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Gaining a competitive advantage

25 October 2013

An increasing number of New Zealand law firms are gaining a competitive advantage through the effective use of technology to meet their eDiscovery needs.

In a LawTalk article last year (LawTalk 807, 26 October 2012), I outlined the considerations for Finding the right e-discovery software. Since this time there has been a measurable shift with firms looking to outsource parts of their eDiscovery requirements.

Levelling the playing field

Many smaller and medium-size firms are more frequently looking at different options as they rarely have the same resources available as the larger firms. When it comes to litigation they look to differentiate how they deliver legal services, as they have become more accustomed to looking at innovative ways of doing this.

For countless years litigation support software was often just a luxury that only big firms with large matters could justify. Through looking at more efficient options, smaller firms are now able to work on larger matters than their internal resource capabilities would have previously permitted. This competitive advantage is achieved through looking at options to increase efficiency and reduce expenses to differentiate their service.

For firms that cannot justify the expense of deploying eDiscovery software and skilled resource in-house then there is the viable option of outsourcing your eDiscovery requirements. When that matter comes along, you have the comfort of knowing that there are options for you and you can easily compete with firms that have greater resources at their disposal.

Challenges of managing e-discovery in-house

There are considerable challenges in managing eDiscovery and these challenges will become more complex as technology evolves further. The responsibility for managing e-discovery in-house is starting to become increasingly burdensome, complicated and costly.

One of the main reasons for this is that technology is constantly evolving, so it is a constant battle to try and catch up. Often once a firm installs eDiscovery software in-house something better and cheaper has come along. As a consequence, numerous firms have been using technology that no longer meets their evolving eDiscovery requirements.

Unlike some overseas law firms, the majority of New Zealand firms are not set up to effectively manage solely in-house models. Due to the inconsistent and unpredictable nature of litigation, dedicated in-house resources are not always fully utilised.

The investment is not just what the eDiscovery software costs you, but also the hidden costs of installing the software, what hardware is required and who internally is going to manage it. To run an effective in-house model it is important to continue to invest in the right tools and resources. Not having to carry resource and invest in technology and the training of your non legal staff can fit well with the ups and downs of litigation. With an outsourced option, this is someone else’s problem. You can just focus on the law.

Greater options now available

The internet and accessibility of options has levelled the playing field as far as eDiscovery software that is now available. Recently there has been a considerable increase in the eDiscovery software and outsourcing options available to the New Zealand market place. These options can all provide efficient and cheaper options for law firms and organisations to outsource discovery work.

The greater competition has also resulted in the cost of the software and services reducing significantly in recent times which has made the outsourced model an increasingly attractive option.

What is the right approach?

The High Court discovery rules are technology neutral, designed for any firm to use whatever software they chose to deploy – whether that be in-house or through a third party provider. However to more effectively conduct eDiscovery it is important to invest in the right software and the expert guidance to go with it.

Independent advice can be invaluable in helping find the right eDiscovery software to suit your requirements. The advice can help you understand the benefits and limitations of the software, as well as assessing if an in-house or outsourced option is best for your requirements.

One of the first steps for any firm that wants to look at the options available is to explicitly understand their own requirements. Many firms are unique in how they manage discovery exercises, so it is important to find solutions that suit those requirements.

Regardless of your approach, it is always important to keep abreast of the software available and the best practices in addressing eDiscovery requirements. Software alone is never the solution as it is essential to devise a plan and strategy to effectively tackle your eDiscovery obligations.

Conclusion

There is no silver bullet to manage eDiscovery, but the challenges can be more effectively managed. Selecting the right eDiscovery software and outsourcing provider can provide a significant competitive advantage to those organisations that do not have the internal resources available.

From a cost perspective, outsourcing parts of the discovery process can be less expensive, as it saves a lawyer’s time and allows them to focus on their real area of expertise – the law.

Andrew King is a litigation support consultant at E-Discovery Consulting. He advises on strategies and tools to simplify the discovery process. Andrew also provides independent e-discovery software advice. Andrew was a member on the working group of High Court Rules Committee which introduced the new electronic discovery rules. Contact: andrew.king@e-discovery.co.nz or 09 375 3055.

Last updated on the 17th March 2016