Legal Outsourcing (LPO)
Why do so many knowledge management (KM) IT projects within law firms struggle to show a good ROI? For that matter, how many KM IT projects really succeed?
The KM community in the legal sector is a varied one with many excellent practitioners who do implement superb and effective projects. But there are also many projects which despite their high value, high effort, and often high cost only see limited success. Some industry statistics show success rates for KM IT system projects as low as 50%. It is all too easy for consultants to advise that a Knowledge system, a CRM or even a document management system is needed, and while they may well be right, it is a fair question to ask if they have really understood the business requirements for that specific law firm or if they are just following best practice from other organisations.
To really make a difference, the essential guide is to take everything back to the business need; what is the problem to be solved rather than what is theoretically a good thing to implement. All too often a KM project is created as a response to management pressure to do something quick, easy and ideally with minimal cost or disruption; circumstances which immediately make the necessary behavioural change for successful projects hard to achieve.
As Nick Milton of Knoco states when looking at 7 reasons for success with KM projects: “Make sure your KM implementation is focused on solving real, pressing business issues”.
The reasons for the failure of knowledge management initiatives are various, and not limited to the structure and culture within legal organisations – there are many good discussions covering these factors. A common theme is not taking sufficient notice of the “people” factor. Not just the intended audience, their behaviour, needs and preferences, but also of ourselves, the KM practitioners. I identify with what Nick Milton says when he talks about people who own KM initiatives being human, and as prone as other human beings to rushing in without “learning before”.
A frequent KM IT project is that of building or replacing a knowledge system; an effective platform to facilitate the acquisition, storage and dissemination of know-how and expertise throughout the organisation. There is no doubt that these can be a very good thing. The software salesman will always try to persuade you that their system is the best possible solution, but it is important to recognise what the most important requirements are for the business concerned and not to let technology control the design – or the implementation.
When designing a knowledge system for a law firm or legal department, it can be enticing to set up a complex solution following academic best practice with taxonomy application at a detailed level and with various controls to ensure content can be vetted before publication – review mechanisms that make good sense in an ideal world. However when that system is live, there is seldom a network of dedicated staff within the existing legal environment with sufficient bandwidth to maintain it. It is often assumed (wishfully) that existing staff can handle the load. While increases to headcount may be undesirable, consideration should at least be given to resourcing alternatives, such as legal process outsourcing, to complete the project and ensure staffing levels are adequate. Lacking sufficient resources, the practicalities can become onerous for already busy lawyers and practitioners and as a result the system slowly becomes out of date; not because good know how isn’t being produced, but because it is too time consuming to load it onto the system. A vicious circle will form whereby the content on the system is viewed as generally out of date, lawyers will use the last example they know of as a starting point for the next transaction and then cease to contribute high-value IP to the knowledge system.
No matter how expensive the KM system, if the content is not filtered, current and maintained, it will fail. The application of theory in a thoughtful way, utilising analysis and experience to address business needs are key. It is simply too easy to assume that a good system is of benefit to the organisation, but sometimes the painful truth is that those using a system just do not work in the manner necessary to ensure a productive and effective utilization. Although on occasion, business efficiencies can be driven by changing working practices, which when scoped well can result in better performance. But it is important to understand when that change is not driving efficiency, but instead driving people to find a way to work around it due to the difficulty of using it. If the business need is ignored, then initiatives will underperform or have the opposite effect.
One example of how the academic practice of what “should” be good KM can actually ignore aspects of the business need, is the design of taxonomy. It is important to know how the business actually works and how the taxonomy will best perform for whatever function it is applied to.
Here at Integreon, for instance, we are managing the build of a new knowledge system for a legal client, and the legal topic taxonomy has to be pragmatic. The new KM system utilises SharePoint and the firm’s document management system (DMS), which is HP/Autonomy’s WorkSite. Search has been identified as a priority for the firm, but for browsing content, contextual provision has also proven its worth. Therefore the design of the new system enables the taxonomy to be used not just for effective search results with highly relevant items returned within the top ten results, but also for how the information is displayed in context throughout the system. As a result, there are some groupings within the taxonomy which would make taxonomy experts very uncomfortable, but it serves the purpose for which it was designed and supports the way that fee earners actually work, rather than being a technically correct hierarchical arrangement.
There is no denying the importance of aligning KM with the business need. As David Straker says: “Knowledge systems succeed, perhaps unsurprisingly, when they give their customers what they want, meet broader company goals and are reasonably easy to manage and maintain.”
When organisations are trying to save money, cutting knowledge workers should be the last thing that is considered rather than the first. Equally, KM should not be introduced for its own sake; it should be used because it solves business problems, increases efficiency and improves performance.
1. Knoco Stories, From the knowledge management front-line, 20.12.2010 www.nickmilton.com
2. “A Synthesis of Knowledge Management Failure Factors”, Alan Frost M.Sc., January 25, 2014, www.knowledge-management-tools.net
3. Knoco stories: Why do KMers do often fail to learn from the past? http://www.nickmilton.com/2013/12/why-do-kmers-do-often-fail-to-learn.html#ixzz33NTwOQ3U
4. How Knowledge Management Systems Fail and Succeed. David Straker, http://syque.co.uk
Kate Stanfield is Vice President, Knowledge & Research, Integreon
“Disruption” and “innovation” are hot concepts right now in the legal profession, especially as more than 3000 legal professionals and technologists converge on Nashville for the 2014 ILTA Conference.
Fittingly, “imagine” is ILTA’s conference theme – the point being to “imagine the possibilities!” Well, to help with visualizing what’s in store for us at ILTA, here is a preview based on an assessment of the ILTA agenda and other sources.
Less about Predictive Coding, More about the Future of Law
It seems the usual multitude of sessions on predictive coding, which has dominated so many legal technology shows in recent memory, has given way to a broader discussion around technology’s role in the transformation of the practice and business of law.
ILTA’s sole predictive coding session (out of 200+) looks like it will be a really good one though. Patrick Oot will be presenting the results of the Electronic Discovery Institute’s predictive coding study for a “non-biased, scientific” view. My colleague Caragh Landry is looking forward to the session. She has been a vocal advocate of the technology.
(To be fair, there are some sessions on analytics too, but the above seems to be the only session I can find that is squarely focused on predictive coding.)
Apparent this year are more sessions which look to the bigger picture, with many speakers poised to talk about legal innovation and embracing change within the profession, including these sessions:
This innovation focus mirrors a plethora of reports in the news media, including for example the August issue of American Lawyer which has a whole section on recognizing innovative legal practitioners.
It seems likely that “disruption” and “innovation” will be buzz words of many conversations at ILTA. (I recommend reading about Clayton Christensen’s concept of Disruptive Innovation for more background.)
A Virtual Session on Technology for Contract Management
If you are dismayed at the lack of sessions about technology for contract management, then you may want to consider joining Integreon for an off-menu virtual session that we’re hosting with our technology partner Seal Software. No registration fee is required.
Integreon’s Mark Ross and Seal’s Christina Wojcik will talk about How LPO Solves the Mass Contract Review and Abstraction Dilemma on Tuesday, Aug. 19th from 11:00AM to 12:00noon US Central Time. Automation technology for the data abstraction process will be a key area of the discussion. Questions are welcome from viewers. Our thanks to the Global Outsourcing Association of Lawyers for hosting the topic.
Changes in Profession, Changes in Career
Industry conferences like ILTA have long been places for networking, including job prospecting. If you’re in the latter category, then be sure to add booth 534 (Integreon) to your ILTA itinerary.
We’re actively hiring for positions in New York, Washington DC, Fargo and other locations in the US and abroad. If you’re attending ILTA and curious about a career in LPO, we would be glad to talk to you. For a brief overview about Integreon and our focus, watch this two-minute video.
Cool Swag and Prizes at Booth 534
It seems everyone loves good swag (aka chotskies) and a chance to win cool prizes from the many drawings held at ILTA. No one wants to go home empty handed.
At booth 534, Integreon has the swag you need for your take home trophy. And we’re also giving away cool gadgets too, including:
- A drawing for a Microsoft Surface tablet (with keyboard cover). Look for the fish bowl in our booth.
- For ILTA’s Vendor Bingo, we’re giving away two Kindle Fire HD tablets. To participate, you will need the ILTA app in order to scan a QR code in our booth. (Interesting to note: In addition to supporting iPhone and Android, newly added this year are apps for Windows Phone and Windows. A web app version is still available as well.)
While you’re at our booth, you can learn about legal process outsourcing and our range of award winning services, including electronic discovery, managed document review, contract management and review, compliance, due diligence, legal research, and administrative services.
In particular, we’ll be showcasing our discovery services for:
- Forensic Collection and Tape Restoration
We offer a national forensic collection and analysis team and one of the largest tape libraries in the US capable of restoring or indexing over 400+ tape types.
- E-Discovery Data Reduction
Our processing technology includes embedded ECA functionality to streamline discovery and enable our clients to reduce data volumes by up to 90 to 95% prior to full processing and review.
- Managed Review, including Foreign Language Review
Managed document review from Integreon features unparalleled team scalability. We also routinely support review exercises in more than 50 languages in the US, UK, India and the Philippines.
Meet Your ILTA Peers
Receptions and parties are aplenty at ILTA, but here are three networking soirées I want to highlight:
- For any ILTA new comers, I cannot stress enough to be sure you attend the Exhibit Hall Opening Reception on Monday from 7:00 to 9:00PM. This one is always a good time.
- For international ILTA members, there is an ILTA reception sponsored by Integreon just for you on Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:00PM at the Gaylord’s Delta Pavilion. Come on by to meet your international colleagues!
- Integreon has joined forces with Mindseye and Content Analyst, two of our e-discovery technology partners, to host a private, invitation-only reception for ILTA members on Wednesday. There will be a drawing for a door prize – a Fitbit Flex smart wristband. Space is limited for this special event. Inquire at booth 534.
Meet with Integreon too!
If you or your team are interested in meeting with us at ILTA to discuss opportunities for how our firms can work together, let us know. Our team of business consultants will be on hand through-out the conference.
It’s looking to be another great ILTA conference this year.
See you in Nashville!
Eric Feistel is Marketing Director, Legal Services for Integreon.
In this newly published video interview from the International Association of Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM), you will hear from Mark Ross, Senior Vice President of Legal Process Outsourcing at Integreon, who talks about an on-going contract management engagement in which Integreon has delivered year-on-year process improvements, efficiency enhancements and savings to Microsoft. The transformation at Microsoft has been so remarkable that the IACCM recently recognized Integreon as its “Outstanding Service Provider” for 2013 during the association’s annual Innovation Awards.
Click the play button to watch the interview.
For more on how Integreon and Microsoft are working together, read the in-depth case study.
Article originally published in Outsource (July 14, 2014) by Mark Ross and Laurel Lichty.
Robocop’s ED-209 famously warned us back in 1987…
You have 15 seconds to comply… You are in direct violation of Penal Code 1.13, Section 9
Although the consequences of non-compliance for today’s corporate offenders are not quite as severe as those portrayed in the Hollywood cult classic, agencies like the DOJ and SEC in the US, the FCA in the UK, and a plethora of other regulators are policing corporate conduct with ever increasing voracity.
Given the perilous nature of burgeoning regulation and associated enforcement, it is not surprising that the Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) industry has been quick to step up to the plate. LPO is leveraging its legal and process expertise, technology and global resources to help their corporate clients meet compliance demands. This shift towards outsourcing portions of corporate compliance has been precipitated by another change. It is somewhat ironic that as compliance has begun its love affair with LPO that the responsibility for compliance within corporations has been steadily moving away from the purview of the legal department. Compliance is increasingly recognized as an independent function, with Chief Compliance Officers routinely now reporting to the CEO as opposed to the General Counsel.
The development of a sophisticated LPO compliance offering has occurred in tandem with the maturation of the LPO industry itself and its progression from LPO 1.0 to LPO 2.0, or as others have coined it, “next generation” LPO. Consider this recent assessment from Raconteur which estimates the global LPO market at more than £1.5 billion (or approximately $2.5 billion USD) and growth expected to continue, including movement “up the value chain to incorporate more complex, high-value tasks.”
Compliance LPO solutions are often characterized as enterprise wide endeavors, rather than single-service transactional engagements. Regulatory requirements increasingly demand both quantitative and qualitative reporting and regular testing or auditing. Compliance requires collaboration between the key constituent stakeholders, namely corporate legal, compliance and the internal audit, accounting or finance departments. Global LPO providers are stepping in and facilitating this collaboration. Effective LPO compliance support programs today provide much more than merely labor arbitrage and include process reengineering, multi-lingual support and enabling technologies.
As corporations struggle to ensure their systems, processes and policies are compliant with the FCPA, UK Bribery Act, Dodd Frank, and Anti-Money Laundering legislation, LPO providers have begun to leverage their global delivery platforms and process reengineering know-how to assist their clients in evaluating current compliance initiatives, implementing new ones or consolidating jurisdiction-specific processes into global compliance programs. In the midst of all the legislative noise, Know Your Supplier (KYS) and Know Your Customer (KYC) support have emerged as perhaps the key LPO compliance offerings. The associated multi-lingual and multi-jurisdictional surveying, fact-checking and research, coupled with legal and technology skills are of course core competencies of the leading LPO providers.
The financial services industry for example, which has long capitalized on the labor arbitrage and follow-the-sun advantages of outsourcing, is now increasingly looking to LPOs to help meet anti-money laundering requirements. For instance, Integreon supports its clients throughout the customer onboarding process by undertaking due diligence research and analyzing data pertaining to Politically Exposed Persons, high risk jurisdictions or relating to any other red flag issues. The output from this process can range from basic red flag indicator reports demonstrating the searches completed to much more detailed reports where high risks have been identified, including in-depth profiling of the corporation, directors, shareholders or other relevant entities. Once again, the true value-add is in gaining access to resources with the legal know-how to understand the driving forces behind the legislation responsible for triggering the demand for these compliance programs. The combined research, analytics and legal capabilities of top tier LPO firms make them the logical port of call for providing this type of extensive support.
The greater vigilance of anti-corruption regulators is also increasing the liability associated with third party suppliers, which in turn is driving the outsourcing of compliance work. In connection with FCPA or other anti-corruption legislation, outsourced compliance support can include the design, distribution, assistance in completion, and collection of surveys or questionnaires for a company’s global supply chain. This can be supplemented by supplier response fact-checking and red flag analysis. The skillset required by these LPO resources engaging with third party suppliers calls for not only an understanding of the anti-corruption laws in play, but also the interpersonal skills necessary to facilitate successful interaction with third parties – who may be wondering why they’re being asked to jump through hoops over and above the normal supplier selection process. When all the information is finally obtained, it then needs to be organized, categorized, hosted and maintained in an easily accessible platform or repository.
At the end of Robocop a reporter asks, “Robo, excuse me… any special message for all the kids watching at home?” RoboCop responds simply with a message for our time, “Stay out of trouble.” In the world of corporate compliance, this is easier said than done! As the corporate regulatory landscape becomes an ever more treacherous minefield and legal and compliance departments are increasingly tasked with achieving more for less, then as sure as night follows day, the demand for LPO compliance solutions appears set to soar.
Mark Ross is the Senior Vice President of Legal Process Outsourcing at Integreon and
Laurel Lichty is the Vice President of Compliance Solutions at Integreon.
Penny Retzer (me) speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony in Fargo, April 14, 2014.
It’s an exciting time to be with Integreon. Business is booming and the company is expanding from all corners of the world to meet growing client demand for our award-winning legal, document, research and business outsourcing solutions.
Location of the future Integreon facility at 3247 47 St. S. Opening November 2014.
What started in 1998 with a handful of Associates supporting an investment banking client – with business services delivered from what was then a very humble office in New York – has today become a global organization with more than 2,000 Associates spanning five continents and 12 delivery centers, serving many of the world’s leading law firms, corporate law departments, financial
Integreon breaking ground at its new location in Fargo.
institutions and professional services firms.
As we’ve grown over the years, we’ve also expanded our operations to ensure we continue to support our clients with the highest quality services. This includes recently moving to new facilities in New York City and Noida, India, and opening an additional facility in Manila, Philippines. This week, we led the groundbreaking ceremony for yet another new facility, a building under construction in Fargo, North Dakota. We’ve out-grown our two existing Fargo buildings, so the plan is to open a larger one in November 2014. The new facility will enable us to consolidate operations into a single building, with room to grow even more.
Our Fargo Heritage
We’ve been in Fargo for more than 13 years, and our growing presence has been one of the area’s best-kept secrets. The roots of our operation began in 2001, with University of North Dakota grad Peter Pantaleo. Peter, who was with a law firm in Washington, D.C. at the time, saw a need for specialized support services for law firms. He set out to start a business and was attracted to North Dakota because of its skilled workforce and the support offered to him by the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.
Born as CBF Group in 2000, the business began operating with just two Associates. It was acquired in 2007 by Integreon, and now the team in Fargo has grown to more than 300 Associates. Along the way, we’ve expanded from our original 5,000 square feet of offices, to the 26,500 square feet we have today across two buildings. By the end of this year we’ll have 34,000 square feet in one new facility. This move further emphasizes Integreon’s commitment as a company to provide clients with a variety of 24/7 services from the US and abroad. Our ability to service customers from these different locations allows all locations to thrive, and gives our customers the choices they need for their own demanding businesses and clients.
A Positive Impact to the Fargo Community
Although I’ve described us as Fargo’s best-kept secret, we’ve made a strong impact on the lives of many of the people who live here. We’re a primary service sector business, which means that substantially all of our revenue is earned from outside of Fargo. And, as our business has steadily grown, we are almost always on the lookout for new hires. In fact, we anticipate 30 additional hires through the end of this year alone! In addition, we contribute regularly to our community through Integreon’s corporate social responsibility program. Not only do we take pride in how we add value to our clients, but we also strive to make a difference in the locales where our Associates work and live. It is an important part of our company DNA, and we encourage our Associates to live it every day.
Our Award-Winning Fargo Team
When it comes to business, the Integreon team in Fargo provides 24/7 service and support to more than 100 of the 250+ clients Integreon serves around the world. Services delivered from our Fargo facility include document processing; presentation services; marketing support; transcription; proofreading; workflow coordination; HR, administrative and secretarial support; legal document review and contract management. The team also collaborates almost daily with other Integreon colleagues around the world, including those in Mumbai, India; Manila, Philippines; Arlington, Virginia; and London and Bristol in the United Kingdom.
An example of this collaboration is our contract management and review support for Microsoft Corporation. The Fargo team works closely with our colleagues in Bristol, who have considerable foreign language expertise, to support Microsoft’s 20,000 contracts per year in 14 languages across 125 countries. The quality of our work for Microsoft was recently recognized by the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM), which presented Integreon with their 2013 Innovation Award for our delivery of “outstanding” service and support. A detailed case study of this program is available here. As a key delivery center for this work, I could not be more proud of my Fargo teammates for this great accomplishment!
Our Microsoft account is only one example of the great work we do in Fargo. We strive to always provide exceptional service to every one of our clients, whether they are a small regional law firm or multi-national corporation. Other case study examples of Integreon’s work, and not just that of the Fargo team, can be found here.
Watch the TV News Coverage
Our groundbreaking ceremony earlier this week received some great TV news coverage across all of the local Fargo broadcast networks. Some of the reports I found online follow:
Fargo is an important location for our global company. We’ve had great success in growing our skilled workforce here and in serving our clients from this facility, which is why we’re continuing to invest here. The modern design and employee-friendly environment of our new facility will represent the Integreon brand, value and excellence that Integreon has built throughout the years. As I stood at our new site on Monday and as I look at the plan for our impressive new building, I am amazed at how far we have come, both in Fargo and as a global company. We look forward to the continuing success and growth of our business and to making a difference in Fargo and all the other local communities where we operate.
Penny Retzer is the general manager of Integreon’s Fargo facility. She also serves as the global head of document services at Integreon.
For a brief overview of Integreon and our global operations and business, watch our new video. My thanks to the Integreon marketing team for putting this together.
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.
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!
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