Podcast Available: How In-house Departments Can Save 20%

In-House LegalLegalTalk Network's In-house Legal program has asked Counsel On Call to participate in three podcasts. The first of these is available now: 'How In-house Departments Can Save 20%,' featuring Jane Allen. Jane discusses different areas of savings and different approaches -- and debunks myths about what has to happen to cut 20% out of a legal budget.

The other interview on the podcast is Rees Morrison from the Law Department Management Blog, who provides good insight into the challenges legal departments are facing.

The show is also available on iTunes for free download - just search for 'in-house legal.'

Jane's interview starts at the 12:35 mark and runs approximately 10 minutes. Subsequent shows in the three-part series will focus on e-discovery and the rest of the discovery/litigation support process, as it is certainly an area we're speaking to a lot of clients about. We hope you'll listen in and let us know what you think.

Podcast: How A Legal Department Can Save 20%

Jane AllenJane Allen, Counsel On Call's president & founder, will appear on LegalTalk Network's In-House Legal podcast next Tuesday, Feb. 24, with host Paul Boynton. The topic: 'How in-house departments can save 20%.'

The show can be heard and/or downloaded (free) by visiting LTN's website or on iTunes by searching for 'in-house legal' starting on Tuesday. 

Here's a summarized excerpt from a question about the common reaction from in-house clients when learning that significant budget cuts need to made:

"Often the first reaction involves gut-wrenching thoughts about cutting staff and getting rid of outside counsel. We like to sit down and walk through the ways the 10-20% savings can be achieved without making wholesale changes to the department ... There is always going to be work that should be sent to outside counsel. There is always work that should be done by in-house attorneys. And there is typically a middle ground of work that can be done by really talented attorneys at rates less than $100 an hour ..."

We hope you'll set a reminder and are able to listen in at some point next week.


LegalTech NY: Review Less Data - and Do It Faster

Themes from 2008 and before: Review data faster
Theme for 2009: Review less data

After a jam-packed three days of meetings, panel discussions, and visiting with software vendors from across the country at LegalTech New York, it wasn't difficult to discern the two primary objectives for cost savings in the e-discovery realm: (1) Review the data faster and (2) Review less data. These topics aren't new, of course, but in particular the level of discussion about reviewing less data has clearly reached a new level. 

Reviewing Data Faster

For the past few years, the latest technology trends were utilizing content analytic tools when reviewing data. Leaders in this area include Attenex, Stratify, Metalincs, and Cataphora. In our experience, content analytical tools have proven to be three to five times faster than traditional linear tools. The result: hundreds or thousands of attorney hours saved and thousands or millions of dollars saved in performing the review of electronic data.

The benefits of content analytical tools is now well accepted, so much so that traditional linear software tools have upgraded their platforms to include content analytical capabalities. Indeed, over the past year Content Analyst Company has announced strategic alliances with KCura's Relativity, Onsite's eView, and most recently iCONECTnXT.

Why is this so important, other than the obvious benefits of getting the review done faster? Because it makes the hourly rate of the attorneys less relevant. For a company deciding to conduct a review with an LPO and its low hourly rate, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be less expensive if an onshore company's attorneys can produce review rates that are two or three times faster, even if the hourly rate is double. So when considering this type of work, it's always good to ask the e-discovery company about the review rates their attorneys typically achieve -- it makes it easier to compare apples to apples. 

Reviewing Less Data

In addition to software platforms adding content analytical capacity to their arsenal, the major players are also focusing on the next-largest cost associated with e-discovery: the amount of data collected for review. In the majority of our visits with software review vendors, the common theme was that either their tool now had early case assessment features or they were in the process of adding to their platform. To that end, we had a chance to visit with representatives of Clearwell, Metalincs, Planet Data, and Inference, just to name a few.

In utilizing the technology for our corporate clients, we have seen the benefits first-hand. We have found that by processing through an Early Case Assessment tool that one or two attorneys can quickly and dramatically cull down the data to be reviewed (see our previous posts). In an instant, you can eliminate all e-mails that do not fall within the relevant time periods by performing advanced date searches and filtering those results.

The next step is to identify all sender and recipient domains related to the particular custodian’s files that you are reviewing. With this feature, the attorney reviewer can eliminate thousands of e-mails that clearly have no relevance to a particular matter based upon the sender or recipient information. For example, all e-mails sent from eBay, Travelocity, newspapers and other subscription-type services provide fertile ground to eliminate thousands of irrelevant e-mails across all custodians collected. The ability to search across all data, based upon domain names, also provides opportunity to quickly and comprehensively identify all communications to and from legal counsel. With one click of the button, a single reviewer can segregate as “potentially privileged” all of the documents originating from or involving legal counsel into a separate workflow for a second-level determination of privilege. In addition, by typing in the law firm name you can quickly and comprehensively identify all attorneys associated with that law firm and all e-mail accounts associated with that attorney that have been collected. This feature adds an extra layer of confidence that you are capturing all attorneys involved in a particular matter.

By spending a small amount of time on the front end with these early case assessment tools, it is very achievable to reduce the amount of data that requires review by an additional 25-50% over the initial 20-30% filtered through traditional automated culling processes (de-duplication, file-type suppression). The net result – huge savings with a potential total reduction of 50-80% of files that require review.

One of the most popular drivers of visitors to this blog are searches for 'early case assessment tools,' which on a much smaller scale illustrates how much this issue is in the collective consciousness of the profession. And why wouldn't it be? If there's less data to review -- and we can review it faster -- it's going to make achieving significant cost savings a lot more realistic.

E-Discovery Pet Peeves

I attended a CLE recently that dealt with the topic du jour -- e-discovery. Seems you can’t pick up a CLE calendar without seeing at least two sessions dedicated to the subject, which I guess speaks to just how much it's dominating our thoughts these days.

I must admit this particular program was pretty good, however. At the end of one of the panels -- dealing with corporate costs for e-discovery -- someone asked the question, “What are some of your pet peeves?” The list was insightful so I thought I’d share the panelists' thoughts:

  1. Do not overpromise what you can deliver.
  2. You cannot approach discovery, particularly e-discovery, as a risk-less enterprise. That only creates unnecessary costs and burden and it will never be risk-less.
  3. Don't charge me for “futzing” with the technology. You should know the technology and if you don’t, learn it on your own time.
  4. Every case is matter-specific. It is ridiculous to say “this is the way we do e-discovery” and apply it to every matter.
  5. Clients pay for experience. You better have some.

And last but not least amongst the peeves was:

      6.   Lack of Predictability.

This last one we hear all the time and Counsel On Call has spent a lot of resources creating procedures to address. Our repeatable litigation support processes, and the data that we track and gather on each project for a client, enables that client to better budget each project going forward. In addition, we have done so many of these projects that our experience can add a large degree of certainty with respect to projected costs for even that first engagement.

I was glad to hear some interesting discussion on this subject, and it's clear that a larger percentage of in-house counsel are really taking control of their e-discovery matters -- and, whether working with their internal team or with their legal service partners, are developing progressive concepts of what they want their litigation processes to look like. We're fortunate that we have many clients that fit this mold, and it's exciting to see the results that some of these great concepts produce.

Alternative Fee Arrangements Gain Traction

Recently, the National Law Journal (NLJ) reported that Burger King Holdings Inc., is just one company asking its outside legal counsel to consider "alternative and creative billing" methods in responding to the company's request for proposals -- further evidence that the billable hour is losing popularity among corporate clients who are under mounting pressures to cut outside legal fees. (Another NLJ article this morning also discussed the need for alternative billing models.)

Burger King has negotiated a variety of alternative fee arrangements with its outside counsel, according to the NLJ, including fee caps, blended rates and monthly retainers. Other companies, as well as the American Bar Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel, also are calling for the demise of the billable hour, saying it “breeds inefficiency and is driving up legal costs." A number of law firms are heeding the call to abort and are offering flat fees, success fees and contingency fees. One such firm offering its clients a "smorgasbord of fee options," as mentioned in the article, is Valorem Law Group. Interestingly, Valorem cites the use of Counsel On Call attorneys as one of the reasons that it is able to provide its clients with so many alternative and cost-efficient options.

We applaud Valorem's progressive and straightforward approach with its clients. We have a similar mindset – if our clients see value in working with us, we want to provide solutions that work for them -- whether those solutions include great attorneys, remote work, tested and repeatable processes or alternative billing arrangements.

Another note: For those of you in Tennessee and the surrounding area, I would like to invite you to an upcoming CLE sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association this Friday, February 6, at 9:00 a.m. (CDT). As part of this CLE, a panel of in-house corporate counsel, including Michael Zylstra with Cracker Barrel, Sue Dyer with HCA, and Debra Enderle with Willis North America, will discuss what creative ways and alternative fee options they have utilized in an effort to reduce their legal budgets. Register here.