Ah, the wonderful world of alternative legal service providers, or ALSPs. Like it or not, they’re a necessary part of the modern legal landscape. This is especially true in areas of the law where complex matters with large sums of data are commonplace. Such areas include intellectual property, corporate law, and antitrust, just to name a few. There comes a point where lawyers just can’t do it alone.
The problem is that legal service providers can all look pretty similar on the surface. This is especially true in fields such as eDiscovery that rely heavily on technology to get the job done. They all have “cutting edge technology;” they all have the “highest standards of security” and “certified experts” doing the work.
Usually, as long as lawyers have worked with someone before and the work got done adequately in time for the deadline, they’re happy. Unfortunately, a service provider can meet these criteria and still fall short in other respects without their clients realizing it.
That’s why we’ve put together the “7 Deadly Sins of Service Providers.” If you’re an ALSP reading this, we hope this helps make you a better ALSP. If you’re a law firm or in-house team, we hope it helps you figure out if you’re really getting the most bang for your buck out of these companies.
Deadly Sin #1: An “all-or-nothing approach”
Some of the marketing buzzwords that legal service providers use for this include words like “comprehensive,” “end-to-end,” and “all-inclusive.”
It sounds great on paper, the idea of one solution or company that can solve all your eDiscovery woes. Full disclosure: I’ve written versions of this pitch for Contact’s eDiscovery Managed Services, and I fully believe such all-inclusive approaches can be right for some clients, especially if it’s what that organization actually asked for.
However, it shouldn’t be the only thing on the menu.
Sometimes clients and potential clients aren’t in this boat. They know there are certain aspects of the EDRM they can handle just fine, either internally or with other vendors, and they’re only in the market for a specific service such as processing, hosting, or forensics. Maybe they want to license software to address specific challenges such as mobile data, but are content to do most of the work themselves and maintain 90 percent of their status quo.
Some eDiscovery providers can’t handle that. Their model is based on the idea that clients should abandon anything and everything about their existing workflows to adopt whatever new technology or services that company is selling. They don’t know how to be helpful without completely turning their clients’ worlds upside down, and sometimes that can do more harm than good.
If your vendor’s answer is ALWAYS to throw the baby out with the bathwater and buy something new, they probably don’t have your best interests at heart.
Deadly Sin #2: Believing new automatically = better
Sometimes new is better. Sometimes it isn’t. Remember that time Coke tried to make “New Coke?” That can happen in the eDiscovery space too.
On the tech development side of the industry, it just doesn’t look good to sit on your hands and say “yup, that thing we built two years ago is still the best!” There’s a perpetual pressure to innovate, exacerbated by the fact that all the competitors are constantly launching new products as well. That can spill over into legal service providers feeling like they have to offer the latest (but maybe not greatest) tech.
New technology can be great, especially if it’s addressing other impactful changes in the law or how technology is being used. For example, a solution that can better handle data from collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams will probably prove more helpful than a platform that is simply giving a prettier interface to emails and pdfs. This innovation was spurred by other industry developments rather than the pressure to get something new on the market just because everybody else is.
Sometimes the new solution is in fact better, but comes with significant adoption challenges like migrating data from one system to another and training staff on the new system. Perhaps the benefits of “new” are still there, but not in large enough quantities to outweigh the costs and justify the switch.
Either way, good legal service providers can help you weigh the pros and cons of implementing new technology. They won’t sell you something new that you don’t need just to make a quick buck.
Deadly Sin #3: NOT evaluating what your current investments can actually do
This is somewhat of an extension of sin #2. If you believe new tech is automatically better than older tech, it can lead to underestimating the problem-solving capacity of resources you already have.
Oftentimes legal service providers and tech companies are so excited to sell their flashy new products that they fail to assess whether or not those new products are really necessary for the matter at hand.
At Contact, sometimes clients come to us looking for new technology not because they don’t have suitable technology already, but because they don’t understand what their current technology could do. Sometimes the answer isn’t new tech, but just good ol’ fashioned know-how.
Your provider should always ask in-depth questions about what tech you already have before they try to sell you something new. If there’s outside counsel with their own resources, that should be taken into account as well. Service providers should ask about your team’s specific challenges so they can figure out if the issue is truly technology limitations, or just users who haven’t learned the ropes of that technology yet.
Oftentimes, we find that just a few tweaks to the technology our clients already have can solve their problems more economically than implementing new technology.
That concludes Part 1. Curious to learn what the other about Deadly Sins of Legal Service Providers? Follow the Contact Blog for updates. Visit us on Social Media and let us know what your biggest red flags are when dealing with service providers.