all the change we’ve driven across the legal profession. From an industry that was characterized in its early years by numerous entrepreneurial startups, operating primarily out of India alone, LPO is now an integral part of the legal services delivery spectrum.
It is entirely plausible that LPO providers might one day look to acquire major law firms in the UK now that external investment in law firms is permitted or, perhaps more immediate on the horizon is that the much vaunted law firm captive operations will increasingly be touted for sale to the most logical acquirers, the LPO providers. As the rollercoaster of legal services innovation, after a sluggish start continues to pick up pace, not only will LPO providers be along for the ride, we’ll have front row seats.
By Bob Gogel
It has been nearly two years since I joined Integreon as Chief Executive Officer and during that time we have implemented a significant, positive transformation in the Company, with a focus on continuously improving how to better serve and delight our clients.
It gives me great pleasure to let you know that we, at Integreon, pride ourselves on consistently providing you with the high quality, reliable and cost-effective solutions you have come to expect from us:
- Our services in the areas of e-discovery and litigation support, document review and legal process outsourcing (LPO) are used by law firms and corporate legal departments every day so that they can better serve their own demanding clients.
- Our portfolio of research and analytical services is comprehensive and proven and we offer clients a unique spectrum of services. Our insightful approach to research, business information and financial analysis generates remarkable results for our corporate, financial services and consulting firm clients.
- Our document services business unit works hand-in-hand with law firms and corporations to improve their document processing, administrative and desktop publishing operations. We enable our clients to make strategic, business-minded improvements while offering service gains from any of our global 24×7 delivery centers.
- Our business services offerings are aimed at removing the costs and distractions of non-core activities for professional services firms and corporations. Integreon continues to provide a full suite of business services to our clients; procurement management, knowledge management, finance and accounting, shared library, IT services, human resources, marketing and business development.
Integreon continues to grow, and I’m really excited about our prospects as a leading provider of value added services to our clients. The following will give you a sense of who we are.
By Juliet Hanna and Erin Tomine
Everyone is talking about predictive coding – one of the tools in the Technology Assisted Review (TAR) toolbox – and technology’s ability to vastly decrease the amount of documents that need to be reviewed by attorneys in today’s world of ever-expanding data volumes. The conversation has evolved rapidly, from early tentative positions – if we can use it – to more affirmative ones – stating how, where, why and when to use such technology, noting defensibility and the courts’ acceptance of its use. However we’ve been puzzled by occasional prognostications of the demise of the use of review attorneys and those who provide managed review services for corporations and law firms.
The rationale for the dour predictions about the role of human review seems predicated on an extreme hypothesis that pits computers against humans with little consideration for practical realities. Support generally rests on studies comparing the respective ability of computers and humans to identify relevant documents in a data set, but interpretations of these studies’ results can be overreaching. The reality is that predictive coding does not work with all types of cases and data, so there will always be matters where all-human review will be necessary. In addition, clients have varying levels of risk tolerance with respect to the use of technology during litigation or government investigations. Some clients prefer to use humans to review their data, while others may seek to employ technological solutions in tandem with human review. Indeed, the use of predictive coding does not replace human review, it merely reduces the data volumes that require review by humans. When predictive coding is utilized, human review actually happens at all points in the process, including seed set training, validations, review of privileged documents and documents to be produced, and so on. To the extent the data sets are suitable for a predictive coding workflow, and all parties are on board with its use, is this a change from the way documents were reviewed previously? Absolutely. Is this a good thing? Yes.
More effective workforce – core teams
We do acknowledge that the days are quickly fading in which huge teams of attorney reviewers tackle hundreds of thousands – or millions – of seemingly unfiltered documents. Before TAR became prevalent, underlying many document reviews was the premise that you needed to have lots of people in order to plow through the documents on first pass review in a timely fashion. In addition to the brute force first pass review team, there was the ever present, but smaller and more senior QC team who would perform the second level work, including privilege and QC review. One of the unstated duties of the QC team was also to clean up any issues created by the first pass team in terms of coding inconsistencies and to recognize and correct any systemic problems with the review. With the increased use of TAR, the format of review has changed dramatically. The QC team of yesterday IS the review team of today, or rather, what we call the “core team” at Integreon. This team can get through the culled-down review populations more effectively and efficiently than the overwhelmingly large review teams of the past. Core teams are now being used with greater frequency and are not only learning these new technologies but also becoming adept and experienced in the best practices for applying them.
At Integreon, we have been using the core team concept on TAR projects for some time, an approach that provides for smaller teams consisting of reviewers with a high proficiency level in all stages of review. These reviewers usually have a greater understanding of the clients or types of litigation involved in the cases they support. Our expert teams of attorney reviewers, enabled by TAR workflows, are able to provide a vastly higher quality of work product than that of the large review teams of the past.
Sophisticated Management Team
Reduced data volumes and improved composition of the review team are not the only changes possible through the use of TAR. We’re constantly developing, testing, and refining innovative workflows that lead to smarter review processes. We are not tied to a purely linear workflow without much deviation from project to project. With increased flexibility in workflows afforded by TAR, our core team of reviewers has become more adaptable and able to understand nuances in workflow requirements while still maintaining the accuracy and efficiency that are the hallmark of the managed review process. But it is not only important for our core teams to be able to thrive in this type of environment, it is crucial for our project manager attorneys to be highly knowledgeable about these advanced technologies and workflows too.
Integreon’s project managers have regularly used or designed TAR workflows to enhance the quality of review exercises. Attorney managers with the knowledge and ability to explain to team members the intricacies and purpose of the varying TAR workflows, and who can design and explain to counsel better ways to accomplish a complex assignment, are essential to today’s managed review process.
Good for us, good for you
Human review is fast evolving into a leaner, more flexible model in which core teams are used to perform all levels of review with precision and maximum efficiency. The core team model allows for the management team to concentrate on workflow and substance rather than the administrative details of managing a huge room full of attorney reviewers. The benefits gained by the use of core teams and TAR are immediately understood by the entire managed review team, and are appreciated by the end-client, since optimized review during discovery results in significant cost savings and a more effective, defensible process.
Going to LegalTech, for me, is like going to a high school reunion. This year was my 13th LegalTech (East Coast) and I think it has to be my favorite conference of the year – although there is one coming up in Zurich regarding data privacy that by mere locale could trump LT. It is the one time of year that I am guaranteed to see every person I have ever worked with in the last 16 years. 13 years of booths, sessions, parties – they’ve all kind of blended together over the years – so that I can’t really distinguish one LegalTech from another.
What does stand out for me each year are the conversations I have with people – colleagues, clients, competitors, partners, and friends. The themes of these conversations set the tone for the coming year.
Past years’ themes have been: Online Repositories – wouldn’t it be great if there were case folders and batch printing available on the Internet?; Production Management – how do we solve this problem of having to deliver the same docs to multiple parties and can we deliver docs in some other form than paper?; Document Review – is there a cheaper way than using law firm attorneys?; Offshore and Onshore Outsourcing – should we do it and why India?; Litigation Readiness – what can we do to be prepared for discovery?; Early Case Assessment – how can we gain case insight earlier in the process?; Concept searching and intelligent batching – what are these things people are calling “concepts” and how do I use them?; And of course, Predictive coding.
This year’s topics were both reassuring (because we’ve been working on solutions for them) and surprising (because perhaps naively I thought they’d been fully addressed in the past).
In no particular order, here are the themes of the discussions I had this year:
- Almost every client (law firms and corporations) that I spoke with mentioned the need for experienced, knowledgeable project managers. Since e-discovery is getting increasingly complicated to manage, having competent, consultative PMs, both internally and externally, is essential to their success. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, and I’ve always believed it to be true, but looking at the complex workflows and the constant customization we tend to offer to our own clients at Integreon, it may be truer now than ever before. I’m reminded of the days of my first online Review engagements, when clients struggled with learning DT Search and navigating in a database, on top of having to read through tens of thousands of documents linearly. There was just so much to learn. I feel like we are there again today, in the ‘so much to learn’ phase and PMs really need to be able to effectively guide their clients along this increasingly complex path.
- PM turnover was also a big topic this year because every e-discovery provider struggles with keeping their PMs happy. PMs today have really hard jobs – they have 18 hour / 7 day a week jobs full of difficult and complicated cases. Projects don’t stop because its after 8pm or on a Sunday afternoon – issues can and do come up at odd times. The PM’s job is essential, and yet still undervalued or unappreciated by some. The pressure to succeed and always be available can burn out a PM. At LT, what I heard is that every client fears this burn out above most other things that can go wrong on a case, second only to inadvertent production. Losing a PM who has gained trust, who can be relied on without tremendous QC, can be a serious blow to a client’s workload. I was told that the very idea of a trusted advisor leaving is one of the most depressing things that can happen during a case. We, as employers in an industry where great PMs are essential, need to make it a priority to help our PMs learn, grow and balance their workloads to avoid burn out. It is also incumbent upon us to create a clear career path for growth and professional development.
In-house Technology Centers
- One of the themes I heard from both law firms and corporations alike is that they are evaluating what they will do next with technology. Six or seven years ago decisions were made to bring technology in-house in order to drive down the cost of processing and hosting. Seven years later the technology (infrastructure) is old and they are struggling with the question of what to do next. Options I heard were:
- Upgrade to new software/hardware
- Find a managed service arrangement where they have bulk all-you-can-eat deals in place or preferred pricing deals with high volume capacity
- Source work on a project basis with service providers, like they were doing before their investment in technology
- Many clients were saying they won’t be able to justify investing in new technology when the last seven years have shown that they cannot recoup their costs from previous investments. It will be interesting to see which route people decide to take.
Data Reduction Strategies
- I also had several conversations regarding the volume of projects crossing my clients’ desks and the ever increasing volumes of data involved in each one. Many corporate clients, and their outside counsel, are struggling with ways to drastically reduce data and document sizes in collections, processing, hosting and review. Not only are the costs associated with discovery in large-scale projects so high as to elicit audible gasps at budget review time, corporate clients also struggle with multiple, simultaneous projects where aggregate costs are eliciting even greater gasps.
- We have recently analyzed our past processing cases and seen that we have been successfully reducing raw data, on average, by 90% or higher. Gone are the days of 70% reduction – it just isn’t a viable option anymore. And this steady reduction has been achieved through standard deduping, search terms and date filters alone. We get much higher results (95% or higher) when we add in data analytics prior to review – removing file types, refining terms to avoid garbage, identifying highly non-Responsive custodians early through term reporting and other measures. Making even a small effort at the start of a case to understand the data and strategize on reduction techniques can reduce data sizes and dramatically bring down costs.
Predictive Coding – this is the year!
- The collective feeling is that this is the year that predictive coding will stop being a hot topic and start being a hot practice. The choice this year will be not ‘should I employ a predictive coding workflow’, but rather ‘when should I employ it and which technology and workflow best suits my needs?’. People seem optimistic on this point, almost euphoric, especially the providers of predictive coding workflows. We, the preferred partners of the world, have long been proselytizers of Technology Assisted Review (TAR) workflows that heavily rely on human leadership, but this year we will turn into experienced project managers and consultants; we will lead a new generation of review attorneys into the bright realm of intelligent solutions; we will provide exciting and valuable workflows contingent on embedded use of mathematical algorithms and statistics; we will, we will, we will!
- Law firm and corporate clients alike were also insistent that this is the year they will start using these workflows. The fact that judges are now getting involved in the decision making process is leading to a fear potentially even greater than that of not looking at every document. The idea that one may be involved in a matter where the judge mandates use of these workflows could prompt firms/clients to get some prior experience under their belts and test out different methodologies so that they can advocate for the ones they like best, rather than being the less experienced player who has to go along with decisions they do not quite understand.
These are all the themes I think will prevail for Integreon this year. I believe we will see the need for more investment in advanced PM training and more PMs added to our team overall, more clients who previously invested in technology turning again to outsourced solutions, higher focus on data reduction strategies and data analysis prior to review, and increased use of, not just interest in, Predictive coding workflows.
2013 should prove to be a milestone year for the fast evolving field of e-discovery!
With the implementation of the UK’s Jackson Reforms in April 2013, litigants will be faced, among other things, with the spectre of unparalleled scrutiny by the courts on the costs of disclosure. The upcoming Civil Procedure Rule 31.5 and existing e-Disclosure Practice Direction 31B are the key provisions. As Lord Justice Rupert Jackson pointed out, they “fit neatly together” to give the court more power to supervise and control the disclosure process to ensure it meets the overriding objective of a proportionate and cost-effective disclosure.
Under the new rules, the courts are empowered to select from a menu of potential disclosure orders. They will give directions at the first case management conference that will focus disclosure on the real issues between the parties. It will be more important than ever before to demonstrate that a proportionate and cost-effective disclosure strategy has been put in place.
Under new CPR rule 44.4(5), costs incurred are proportionate if they bear a reasonable relationship to:
- the sums in issue in the proceedings;
- the value of any non-monetary relief in issue in the proceedings;
- the complexity of the litigation;
- any additional work generated by the conduct of the paying party; and
- any wider factors involved in the proceedings, such as reputation or public importance.
Further, parties will now need to present an estimate of disclosure costs prior to commencing proceedings. Ultimately, it is the parties’ lawyers who bear the burden of ensuring costs are proportionate and reasonable, and that the case is properly managed to meet the budget. Effective case management will be critical to adhering to the case strategy and keeping within the budget, as parties may not recuperate costs that have not been reasonably or proportionately incurred.
Neil Mirchandani, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ Financial Services Litigation Group, states that, “We have saved clients millions of pounds by outsourcing first level review where appropriate, including outsourcing to India with Integreon. It is undoubtedly one of the main options available to help reduce the costs of linear document review.”
While leveraging advanced e-Disclosure technology tools will play an increasingly important role during the litigation process, there will be little opportunity to escape from a degree of manual document review. Automation can help to facilitate workflow, particularly for larger size data volumes, but there is still no such thing as a fully automated review.
With the cost savings associated with outsourcing manual review, the question arises whether, save in extenuating circumstances, a budget for the entire review to be run internally by the law firm will pass muster with the courts. Will the courts make outsourced managed review an imperative, more than just an opportunity to leverage cost-effective, experienced resources?
LPO solutions including managed document review are provided under a model that by its very nature minimises risk (through extensive documentation, governance, performance metrics, key performance indicators and service level agreements). Routine work is delivered by individuals who specialise in these activities.
Assuming a top tier LPO provider has been selected, the document review will be significantly more cost-competitive and also comparable (dare I say, better?) in terms of productivity and quality.
Vince Neicho, Head of Litigation Support at Allen & Overy, notes that, “[A&O] continue to recognise legal process outsourcing solutions are an important part of our ‘Suite of Options’ available to our clients. In addition to review on regulatory matters, this option is especially important in litigation, where we work with Integreon, as the efficiency of the disclosure process is a top priority of the court’s cost management agenda.”
By using a credible and experienced LPO provider like Integreon, litigants and their lawyers will benefit from:
- Cost certainty and predictability through per document / per project pricing.
- Choice of global delivery locations, including onshore delivery from the UK (particularly London), and allowing for a multi-shore “follow the sun” approach for around-the-clock progress.
- A more efficient review as deep domain expertise will ensure that the best strategy, expertise and technology are employed for each project.
- Consistent high quality results achieved through a highly structured document review process built to industry best standards, with added quality control.
- Scale and resources to provide and manage centralised document review holistically across the entire universe of an organisation’s data or a data set common to several organisations by leveraging the work across multiple related matters (for example, banks investigated by the regulators over the manipulation of the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (Libor) and leverage that work across multiple matters. This avoids the re-examination of the same data set and ensures consistency across matters, which is critical for defensibility, and vastly improves efficiency and cost-savings.
- Credibility from working with a provider that is recognised by prominent industry analysts like Gartner, ValueNotes, the Black Book of Outsourcing and Frost & Sullivan, among others.
- Access to resources with foreign language skills.
Pioneering firms, such as Allen & Overy above, Simmons & Simmons and Hogan Lovells (to name a few) identified the benefits early on, adopted LPO, and now watch as both economic reality and regulation drive what was previously thought of as an innovative option to quickly becoming the norm. Perhaps the Big Bang (the Jackson Reforms) may not be the catalyst of change as it is commonly presumed, but rather a facilitator of change that is already well under way.
LegalTech New York
I will be speaking about the Jackson Reforms next week, including considerations from a US perspective, on Wednesday, January 30th from 3:45 to 4:45 PM Eastern Time at the LegalTech New York conference. Joining me will be Chris Dale (The e-Disclosure Information Project) and Steve Couling (kCura, an Integreon technology partner). Our moderator will be Integreon’s Juliet Hanna. The Jackson Reforms will be one of three topics covered during our Super Session at the conference.
Even before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, corporations and their in-house legal departments were under considerable pressure to do more with less. The great recession exacerbated this pressure and accelerated the exploration of innovative legal services delivery models. Perhaps an overarching measure, common across many legal departments has been to wherever possible ensure appropriate alignment of limited internal resources to specific legal tasks, given the complexity of those tasks and the skillset required to complete them.
For litigation and other matters, similar pressure has in turn been placed on outside counsel to deliver greater value for less cost. A growing number of law firms now emphasize their core competencies (i.e. advisory services) while finding innovative ways to more efficiently support non-core functions (i.e. electronic discovery or volume legal work such as document review).
Now four years since the financial crisis first began, we’ve witnessed what can only be described as a veritable revolution in the sourcing and deployment of personnel and technology resources in the legal field. The profession has seen growing interest in and adoption of predictive coding, legal process outsourcing (LPO), more collaborative types of relationships between corporations and their outside partners, and various alternative ways of doing business or structuring fees. This seems to mark a momentous shift from only a couple years ago when much of the legal world still held reticence over the use of such novel approaches.
It has never been clearer to me than at this present time that the business and practice of law is changing. More legal professionals than ever are embracing new ways of operating and delivering legal services to their clients, whether this be in-house legal serving their internal clients within their business or law firms serving their corporate clients.
This trend has been nowhere more apparent than it was at this year’s annual FT Innovative Lawyers Awards. Events were held on both sides of the Atlantic, on October 4th in London and then on November 28th in New York. The judges for both events took a broader perspective on legal innovation than has been typical of featured themes from previous FT events (such as last year’s focus on Bold Thinking). Innovation now seems less “wild west” and more an expected part of doing business. (See Legal Process Outsourcing: has it reached a tipping point? for a look at how the trend applies to LPO.)
Several of my Integreon colleagues and I attended the FT Innovative Lawyers awards dinners held in London and New York (we are the headline program sponsor). As each of the winners were introduced and accepted their awards, it occurred to me that despite the variety of innovations, a commonality was the goal of achieving high quality results as efficiently as possible for the work performed. This seemingly straight forward objective has spawned a multitude of new constructs for how organizations operate and deliver legal services. (See Contract Management – A New Collaborative Legal Services Delivery Model for an example.)
During the FT awards research process, well over 500 submissions were assessed by the FT judges, including the results of a survey given to both the applicants and their client references. The survey results support the notion that current momentum in the legal profession now favors innovation.
- Two thirds of respondents identified the delivery of greater value at less cost, improved efficiency or better fee arrangements as top demands being placed on corporate counsel today.
- Three quarters of respondents reported that the volume of regulatory issues and government investigations has increased.
- Three quarters of respondents indicated that during the past two years outside counsel have innovated to meet the needs of their corporate clients, most commonly by some form adaptation (such as changing behavior, culture, structure, products) or by instituting new fee arrangements or cost saving practices.
- Two thirds of respondents indicated that legal process outsourcing would become more important over the next five years.
For further insight into the trends, winners, and specific innovations highlighted in this year’s FT Innovative Lawyers program, I encourage you to read both of the following special reports published by the Financial Times:
For questions about either of these reports or to learn how your organization can participate in our 2013 program, please contact Integreon at email@example.com.
To wrap up, I want to thank all of the law firms, in-house legal teams, and individual lawyers who participated in this year’s FT program. I also want congratulate those who were recognized for their innovations in this year’s awards. As a leading global LPO provider, Integreon has long been at the forefront of legal innovation, as acknowledged by Chambers Global and in other respected publications in the field. For years we’ve worked with both law firms and corporations around the world to help them implement innovative practices in areas such as discovery and document review, contract management and review, and other types of work. This includes the application of technologies that can facilitate more efficient workflows and improved quality assurance. As I look to the year ahead, I believe we will continue to see even more lawyers applying fresh thinking to the business and practice of law.
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