I.T.@Pillsbury Winthrop L.L.P.
How to Outsource Your Trial Support
By Mark V. Reichenbach
AS THE litigation support manager for Pillsbury Winthrop L.L.P., a 900-attorney law firm with 17 locations, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the attorneys and legal assistants throughout my firm have what they need in the way of database and imaging systems for their cases. Additionally, I am responsible for the training of attorneys and legal staff on litigation support systems -- making sure that they know how to use these systems efficiently and are well trained and prepared for their case.
Points for Picking an Outsourced Litigation Support Specialist
1 Get referrals from colleagues and professional organizations. The National Association of Litigation Support Managers is a great resource.
2 Call and speak with a knowledgeable person within the company, and make sure that they have the services your firm needs.
3 Do competitive pricing and make sure you're getting value for your money.
4 Ask for references from the company and follow up with them; speaking with another client can make all the difference. Specifically ask questions along the lines of, "Did they miss any deadlines?" "Were they responsive to your needs?" "Would you hire them again?"
5 Make every effort to communicate your needs effectively to the vendor.
Pillsbury Winthrop was created in 2001, with the merger of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro L.L.P. and Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts. Our practice includes about 350 corporate and securities lawyers, 250 intellectual property and technology attorneys, and 250 lawyers who handle complex and international litigation. With offices in major capital finance and technology centers through-out the world, and using a team-based client service model, we are expected to provide our clients with 24/7 coverage whenever they need us. We counsel clients on all aspects of global business, technology transactions and IP protection.
One of the bigger challenges I face as a litigation support manager is anticipating our attorneys' caseloads and their need for automated litigation support. Like most managers, I do not have the in-house coding and scanning resources to meet the demands of large, complex litigation matters. And like many firms, we've found great value in outsourcing certain litigation support tasks.
This certainly has become the trend in the legal industry. With so much to learn and, most of the time, little time to learn it, our attorneys and legal staff are happy to have resources available when they need to build a database or develop a visually outstanding trial support presentation.
We've found that there are litigation support specialists who can help us in virtually every area of trial. From trial preparation, to document management services, to support during a trial in the courtroom, there are litigation support companies that offer a full palette of services.
The question that is inevitably raised after one realizes the need for a litigation support vendor is who to hire. It is critical after all, that the vendor be ultimately qualified, professional, punctual, and knowledgeable. An absence of any of these qualities can harm the case.
For starters, seek referrals through colleagues and professional organizations.
-Mark V. Reichenbach
For starters, seek referrals through your colleagues and professional organizations. As the president of the East Coast Association of Litigation Support Managers, I had an excellent network of colleagues who could provide advice on outsourcing litigation support.
In addition to referrals, I learned that it also is crtical to do thorough research to find a litigation support company that meet's our firm's specific needs for each specific case. I conduct that research by reading industry law publications, visiting company Web sites, and interviewing the vendors I am considering.
In one instance, our firm had a request for information from a client that required haresting electronic evidence (e-mails and documents) residing on about 6,000 workstations. This would be physically impossible for our firm to complete using inhouse resources alone, so we looked for an appropriate outsourcing firm to harvest and process the data.
Once processed, the data had to be made available to reviewers in various offices and client sites across the country.
A short list of potential candidates was compiled and an RFP (request for proposal) was drafted and shipped. Most candidates responded within three days.
Based on our evaluation of the companies and our research, we selected Electronic Evidence Discovery Inc., of Seattle.
Mark V. Reichenbach
Although costs are definitely a factor in outsourcing litigation support, I found that it should not be the sole factor in the decision-making process. Because the industry is new, there are many inexperienced firms who may offer lesser costs, but not deliver the quality of work you need. In other words, often you "get what you pay for" when outsourcing. Proper research is essential!
We also have used TAG Litigation Support, a full service litigation support specialist located in New Rochelle, N.J. In one particular case, TAG offered the services we needed, had actual trial experience for the type of case at hand, was value-priced and professional.
Outsourcing litigation support does have its advantages as well as disadvantages.
On the plus side, outsourcing is flexible. You use it when you need it, whether it is for one case or for several. There are none of the complex issues (and employment contracts) that come along with hiring employees. (Of course, you do have to have a contract with the outsourcing company.)
Litigation support is a highly competitive area right now, and firms can benefit from that competition as it drives prices down. One tip: consolidating your projects to a single company can help you build and maintain an effective working relationship, and help the company to learn and understand your firm's style and needs.
There are however, a few pitfalls to watch out for when you decide to outsource litigation support. First of all, it is important to make sure that the company that you are hiring is not conflicted out, i.e., they have not already been retained by your adversary or performing services for your adversary.
Secondly, there is a "ramping-up" period involved whenever a firm outsources a case. No matter how knowledgeable and professional the company engaged may be, every case is unique in needs, and therefore there is an inevitable period of acclimation, where the firm educates the company about their practice, case, and style. Although this can be somewhat time-consuming, it is certainly time well spent if you have hired a company who is responsive to your firm.
Finally, there is an element of risk involved whenever a firm chooses to outsource. Despite taking all the necessary precautions, a firm still has to take a chance when outsourcing litigation support. You chance that the work will be done properly, on time, in the style that you want it, and in a way that is a benefit to the case. By hiring an "outsider" so to speak, there is an element of faith involved that the work will get done quickly and correctly. However, the more precautions you take, the better your chances of having a positive experience.
Mark V. Reichenbach is manager of litigation support for east coast operations of Pillsbury Winthrop, and is based in New York City. He is president of the East Coast Association of Litigation Support Managers.