Like it or not, legal tech vendors are often a necessary part of complex matters. There are different ways to go about engaging a vendor, and some approaches can prove more helpful than others. While it’s easy to get swept up in a major litigation or investigation, we like to think that in-depth conversations with vendors are never a waste of time. At least, it’s not if you’re doing them right.
There are certain topics you may have never thought to bring up with your vendor before, but you might be pleasantly surprised where you end up if only you ask the right questions. In that spirit, we’re spotlighting three questions that will help you get more out of your vendor partnerships and why we think they’re important.
1. How Have You Handled Similar Matters for Other Clients?
It’s common for clients to enter into a vendor contract with certain expectations. One of the issues with this is that a client’s idea of what a vendor should do is oftentimes heavily based on how other vendors have handled those matters in the past. That begs the question… If you were satisfied with how that other vendor did things before, why did you seek out a new vendor for this matter?
Asking your vendor “How have you handled similar matters for other clients?” is a great way to signal that you’re open to other solutions beyond the predictable ones you’re used to. A vendor rightfully won’t reveal any identifying details about those other clients, but they can usually give you a general gist of other options on the table. It also mitigates risk if you know they’ve actually implemented the proposed solution before.
Try not to approach vendors with a preconceived notion of how they should handle your project. Instead, describe the project and your goals in as much detail as possible, and ask them what they think makes the most sense. If they’re worth their salt, you’ll probably find their perspective valuable regardless of whether or not you go with their exact plan.
2. Can You Present Several Approaches to This Matter That Would Still Work?
Oftentimes, there’s no “right answer” in eDiscovery. Good vendors can offer several different plans with different pros and cons and then leave the choice up to you. Maybe Strategy 1 is a prudent strategy that conserves budget while maximizing efficiency and Strategy 2 requires a higher investment but would provide for a more thorough approach.
Sometimes vendors will pitch a discovery plan not because they think it’s the best strategy, but because they think it’s the strategy their client wants to hear. Asking for multiple plans can give your vendor the freedom to strut their stuff and come up with a more innovative, unconventional approach without the fear of losing a more conservative client. If you let them pitch you the “safe” strategy as well as the unexpected-but-potentially-better strategy, you negate that risk for them. The ultimate choice will still be up to you.
It can also reveal a LOT about a vendor if they’re unable to come up with more than one way to approach a problem. When vendors are consistently looking to their clients for guidance, or trying to fit square peg clients into the same round holes, it calls into the question whether they’re truly “experts” in eDiscovery. On the other hand, a vendor who can give you several possible approaches probably knows how to think creatively about your case, and will be able to quickly adapt to your needs should you decide to switch up your strategy later.
3. How Will Your Plan Help Me With Future Matters?
Truly great discovery work doesn’t just leave you with a positive outcome in this specific case. It also helps you win future cases. When you know which information is most relevant and it’s stored in places where the right people can easily recall it, you don’t have to devote as many resources to discovery if a similar case comes up again.
Some vendors are content to just process your data, give it back to you, then move on to the next client. That’s not exactly wrong, they’ve done everything they agreed to do for you; however, they could’ve done even more and established a plan for the future if only you’d asked.
Some data might not be relevant for the case at hand, but might be helpful in the future. If a vendor knows that planning for future matters is a priority, they can point stuff like that out. You can keep it in a safe place in case anyone tries to bring another suit against you later. Maybe your team can look for potential vulnerabilities and recommend you close them before anyone gets the chance to litigate. All of it begins with you telling your vendor that you want a proactive approach.
What questions do you think case teams should ask their vendors? Let us know in the comments!