Roundtable: Considering Key Technologies For In-House Counsel And Legal Service Providers

Monday, December 1, 2008 - 01:00
Jennifer Mailander

Editor: What are the key technologies that general counsel should be considering today to improve the performance of their law departments?

Gaines: Due to the rapid sprawl of electronic information (ESI), the issues of e-discovery and admissibility of information are taking center stage in many civil cases. Ambitious attorneys are using e-discovery to gain advantage in court and to aggressively pursue sanctions. New precedents are being established and new case law is being written at a fever pitch. General counsel are becoming aware of significant litigation risk and are looking for ways to address it.

As a result, a myriad of technologies that reduce risk are being offered to general counsel for consideration. At first blush, technology appears to be the Holy Grail, but experience shows the following:

* The bulk of case law and sanctions levied are against users and business processes - not technology;

* Technology often requires changes in well-established business processes causing significant consequences;

* New technology is not always embraced by the user.

So, in order to effectively mitigate litigation risk, organizations must effectively integrate business processes, people and technologies. This combined solution is critical and must suit the corporate culture while satisfying the court's expectation that a reasonable, defensible and auditable business process is utilized to provide a high assurance of the timeliness and completeness of production and the admissibility of information.

Sound business processes should first be defined and only then should technologies be evaluated. The appropriate resulting solution considers an organization's budget, is acceptable to stakeholders, and reduces the organization's litigation risk to an acceptable level.

A laundry list of new technologies could be provided here, but there are no silver bullets for the corporate legal community. Needs are very individualized, and technology decisions must be carefully considered and based on a corporation's very specific requirements.

Harris: In order to enhance productivity while lowering costs and risks, there are three key technologies general counsel should consider:

* Matter management applications - enable improved capacity planning, performance metrics and management controls;

* Legal hold management software - enables more efficient notification of a duty to preserve electronically stored information (ESI), including reminders and periodic updates, and more effective follow-up to ensure recipients are taking appropriate action to preserve the ESI in question;

* ESI Content Mapping and early evidence assessment tools - helps counsel better understand where data exists within the enterprise, how it is stored, the types of evidence that might be potentially relevant to the matter(s), data volumes and the costs, time and risks of producing the ESI in response to a discovery request.

Mailander: Law Departments have too many disparate technology systems that cannot be integrated costing them money, time and resources and causing them much frustration. Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) is a technology that enables different technology systems to communicate, transfer data and documents and eliminate data entry. XML allows customers to define their own elements and allows information systems to share data, including documents, via the internet, usually via Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer (HTTPS).

By combining CSC services and XML technology for automated electronic delivery into internal systems, law departments can achieve true budget savings by eliminating data input, manual document management and associated storage costs. CSC leads the industry with many successful XML integrations that seamlessly integrate your SOP and matter management data and documents directly into your third-party or custom software application with a standard XML schema. CSC XML Streamsm is very flexible, making available real-time updates for client scheduled XML transfers of SOP and litigation data, as well as any other data and documents directed to CSC for intake and indexing. CSC ensures delivery of your data by automatically identifying, and time and date stamping the transmissions facilitating the auditing and recovery of each transmission file.

Editor: Are there legal support technologies that are best utilized on an in-house basis, while others are best accessed through legal service providers?

Harris: With the advancement of broadband connectivity and Software-as-a-Service, including cloud computing, the distinction between "on-premise" and "hosted" legal support technologies and services is becoming much less of an issue. For example, a software application for reviewing ESI during e-discovery can be installed and managed inside the corporation. Just as easily, the ESI review can be transparently "outsourced" to a hosted service provider through high-speed secure data transfer and securely accessible via a web browser from any computer. The latter option eliminates the requirement for any IT systems investments or installations by the corporation.

Deciding on whether to bring legal support technologies in-house or rely on service providers will depend on a number of factors:

* The sophistication of both legal and IT to support in-house technologies;

* The relative capacity of IT to implement and manage the legal support technologies, especially if it's not the company's core competency;

* The existing or anticipated legal portfolio, including the scope, complexity and risk associated with electronic discovery.

In general, corporations typically start by focusing on the earlier phases of discovery response under their direct control - information governance, identification, preservation and collection. The technologies that enable better access to data stores (e.g., search and analytics), facilitate preservation (e.g., intelligent data repositories that enable preservation in-place, such as archiving) and aid in collection (e.g., from simple "Robocopy" to more sophisticated network search & retrieval tools) are ones that should be considered first. To determine which technologies and approaches are right for an organization, counsel and IT need to work together through a formal assessment and planning process to help determine the right mix of people, process and technology to defensibly, cost-effectively and reliably manage e-discovery demands.

Mailander: There is a misconception that an e-billing system is cost effective only for those law departments who have law firm invoices over $1 million. Even small law departments can benefit from a cost-effective e-billing system. If a law department is processing its invoices manually, this can be a tedious and time-consuming paper-intensive process that can entail receiving the paper invoice, scanning and uploading it, entering the invoice details in a spreadsheet, passing the invoice around from attorney to attorney for their review and approval, and then forwarding it to accounts payable for payment.

CSC E-Billings can automate this manual process saving even a small department time, effort, and money. This significant savings is generated by improving the client workflow, replacing a manual and paper process with an electronic process and identifying errors in billing. Perhaps the greatest savings is in ensuring compliance with billing guidelines and special fee arrangements by flagging inconsistencies in invoices that could easily be missed in a manual process.