The LPO Managed Review Bench: a Compelling Argument for Offshore Document Review
When engaging introductory discussions with potential clients for Managed Document Review services, the conversation frequently begins with lower costs, technology infrastructure and well-developed processes. Lower costs alone do not compel general counsel to select specific service providers; and they expect providers to provide secure technology infrastructure and defensible processes. In fact, general counsel and their outside law firms frequently pay premiums to use the best technology and processes for their projects. The same holds true for well-trained and experienced review teams - the traditional law firm model.
Many U.S. law firms still hire small legions of staff or project attorneys to work in their litigation centers because of the duty of zealous representation and the duty of supervision, ensuring that the individuals conducting the review on behalf of the client are committed to the client's interest and are vetted, evaluated and progressed professionally based on the quality of their project management and review skills. For the past 15-20 years, during the rise and maturing of the temporary contract market in the U.S., the outside law firms conducting review on behalf of corporate clients have experienced mixed outcomes when using contract attorney staffing, sometimes resulting in overstaffing, triple layers of review and quality control, and reliance on claw-back provisions to recapture missed privilege documents. While there are some exceptional contract attorneys (and I have worked with many), there also exists a segment that are staffed to fill seats, who may "click" without regard for the client and understand that it could be weeks before the poor quality of their performance is identified; although times are changing, and traditional staffing is being progressively replaced with managed review, many of these attorneys continue to be temporary, without adequate assessment or career progression.
Full time employees reflect responsibility and accountability. Although occasional use of temporary resources in offshore LPOs occurs, full-time employees support the majority of offshore delivery. Investing in a bench and the training and development of the resources allows Indian LPOs to deploy quickly, often with 72 hours' notice, on client requirements. Many "projects" run for a period of 4-8 weeks, but the firms with heavy litigation dockets may run 4-6 projects at any time and staff between 15 - 30 resources per project. These firms spend approximately $100M per year on e-discovery and managed review services on behalf of clients. In addition to on demand staffing, Indian LPOs also facilitate annuity based staffing, allowing corporate clients or their outside law firms to maintain larger "full time" teams at reduced rates.
Moreover, as technology assisted review begins to reduce the number of reviewers required for a project, it also drives a need for advanced, specialized teams who understand the client's business or the subtleties of privilege review. When corporates retain LPOs that have permanent resources, these resources have repeated exposure to the client's business practices, counsel, and processes; not only does this often enable reutilizing data, privilege lists and review guidance, resulting in higher quality and more timely review due to the speed of ramp-up, but it also supports improved privilege review and logging. This specialized team can bring premium pricing and more rewarding career development.
Today, Indian LPOs succeed because of their dedicated resources, and they will continue to thrive if they can maintain these ready benches of dedicated resources.