April 19, 2017

The Robots Are Coming!

Category: Technolawgical | Author: | Share:

Lawyers, like all businesses, function best when they are taking advantage of their core competencies. These are the defining capabilities or advantages which distinguish us both as a profession and within our profession. And generally speaking, our core competency is being lawyers, not making decisions about IT infrastructure, marketing or the other various aspects of our business. This is why I am a fan of outsourcing functions that are not part of our core competency.

One of the things that is outside the core competencies of most law firms is running software, maintaining servers and making IT investments. After all, I write this column on technology, and I have to defer to the IT firm we hired on many of these kinds of issues. And these decisions can have long-term consequences.

For example, we need to deal with an increasing amount of electronically stored information in our cases. Sometimes this information is produced to us by the opposing party. Sometimes this information comes from our own client. There are many software solutions that can help you deal with this information in an efficient manner. Some of those solutions can be used on your own servers, while others can be run by someone else. As a fan of having lawyers focus on being lawyers, I’m a fan of giving the job of running those servers and that software to someone else. This is cloud-based document review.

There are more benefits to using cloud-based document review than just saving the headache of making IT decisions. These services allow you to interface with their software on the web, making this solution both portable and platform agnostic. In other words, you can access the documents from home or office; on a computer or mobile device; or on Windows, Mac, or Chromebooks. This kind of flexibility is simply not available for most document review solutions that you host yourself. Moreover, a cloud-based solution makes document review software and support an expense of a particular matter. In contrast, if you buy a server and software to do document review, then you may have a more difficult time attributing those expenses to a particular matter. Thus, cloud-based document review (1) lets us concentrate on being lawyers; (2) if more flexible than hosting the software internally; and (3) shifts the cost from overhead to an expense of a case.

Of course, whenever there are benefits, there are usually costs as well. And in this case, the costs are two-fold: (1) cloud-based solutions can seem more expensive, and (2) you lose the ability to be the sole controller over who has access to your data. But these concerns are usually not a deal-breaker.

First, while it can be expensive to host lots of information with a cloud provider, this expense should be balanced against the entire cost of locally hosting your own document-review solution. For example, if you locally host, you will need to pay for the software, the hardware, and the maintenance of each. And you will also incur the time you spend on making decisions about the software, hardware, maintenance, and renewals. Finally, you will need to decide whether you will actually use the software and hardware enough to justify the expense. Your firm will need to make its own choice regarding how these costs balance against the benefits, but for many of you, it will likely be a no-brainer.

Second, the losing control over your clients’ information and your document-review work product can feel uncomfortable. After all, we have an ethical responsibility to protect that information. However, most services have better security against attacks by hackers than most any law firm. And the contracts these firms will sign with you should give you assurances regarding the level of security that they will maintain. Do your due diligence when deciding on a vendor, but don’t let the possibility of a data breach be the deciding factor when deciding whether to use a cloud-based service.

If I have convinced you to look into cloud-based document review, you would probably like to know what is out there for you to use. You have many options. For example, there are at least two companies with offices in Indiana which specialize in this kind of solution, QDiscovery and Xact Data Discovery. Our office has worked with each of these companies over the years, and have found both to provide a quality service professionally.

Other options are offered by companies that have traditionally provided support to attorneys: Thomson Reuters and Lexis. Earlier this year, Thomson Reuters introduced a new product, eDiscovery Point, which one legal publication called the “New Product of the Year 2016.” It has too many features for me to summarize in this column, but I find the features and pricing to be a very attractive solution.

There will continue to be more and more electronically stored information, and we will discover more and more of it in future cases. Dealing with this information must be part of our core competencies as lawyers. But dealing with the software and hardware necessary for us to organize that information is not. Most firms are better off outsourcing those headaches and letting a professional make those decisions. Your firm would probably be better off making this choice, too.