Data Discovery Department?: Law Firms and Their Corporate Clients are Staffing Up

February 16, 2007

Robert Brownstone, Director of Law & Technology at Fenwick & West, was recently quoted in a Law Firm Inc. story entitled, "Data Discovery Department?: Both Law Firms and Their Corporate Clients are Staffing Up."

As the field of electronic data discovery grows and law firms expand their staff in this area, their corporate clients are facing an important operational decision: take control of their eDiscovery process or outsource their needs. For many companies, this is creating a shift in who's managing discovery.

The price of eDiscovery is motivating companies to keep solutions in-house. According to the most recent Socha-Gelbmann Electronic Discovery Survey Report, more than $1.3 billion was spent on eDiscovery in 2005. The market is expected to expand by 37% to $1.8 billion over the next few years. Companies such as Halliburton and Pfizer are already beginning to streamline management of the collection and processing of documents, as well as performing the initial review of documents.

While businesses recognize that a law firm has to be a partner and strategic advisor in litigation, they are trying to build control and starting to pressure firms into bidding and price fixing.

Having expertise in-house to address cost containment and related issues is starting to pay off. "We are seeing renewed interest by our clients in seeking our advice on the law and on the technology to make sure that they have a handle on their retention protocols and policies" says Brownstone. He says that his firm invested more than $1 million to strengthen its e-discovery expertise and technology over five years and has posted seven-figure revenues from its Electronic Information Management Group in each of the past two years.

Building on its success, his group is providing a full range of services, including advising on overall document management approaches, computer forensics, information-security policies and best practices in handling metadata. Brownstone notes that the great eDiscovery/retention conundrum is that saving too much can lead to unnecessary costs and risks, but saving too little may not be enough to satisfy your statutory and litigation-hold requirements.

Even when a corporation owns the eDiscovery process and technology, there is still an important business opportunity. "Though we earn less billable hours on an eDiscovery project, we establish a greater rapport with a client," says Brownstone. "This relationship is based on truly understanding a company's electronic information systems and often results in repeat engagements for full-service firms," he adds. "Clients are increasingly looking to their lawyers to help select the proper vendor and technology, as well as to handle more complex litigation."

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