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Managed Services for Law Firms: The Six Pillars of a Successful Managed Service Relationship

By Steven L. Clark, E-Discovery and Litigation Support Director,  Dentons and John Del Piero, Vice President, Lighthouse

Whether your firm is just beginning to consider a move to a managed service ediscovery model or you’re a managed service veteran, it is imperative to understand what makes this type of ediscovery program model successful. After all, if you don’t know how to measure success, it will be difficult to know what to look for when selecting a provider, and equally as hard to monitor the quality of the services provided once you have selected one.

eDiscovery Managed Services

However, measuring success can be complex. There are many different metrics that could be used to measure success and each may be of a varying level of importance to different firm stakeholders, as the priorities of these stakeholders will be determined by their particular role and focus. However, a successful managed service partnership can be based on a foundation of six core pillars. These pillars can be used as guideposts when evaluating whether a managed service partner will truly add value to a law firm’s ediscovery process.

Pillar 1: Access to Best-of-Breed Technology and Teams of Experts to Help Leverage It

A managed service partnership should always make a law firm (and its clients) feel like the best ediscovery technology is right at their fingertips. But more than that, a successful managed service relationship should enable a law firm to stay technologically agile, while lowering technology costs.

For example, if an ediscovery tool or platform becomes obsolete or outdated, the firm’s managed service partner should be able to quickly move the firm to better technology, with little cost to the firm. In other words, in a successful managed service partnership, gone are the days where a litigation support team was stuck using an obsolete platform simply because the law firm purchased an enterprise license for that technology. Rather, the managed service partner should bear the cost burden of leveraging continuously evolving technology because the partner can easily spread that technological risk across its client base. In assuming this burden, the managed services partner ultimately provides law firms much greater flexibility in terms of leveraging the most appropriate technology to meet their clients’ needs.

In addition to simply providing access to the best technology, a successful managed service partnership should also provide teams of experts who are wholly dedicated to helping law firms leverage that technology for optimal impact. These experts should be continuously vetting new applications and technology upgrades, enabling litigation support teams to stay up to date on evolving applications and tools. These teams will also be able to create and test customized workflows that enable law firms to handle how data flows through technically robust collaborative platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack, as well as keep firms apprised of any updates to cloud-based platforms that may affect existing ediscovery workflows.

This type of devoted technological expertise and guidance can provide firms a significant competitive boost, as internal litigation support teams rarely have the resources available to devote staff solely to testing new technology and building customized workflows.

Pillar 2: A Scalable and More Diversified eDiscovery Team

In comparison to a traditional law firm litigation support team which, naturally, is somewhat static in size, a successful managed service relationship allows law firm teams to quickly and seamlessly scale up or down, depending on case needs. For example, when a large matter comes in, a managed service provider should have the ability to quickly pull a project manager in to help manage the case while the internal law firm team still retains day-to-day control of the matter. This alleviates the firm from having to choose between hiring additional staff (only to be faced with too big of a team once the larger matter ends) or outsourcing the case to an external, inflexible ediscovery provider (where the firm may be unable to retain full control of the matter and will undoubtedly have to adapt to different processes and workflows).

A managed service partner’s bench should also be deep, allowing a law firm to pull from a diverse pool of expertise. Whether the law firm needs a review workflow expert or a processing expert, an analytics expert or a migration and normalization expert, a quality managed service provider should be able to swiftly provide someone who knows the teams involved and has the qualifications and technological background to ensure that all stakeholders trust their expertise and guidance.

Pillar 3: eDiscovery Expertise 24/7/365

A managed service provider should not only provide law firms with top-notch ediscovery expertise but also provide access to that expertise whenever it is needed. Unfortunately, most litigation support teams are all too familiar with the fact that ediscovery is almost never a 9 to 5 job. The nature of litigation today means that a Monday production deadline involving a terabyte of data may be doled out by a judge on a Friday morning, or that data for a pressing production may arrive at 9:00 p.m. The list of ediscovery off-hour emergencies is somewhat endless.

Unfortunately, most internal litigation support teams at law firms are located in one geographic area (and therefore, one time zone), meaning that even when internal teams have the required expertise, they may not have those resources available when they’re needed.

A quality managed service partner, however, will be able to provide resources whenever they are needed because it can structure its hiring and team assignments with team members located across multiple time zones. Access to full-time ediscovery expertise and coverage enables law firms to swiftly handle any ediscovery task with ease, with no permanent increase in staffing overhead.

Pillar 4: Less Talent Acquisition Risk

A successful managed service relationship should also significantly lower law firm risk related to talent acquisition and training. While hiring in today’s job climate may seem like a simple task, the cost of sufficiently vetting candidates and then providing the appropriate training can be incredibly time consuming and expensive.

If law firm vetting misses a candidate red flag or even if a candidate just needs more training than expected, staffing costs and time expenses can skyrocket even further. For example, the task of having to substantially re-train a new hire from the ground up can take up the valuable time of other internal experts. In this way, even the most routine hire can often slow productivity and lower the morale of the entire internal team (at least in the short term) until the hire can be fully integrated into the department’s daily workflow.

In a successful managed service relationship, however, the law firm can transfer those types of hiring and training risks directly to the provider. The managed service provider is already continuously evaluating, vetting, and training talent across different geographies in order to hire the best ediscovery experts. Law firms can simply reap the benefit of this process by partnering with the service provider and leveraging that talent once the vetting and training process has been completed.

Pillar 5: Lower Staffing Overhead

To put it simply, all of the above means that moving to a managed service model should allow a law firm to significantly lower its overhead costs related to staffing and management. In addition to taking on the hiring risks, a managed service provider should also take on much of the overhead related to maintaining staff. From payroll, to benefits, to overtime costs, a quality managed service provider handles those costs and time expenses for their own on-staff experts, leaving the law firm free to reap the benefits of on-demand expertise without the staffing overhead costs.

Pillar 6: Better Billing Mechanics

Most law firms are not set up to bill ediscovery services efficiently. eDiscovery billing has evolved over the last few years, and a quality managed service provider should be following suit and offering simplified, predictable cost models in order for law firms to pass that predictability on to their clients. This kind of simplified pricing enables all parties to understand exactly how much they are going to spend for the ediscovery services provided. However, this billing structure differs significantly from the way traditional legal work is billed out, and most law firms’ billing infrastructures have not evolved to offer the same level of predictability or cost certainty.  

This is where a quality managed service provider can provide another benefit, by heavily investing its own resources into building out automated reporting, ticketing, and billing systems that can generate proformas and integrate into the firm’s existing billing systems.

If a managed service provider can take care of these billing tasks, law firm teams can spend more time in furtherance of client work, rather than devoting resources into ediscovery billing metrics and workarounds.

Summary

Access to and expertise in appropriate technology, flexible staffing models, lower overhead, and simplified pricing are the six pillars of a successful managed service partnership in a law firm setting. When all six of these pillars are in place, the managed service partnership will result in more satisfied internal and external law firm customers and an increasing caseload year after year. For more information or to discuss this topic, reach out to us at info@lighthouseglobal.com.