Managed Review Services Benefit Corporations And Law Firms

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 11:00

The Editor interviews John Thacher, Director, Managed Review Services, TechLaw Solutions.

Editor: We understand that TechLaw Solutions has been delivering innovative managed review, litigation support, and e-discovery services for nearly 30 years. Please describe what differentiates your approach.

Thacher: Our view of managed review as a shifting of economic risk is unique in the market. It reflects an old-fashioned business ethic in being truly value based. We work primarily within a fixed-price model, which is attractive to corporate end-clients who want to control costs more effectively and allocate litigation costs directly to the applicable people and processes, and to law firms who gain predictability for their clients. Our direct client base includes corporations and law firms, and both appreciate our enlightened and highly communicative process and fixed-price approach.

Our managed review services primarily involve lawyers managing the entire review process, and because of our pricing model, we assume the risk of cost overruns and of human or technological deficiencies. Accepting this risk on behalf of our clients motivates us to provide high-quality, efficient and productive service.

Editor: Please describe the spectrum of TechLaw Solutions’ services.

Thacher: While we are not strictly limited to e-discovery, we stay close to our litigation roots. Some services tie in with broad information-governance initiatives, such as for clients who use us as a repository for large amounts of information for litigation purposes. A significant portion of our business involves big litigation, including M&A, pharma and IP work.

Editor: Describe your business operation and key team members.

Thacher: We have several business centers. Those in the Washington, DC and Denver, Colorado areas are technical in nature, and the facility in Manhattan serves as a managed review center. Our technical centers host top-notch project management teams, including traditional-project and tech-project managers.

We have defined a new class of attorney project managers. They are dedicated e-discovery professionals who focus on our primary mission of dovetailing with the substantive efforts of our law firm and corporate clients. As permanent employees on our team, they bring experience, consistency and defensibility to the process

Editor: I'd like you to expand on what you mean by "dovetailing." What is the distinction between substantive contributions from in-house or law firm attorneys (primary attorneys) who are responsible for the case and the contributions your team offers?

Thacher: It’s a great question. We are not and do not want to be a law firm, and our services fall outside a law firm’s core competency of providing substantive legal advice. Our job is to provide an efficient managed review process; however, in order to be effective, that process must dovetail with the substantive talents of the primary attorneys. Our teams are composed of lawyers who can use their understanding of substantive law to work with and support the primary attorneys while optimizing TechLaw Solutions’ contribution to a matter.

Our function is to manage a highly repetitive task, serving as the procedural lever that allows primary attorneys to direct their substantive talents across vast numbers of documents. Built into this universal function are many processes that are driven by different levels of communication with clients.

Sometimes, this communication amounts to an hour’s worth of initial instruction, resulting in a straight contribution of results back from us. More sophisticated firms often decide to expand our involvement beyond unilateral instruction. Here, they derive great value from engaging in ongoing dialogue with us as to what we learned, both during the process of developing the review protocol and from the production sets we created.

As a practical example, our contribution involves creating a log of substantive issues, outlining the questions asked and the answers generated. If clients are later questioned about how a review was done, they have a clear and detailed record of all the substantive decisions that led to the production sets. This process requires open dialogue, and because of their legal training, our team members can add great value, for instance, in being able to read and understand a subpoena. We create our biggest fans among clients when we find unexpected documents as a result of the higher level of review that our team can offer.

Editor: How do your services tie in with your clients’ value propositions?

Thacher: Whether we are customizing services to a law firm or corporate client, the consistent objective is to maximize service quality and minimize costs, all without compromising the integrity of our process. In addition to the qualifications of our team members and our well-developed process, TechLaw Solutions’ pricing model and constant monitoring, including the measurement of quality controls, lead to client engagements in which our value propositions are intrinsically aligned.

Our process is highly defined, and we disclose it up front in writing when establishing client relationships. During the course of delivering our services, we confirm when each task is complete and disclose the results of the quality-control assessments we are constantly performing. Customization often occurs when a wrinkle develops along the way and new tasks are required. For us, this is a simple matter of adding a single additional step to an already well-developed process.

Along with shared objectives relating to quality, the economic benefits of our service also tie in with shared value propositions. Some firms are hesitant to engage an outside vendor if they have the internal capacity, even though internal processing may be more costly, whereas others actually use TechLaw Solutions as a competitive advantage during the bidding process. Because we are specialists in managed review, clients can leverage our fixed-price model to bring cost certainty to a discrete portion of the litigation process.

Some corporate clients use our services – and capitalize on the familiarity we gain through handling multiple company matters – across their primary relationships with numerous outside law firms. In all cases, we perform our specialized work while the outside firms retain primary responsibility in delivering the substantive work they do best.

Editor: Cost is a major concern for organizations in addressing the explosion of electronically stored information (ESI). Please talk a bit more about your pricing models.

Thacher: As I mentioned, at the heart of TechLaw Solutions’ fixed-price model is our assumption of economic risks, such as those associated with cost overruns and loss of quality due to use of ineffective technology. While corporations would never accept these risks when retaining services within a mature industry, our industry is still developing.

It is a true measure of confidence in our work product and empathy with our clients’ needs that we assume these risks. This empathy reaches toward corporate clients, as outlined, but also toward law firm clients whose substantive objectives are well served by cost certainty and expert handling of the review process.

Specifically, our pricing structure utilizes a fixed-price, per-document model for document hosting, processing and review. The keys to our ability to offer such pricing and assume the embedded risks are the quality of our people and our uncompromising standards for quality control. In our view, there is no such thing as an average project manager, only great ones and poor ones, and our pricing model ensures that we remain as invested in the ultimate result as our clients.

One very important aspect of our process is privilege review, which often doesn’t get the attention it deserves during broader discussions of review services. There is a wide disparity among ways to deliver this service and methods of charging for it.

As an employee-owned company, it is not incidental that our pricing structure includes an unusual incentive model for the project-based attorneys that we retain, whom we consider to be members of the family. It’s a natural extension of our need to manage the economic risks we assume that we include a bonus program for our best performers. Shared ownership invites this kind of strategy, and we place great emphasis on the job satisfaction of all team members.

Editor: We understand that TechLaw Solutions has recently achieved the coveted ISO certification with respect to data security. Please describe this designation and its criteria.

Thacher: TechLaw Solutions has achieved ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management System Certification, as published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

ISO certification involves a rigorous, 18-month testing and verification process and is awarded very judiciously. The certification adds credibility to organizations like TechLaw Solutions because it reflects that our processes and data security protocols meet the highest standards and, further, that our standards can be formally audited and certified as ISO compliant on an ongoing basis.

We take the same approach with data security as we do with our service process: keep it simple. The simpler the process, the easier it is to track and identify weaknesses. The design of our security systems was inspired by the requirements of banking clients and other publicly traded corporations, for whom data security is a mission-critical business component. As clients requested that we seek certification, we are grateful for that push because other clients are proactively requesting acknowledgement of the certification.

Briefly, ISO certification involves the extensive review of our processes, essentially digging into the foundations of our organization, and the requirement that we formally document our procedures and maintain strict operational compliance. The certification speaks to our disciplined approach and is a real feather in our cap.

Editor: Please tell us about your technology business partners.

Thacher: We are consistently looking for and incorporating the best technologies in the field. For example, we are proud to be one of the 20 percent of total providers to earn the distinction of Relativity Best in Service Partner, and we count Equivio, Content Analyst, Nexidia and Venio among our valued partners. While predictive coding has gained in prominence, standing today where ECA stood two years ago, it remains just one of the many advanced capabilities we offer.

We evaluate all technologies thoroughly. We never want to beta test any technology with our clients, so we run fully mirrored tests for newer versions and incorporate them only after we are thoroughly confident that they function to our exacting standards.

Regardless of technology or any individual service we provide, the professional contributions and experience of our team members remain our greatest assets.  Ultimately, there is no shortcut for completing the review process – no substitute for in-depth knowledge of a data population. We subscribe to what I call the “10,000-documents rule,” which is a comprehensive way of reflecting the necessity for exhaustive human review of random documents as part of the process of determining the merits of a case.

Editor: How would you summarize TechLaw Solutions’ approach for our corporate counsel readers?

Thacher: Our corporate clients have many different matters to focus on, and just like them, we pay attention to the finished product. The reason that so many general counsel have expressed their satisfaction with our work is that, unlike them, we can focus our entire attention on the e-discovery process.

Please email the interviewee at jthacher@techlawsolutions.com with questions about this interview. For further information about TechLaw Solutions, please click here.