Last week, I was one of the AccessData Group’s team members that attended the ILTA 2012 Annual Conference in National Harbor, MD. Obviously, we were excited to be showing off the new releases of our AD eDiscovery and Summation products, but I want to talk more about some of the unofficial conversations that I had with attendees.
Being a former Litigation Support guy, and a former attendee and speaker at the ILTA conference, I do have a number of contacts who knew me before my turn to the vendor side, and it was interesting to talk to them not only about what we are doing, but what they are dealing with and thinking about. One of the big conversation points for folks is the idea of managed services. Not that everyone I talked to used those exact words, but they were definitely talking around the topic. I truly believe the reason for this – much as this article mentions in reference to a Cowen Group session – is that for all of our talk about “people, process, and technology”, many law firms are lacking the people that would enable them to do everything in-house.
On numerous occasions last week, when talking about our products or even competing products, the one thing really giving law firm folks pause was finding “someone to run it”. Firms are facing the pressure to implement new technology to help their attorneys review the ever-increasing amount of data involved in litigation, while also facing budgetary constraints that prevent them from hiring people to get the most from that technology. It certainly isn’t an enviable position that firms find themselves in.
It also isn’t new. Sure, the need for new technology to deal with the volumes of ESI that continue to grow complicates things for firms. They are being asked to support tools to do early case assessment, content analysis, and even technology assisted review or predictive coding now, but once upon a time, even the idea of using a document review tool was new. Once upon a time, these same firms were doing review from boxes of paper, and as the number of boxes started to multiply, they needed new tools to deal with the volume, and had no “experts” on staff to support those tools. Yet, they somehow found a way. They identified people who could slide into those roles, and learn a completely new role, a role that didn’t exist at that firm before.
Will history repeat itself? Only time will tell, but when I think back about my own start in Litigation Support, moving over from an IT role, I can clearly see that the industry, overall, is in a much better place. Firms have a wide variety of tools to choose from, tools that are much more robust, and scalable, than the ones that were available when we first started dealing with electronic discovery. There is comprehensive training available that will help existing staff learn how to get the most from the tools they have in-house, and there is always the option to partner with a service provider to assist with the larger, more complex, cases.
For everyone at ILTA, and elsewhere, who are concerned about finding the people to do this work, just look to your own past. Yes, the technology is getting more powerful and current review tools are doing a whole lot more than in the past. They have to because the volume of data is not going anywhere but up. Everyone involved in the review process is going to have to stretch their skill set, yet again, because the old way of doing things simply doesn’t scale. Some firms will stretch by moving to a managed services model (we’re huge partners with D4), letting their partner worry about the technology, while others will continue to work with a combination of in-house and outsourced tools. Luckily, no matter which model fits your firm, you’re not in this alone. Those of us on the solutions side have a vested interest in making sure you have the tools, and the know-how to use those tools, whether you have them in-house or are using them in a hosted environment. Some of this technology may seem like science fiction right now, but it’s not. It’s actually quite amazing to step back and think about the sorts of things we can do now with an e-discovery platform, with just a modicum of technical knowledge. Just like you always have, the litigation support industry will get up to speed and it’ll become second nature to many of you. In the meantime, a little training can go a long way towards getting you there.