As the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. For corporate counsel who take a more hands-on approach to e-discovery and want to hire and supervise their own third-party vendors, maintaining the peace between their e-discovery service providers and their outside counsel can be difficult, as both may prefer to hold the project management reins and compete with each other to win their client’s favor. Unless held in check, these internal power struggles can increase the pain and cost of discovery.
Instead, outside counsel and e-discovery vendors should strive to form a symbiotic relationship that maximizes their expertise, minimizes friction, and benefits their client. Corporate Counsel’s recent article, “In E-Discovery, Delete the Law Firm v. Vendor Mentality,” discusses how to make this happen.
1. Keep your eyes on the whole enchilada.
For both law firms and vendors, the goal is to make the e-discovery process as frictionless as possible. Together, the substantive legal insights of outside counsel and the technical know-how of vendors can streamline the discovery process, leading to cost and time efficiencies. Both parties should acknowledge and combine their strengths: for example, if a lawyer has technical knowledge, it is a boon to the implementation of the e-discovery platform and advanced tools, while a vendor with significant litigation experience can troubleshoot potential roadblocks in the process and may be a valuable asset during meet and confer negotiations.
2. Start at the beginning.
Although many organizations handle the first few stages of e-discovery on their own, many disputes are firmly rooted in the stages of identification, preservation, and collection of data. The difference-maker between success and failure could be the proactive, collaborative stance that law firms and vendors establish at the outset of the case. Planning the discovery strategy and workflow at the very beginning should be part of the law firm and vendor’s duties. Outside counsel and vendors should discuss with their client the value that they can bring to discussions of case goals, budgets, metrics, and technology.
3. Share and share alike.
Law firms and vendors must share their knowledge, if they hope to assist their clients comply with their ethical rules. Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to develop a greater understanding of technology. Outside counsel and vendors are well positioned to advise their clients of the benefits and risks associated with e-discovery technology.
4. Focus on the bottom line.
E-discovery does not have to be expensive to yield defensible results. The key to lower costs is law firms and vendors working together to establish a goal-driven budget. Some clients prefer predictable, minimal expenditures, while others want to ensure they leave no stone unturned—and to turn over the rocks as quickly as possible. Only by collaborating over workflows, tools, and best practices can vendors and law firms ensure that they construct a cost-effective framework for discovery.
For more tips on how to enjoy the fruits of the labor of an effective trifecta between in-house counsel, law firms, and e-discovery partners, we invite you to read “In E-Discovery, Delete the Law Firm v. Vendor Mentality.”