by Drew Deitch on March 29, 2018
Today’s e-discovery practitioner knows their technology strategy is a critical—often the most critical—component of their success. But there are other legal practice areas that haven’t felt the same urgency.
Fortunately, for firms seeking to light a fire of innovation among multiple practice groups, e-discovery platforms like RelativityOne enable them to leverage the investments they’ve already made in technology to expand their offerings, generate new revenue streams, and differentiate themselves in the market.
As a result, these firms are identifying opportunities to use existing e-discovery technology to replace simple, manual, or repetitive tasks—all of which are expensive for attorneys and clients. Others are building innovative solutions to win new business or expand into new practice areas.
Here are a few stories about law firms that are leading the way to expand their use of e-discovery technology.
1. Making Contract Review Less Painful (and More Profitable)
Reed Smith, a global law firm, saw an opportunity to use technology in their transactional practice. When helping a client negotiate a multimillion-dollar sale of holdings, the team had a short amount of time to dissect data from more than 10,000 contracts in different ways. Furthermore, the deal involved nearly 300 stakeholders in 33 countries, creating the need for a centralized repository that users across the globe could access simultaneously.
Sharri Wilner, litigation technology services manager at Reed Smith, and the team used analytics and dynamic objects to build a tool—Consent Tracker—in Relativity to cluster the contracts, identify patterns and groups, home in on “hot clauses,” and track consent status. After helping to successfully close the deal within a one-month deadline, Reed Smith explored even more ways to support their transitional practice with technology.
In addition to building their own tools, Reed Smith is leading the charge in implementing innovative solutions from the developer community. Bryon Bratcher, director of practice solutions at Reed Smith, recently discussed how they’re expanding their transactional practice and ways other firms can increase efficiency in an interview with Rishi Khullar, director of product management at Heretik.
“Law firms should take a critical look at the type of work they’re doing and find out where technology could be applied to make gains. Law firm clients are expecting smart use of technology to increase operational efficiency and deliver the most favorable outcomes,” explained Bratcher.
2. Streamlining Unique Data Challenges
Data sources are constantly growing in number and complexity. When law firm Bricker & Eckler encountered a matter with unique data requirements, litigation support manager Dave Hasman and the team devised a creative solution.
Bricker & Eckler were helping a client with a 200-mile, and multibillion-dollar, natural gas pipeline project. In addition to managing real estate documents, landowner tract information, and financial data for more than 1,200 landowners, they had to keep track of hundreds of potential easement lawsuits, storing and referencing information on everything from mortgages and liens by land tract, to protected plant and animal species living on each plot.
The firm’s team had built custom applications on Relativity in the past, but this project introduced new layers of complexity. Working with NSerio, a Relativity Developer Partner, they created an application—integrated with custom objects and fields, financial statistics, and even a Google Earth plug-in to visualize the tracts and display related metadata—to consolidate the data for their client and save their attorneys thousands of hours of manual work. They also built in a way to auto-generate complaints and track progress on hundreds of individual suits.
Most importantly, the Bricker team looked past the short-term problem to ensure their innovation could be a long-term solution for many unpredictable data challenges to come.
“We didn’t just build a custom tool to solve a problem for a client. We built a dynamic solution that has the capability of streamlining the many similar projects going on each day in this industry,” explained Frank Merrill, partner at Bricker & Eckler.
3. Calculating Damages Correctly, Quickly, and Securely
Reilly Pozner, a litigation and trial firm, took a fresh angle to a common mass tort challenge. The team needed to perform calculations for award scenarios based on data in Relativity. They worried that exporting the data and doing the calculations outside of Relativity would introduce version control issues, security concerns, and time inefficiency, and decided to find a better way.
The team built a damages calculator in Relativity to perform calculations, store results, and allow multiple users to access the information at once. The data never left Relativity, so it remained secure. In addition to comfort in knowing their results were accurate and their data safe, the time they spent during the settlement calculation went down 75 percent.
“Building on Relativity has not only greatly improved our team’s efficiency around assessing client data, but transformed the operational and administrative processes of mass tort resolution at our firm,” said Scott Shadler, IT director at Reilly Pozner. “It’s a platform that has the ability to expand beyond e-discovery.”
4. Simplifying Everyday Tasks
Other firms are finding ways to incorporate e-discovery technology on a smaller scale, yet with a big impact.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind created a way for their attorneys to easily print discovery materials, allowing case teams to send jobs to their in-house print shop and control everything from numbering to binding style—all from within Relativity. Kilpatrick Townsend developed an application to enable users to add exhibit stickers—tailored to the case and court—with a click of a button, reducing time and money spent as well as the risk of error. When Taft Law couldn’t find a project management application to fit their workflow, they built one on Relativity, allowing them to create a custom experience for the firm and eliminating the need for additional software.
A similar opportunity to begin by tackling unavoidable pain points—rather than jumping into the sea of altogether new business—is presented by the problem of case management.
“A gap exists between the work being done on the data and the legal strategy for a matter. That, my friends, is the e-Discovery Disconnect,” said Kelly Twigger, CEO of eDiscovery Assistant, in an Above the Law article about why lawyers should be more involved in the e-discovery process.
To prepare their cases, many attorneys and legal teams still patch together various technologies and spreadsheets. This approach can result in missed information and precious hours lost to cumbersome organization tasks.
Relativity Fact Manager—soon to be known as Case Dynamics, available for free to every Relativity license holder, and accessible from the Relativity Community—allows teams to manage key case information in a single solution. Using it is a good first step toward making the most of your technology investment, no development required.
By harnessing the power of e-discovery technology, law firms can find new revenue streams, become leaders in innovation, and get more from their e-discovery investment. Sharing your technology expertise to more practice areas throughout your firm will also position you as a trailblazer, setting both you and the firm up for success.
Drew Deitch is manager of strategic partnerships at Relativity, where he contributes to strategy and operational projects, coordinates with Relativity developer partners, and engages with the local Chicago tech community. He joined Relativity in 2013 and holds a bachelor’s degree in cognitive neuroscience.