We've all seen the headlines: Companies are cutting budgets. They're shedding projects and people alike in record numbers, including those from corporate legal and IT, leaving more work for fewer people. It's also no secret that the largest budget item for corporate legal departments is usually their outside counsel fees, a significant fact when the current economic conditions are creating extreme pressure to make significant cost reductions across the board.
In working with a number of corporate counsel and enterprise IT professionals, there is clearly heightened interest in investigating whether to bring more e-discovery in-house to reduce costs. What's not so clear, however, is what exactly to bring in-house, and just as importantly, how to do it in a way that won't overwhelm current budget and human resource limitations.
3. Does your company experience sufficient levels of litigation to justify the additional investment of in-house software, annual maintenance costs, training and allocation of staff?
If the answer is "yes", then further steps are warranted. However, keep in mind that some "pay-as-you-go" or "scalable" in-house software offerings require a significant investment in purchasing and implementing the underlying platform's software and services. They also require the training and certification of your employees so that the work is done properly, repeatably, and defensibly. Beware of hidden costs that may not be clear to you at the outset.
6. Consider both the benefits and risks of having in-house personnel testify vs. having outside experts ready to testify, who are both knowledgeable about your processes and have worked with other companies in similar situations.
I often hear the concern from in-house counsel that they don't wish to put their most knowledgeable people in a deposition or on the stand for fear of opening Pandora's Box to opposing counsel. Or that they don't have someone knowledgeable enough to properly fulfill the requirements of Federal Rule 30(b)(6). Thus it's often advantageous to have a trusted service partner who can fill this critical role when needed, providing a more comfortable and strategic buffer between opposing counsel and your in-house personnel and who can best present your overall processes as reasonable and defensible.
Take a Step Back and Assess
So while the pressure to address e-discovery is very real and particularly urgent for companies who experience higher volumes and/or higher risk matters, it's important to take a step back and assess what you really need and what level of investment is reasonable under the circumstances. Ask yourself whether your goals can best be accomplished by in-sourcing some tasks, while understanding that others may be best served by a hybrid approach of outsourcing tasks and volumes beyond your company's current investment budget, technical infrastructure and capacity, staffing resources and/or expertise.