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The rise of boutique firms raises E-discovery challenges


By Monica Bay, From Legaltech News

E-discovery managed services help firms manage a variety of cases from small to huge

Small firms are turning to e-discovery managed services to provide sophisticated and affordable technology.

Morrison Cohen, a full service law firm of 100 lawyers, targets the middle market from its midtown Manhattan office. “Although we work on transactions across the United States and abroad, we enjoy the collegiality and instant access provided by our single location under one roof,” the firm states on its website.

That philosophy is likely to become contagious, as BigLaw continues to reduce equity partners and frustrated lawyers seek nimble, creative and tech-friendly work environments. But smaller firms face challenges when it comes to selecting electronic data discovery technology.

Finding state-of-the-art tools with sophisticated analytics can be a very expensive search. But some small and midsized firms are discovering that e-discovery managed services (EMS) can be a comprehensive and affordable option.

Jason Reid, MoCo’s litigation support manager for seven years, recalls the dilemma the firm faced over how to handle e-discovery. “We were at a crossroad,” he explained. The firm was choosing technology a la carte, turning to a few different e-discovery providers. When it came to large matters, the firm used kCura’s Relativity with service providers, but had challenges when dealing with smaller or mid-sized matters. “For those cases, the licensing fees were cost prohibitive.” When kCura began to offer smaller license packs, the firm considered buying about 25 licenses.

The thought process was, “We are a midsized firm competing with the larger firms. We have to offer the same technology and level of service to our clients,” said Reid, who proposed managed e-discovery services to the litigation leaders. They said yes. It took about nine months to get EMS up and running; MoCo is now in its third year with EMS.

Reid cites administrative control as amazing. “With managed services, we can handle any size discovery matter effectively and efficiently.” With only two people in the litigation support department, Reid appreciates the flexibility. The firm now uses Relativity for all discovery matters.

Reid appreciates that his tech team can lean on the vendor when they hit a bump: “They are working with us to make sure we are taking full advantage of Relativity and maximizing the investment we made in the software,” he said. “It’s like a partnership.” 

And the economics are excellent, both for the firm and clients. The EMS system “is cost efficient for us,” said Reid. The firm is happy with the flat-fee plan, and “clients love it because we don’t charge for licensing, we just charge a small at-cost fee – passing the savings onto our clients.”

 Class Action Trigger

Florida’s Grossman Roth practice includes personal injury and complex litigation, with offices in Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota. The firm has 11 attorneys, seven medical investigators and three legal investigators.

The trigger for Grossman’s move to EMS was a massive class action lawsuit, In re Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, which contested overdraft fees, said then-partner Brett von Borke, now a partner at Buckner + Miles. More than 40 lawsuits, involving large U.S. banks, had been filed and were consolidated and assigned to U.S. Judge James King, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The Grossman team, which was working with other law firms, quickly realized that it needed to deal with e-discovery processes, von Borke recalled. “We were getting millions of pages of documents, and we were having to manage those services and documents to review them and deal with transactions,” said von Borke, who focuses on complex business litigation, class actions and personal injury in federal and state courts.

While many Grossman partners worked on medical malpractice cases that did not require extensive paperwork, the class action matters routinely had millions of documents. The partners “understood that we needed a robust document management system to be able to be effective to do this type of class action work,” said von Borke.


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