With fears of a possible global recession, many corporate legal departments are tightening their belts to prepare for an extended financial downturn, which might affect their cooperation with litigation support services.
But there’s still no shortage of work to be done, especially when it comes to litigation. Legal forecasters expect litigation caseloads to grow throughout 2023, with some estimating that companies will face “more litigation than ever” this year and that litigation matters will be more complex and riskier than in the past. Class actions are expected to be “a significant part of the litigation landscape” for corporate legal departments.
How can in-house legal teams manage potentially high-volume, high-intensity litigation caseloads without exceeding their budgets? One solution is to assign the mundane non-legal details of litigation—such as data management, eDiscovery, document drafting, and more—to specialized litigation support services.
In this blog post, we’ll break down everything in-house legal teams need to know about litigation support. First, we’ll talk about what the umbrella term “litigation support” includes. We’ll then go through some of the details of who litigation support professionals are and what they do to assist in-house legal teams as well as when a corporate legal department should consider using their services. Finally, we’ll take a closer look at how legal teams can use modern technology to support litigation in house.
Let’s get started.
- What is litigation support?
- Who are litigation support professionals?
- When should you consider engaging a litigation support service?
- Modern eDiscovery technology empowers legal teams to perform in-house litigation support
What is litigation support?
Litigation support encompasses all of the background work involved in a litigation matter that doesn’t require the expertise—or the expense—of a lawyer to complete. Essentially, anything that can be taken off a litigation attorney’s plate to allow them more time and energy to focus on the substantive issues of the litigation itself could fit under the broad term of litigation support services.
Let’s look at a few common areas of litigation support services.
Tracking down hard-to-find records.
If there are records that are logistically difficult to obtain—such as local property records from a small jurisdiction that doesn’t maintain electronic databases—a litigation support provider can save the legal team time by obtaining those records.
Organizing, managing, and analyzing data.
Even before eDiscovery begins, the legal team may need to have the organization’s data sorted and organized so everyone can see clearly what records exist and what they prove. Litigation support staff can not only manage the company’s data but can also create and maintain databases to provide easy access to data as the matter proceeds or conduct detailed data analyses to uncover insights within a data set.
Conducting legal research.
While lawyers will often conduct their own research, research assistance can save lawyers considerable time in complex matters or those involving unusual issues, specific jurisdictional questions, or more in-depth fact-specific queries. This type of sophisticated research is often done today with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) tools that ingest libraries of court decisions and use predictive coding to search their text for similar legal issues or fact patterns.
Drafting legal documents.
In involved cases, drafting rote or repetitive documents such as affidavits, requests, and witness subpoenas can take hours away from legal teams. Litigation support specialists can lighten the burden on lawyers by managing these drafting tasks.
Identifying and notifying witnesses.
Just as some records are hard to find, some witnesses are tough to track down. Litigation support staff have the time and expertise to find potential witnesses and serve them with subpoenas and citations as needed.
Managing eDiscovery and document review.
eDiscovery is the process of searching through and evaluating data sources to identify information that may be relevant to the issues in dispute in a litigation matter. The goal of eDiscovery is to provide the litigation opponent with relevant information to ensure that the dispute is ultimately resolved based on a full and fair set of facts.
Because organizations can have millions of documents and other data points to evaluate, eDiscovery represents the largest—and the most time-consuming and expensive—component of litigation support. Fortunately, litigation support professionals can help with every stage of eDiscovery, from data collection and processing to review and production. This gives lawyers time to focus on the substance of the relevant data rather than on identifying which data is relevant.
Preparing evidence for presentation at trial.
For those matters that make it to trial, the legal team must have a clear, concise, visually effective way to present evidence to the judge or jury. Designing compelling exhibits and displays requires design skills that most lawyers don’t possess—which makes this another perfect task for a litigation support specialist.
With this wide array of different tasks, it’s worth asking who litigation support professionals are and where in-house legal teams can find them.
Who are litigation support professionals?
Litigation support professionals may be legal experts such as lawyers or paralegals, or they may be data specialists, eDiscovery professionals, linguists, project managers, investigators, graphic designers, or jacks of all trades who know how to do a little bit of everything associated with litigation. In short, they are as varied as the tasks they perform.
Regardless of their specific knowledge and skills, all litigation support professionals share a few traits. To start with, they must have exceptional focus and great attention to detail. Lawyers preparing for litigation must be confident that every fact and figure is absolutely correct. They must be able to trust that their litigation support team has not missed responsive documents or made mistakes in drafting documents due to boredom, fatigue, or distractions.
Litigation support professionals should also be good note-takers and excellent communicators to ensure that they don’t miss any information or create any misunderstandings as they communicate with the litigation team they’re supporting. They must have a strong understanding of data and information technology to use the advanced tools that streamline data management and eDiscovery workflows. And while creativity can help litigation support professionals solve problems, they shouldn’t be such free spirits that they fail to comply with established procedures, especially for document review. Without robust processes and strict compliance, their work may not be defensible in court.
Last, but far from least, litigation support teams must have exemplary data security. If a legal team grants a litigation support vendor access to its company’s data for eDiscovery, that vendor must not allow a data breach or other unauthorized access to occur.
When should you consider engaging a litigation support service?
Companies should consider engaging external litigation support services—or assigning those tasks to designated support professionals within their own organizations—when litigation matters are too time-consuming for the legal team to handle on their own.
Does that mean you always need the assistance of dedicated litigation support professionals? No. For standard litigation matters, your usual methods of managing records, data, research, documents, witnesses, eDiscovery, and trial preparation and presentation may well be adequate for your needs.
But complex litigation is, well, complex. In class actions, highly involved legal or factual disputes, and bet-the-company litigation matters, you may want more support. In those cases, there are two ways to approach litigation support services: you can engage an external litigation support service provider or assign support tasks to members of your in-house team. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches so you can decide when you should adopt which tactic.
Hiring external litigation support services
If you’re facing a difficult litigation matter—or if you have a small in-house legal team that rarely deals with litigation of any kind—you may want to hire an external service provider to help you with litigation support. Again, there are two main approaches here.
First, you could simply hand a litigation matter over to one of your existing law firms. This is likely not the most cost-effective way to approach litigation, but retaining a trusted law firm to manage every aspect of litigation would provide you with all the support you need. Don’t be surprised, though, if your law firm outsources some components of litigation support, and then passes those charges through to you.
A more affordable approach may be to cut out the law firms and outsource your litigation support needs directly to a litigation support vendor or an alternative legal services provider. These companies specialize in some or all facets of litigation support, from witness identification and data analysis to document review and exhibit presentation.
There are several advantages to outsourcing litigation support. First, it’s often less expensive—and faster—to have an external service provider manage litigations. These third-party vendors can also adapt to demand quickly without requiring that you hire more staff under the time pressure of pending litigation or retain additional staff when you don’t need that extra support.
Additionally, specialty litigation support companies are likely to have subject matter experts on staff who can manage routine tasks efficiently while bringing their experience to bear to solve more challenging issues without distracting your in-house legal team. These vendors may offer data scientists, eDiscovery experts, or graphic designers, but they’re equally likely to rely heavily on sophisticated technology to streamline many litigation support tasks.
However, if you’re going to hire an external litigation support provider, trust is critical. You’re handing over the management of a high-stakes litigation matter to a third party—and if their data security or work quality isn’t up to snuff, you could pay substantially in terms of litigation costs or reputational damage.
And if litigation support vendors rely heavily on technology to produce efficiency, maybe you don’t need a middleman at all to support your litigation team.
Managing litigation support services in-house
So, what does it take for a corporate legal team to manage its own litigation support services in house? As we said a moment ago, your usual ways of managing data, reviewing documents, and preparing for trial are likely sufficient for run-of-the-mill litigation matters. And that brings us to an interesting point: the better you are at managing the day-to-day details of litigation support for typical cases, the more capable you are of providing in-house litigation support even as cases grow in complexity and potential stakes.
In today’s data-intensive world, managing litigation—of all types—efficiently and cost-effectively depends on having best-in-class technology. That technology isn’t limited to specialized litigation support vendors; today, it’s available to in-house teams.
Modern eDiscovery technology empowers legal teams to perform in-house litigation support.
Because eDiscovery is the most time-consuming, difficult component of litigation support, the majority of litigation support technologies in the market focus on managing the abundance of potentially discoverable data that today’s companies generate.
For example, IPRO offers a Litigation Readiness Suite that streamlines and simplifies every aspect of managing data for eDiscovery and beyond. With IPRO’s suite of tools, in-house legal teams can effortlessly preserve, collect, process, analyze, review, and produce data, regardless of its type or source.
Because there can be no eDiscovery without adequate data preservation, IPRO offers best-in-class legal hold technology. IPRO’s legal hold technology simplifies custodian notifications and automates regular reminders, mitigating the risk of spoliation and providing a thoroughly defensible preservation process.
IPRO also helps litigation teams save time and money by reducing the need for data collection and all of the trickle-down costs that overcollection inevitably leads to. IPRO’s Live Early Data Assessment (EDA) enables in-house legal teams to quickly search, review, and analyze data from a wide variety of sources in place, avoiding overcollection and greatly reducing both the time needed for review and the cost of that review. Live EDA provides deep insights into corporate data across multiple repositories from a single user-friendly interface, allowing legal teams to grasp issues and resolve matters quickly and efficiently.
IPRO’s tools excel when it comes to the resource-intensive review phase of eDiscovery. IPRO leverages artificial intelligence to expedite searches, detecting not only specific keywords but also variants, related language, and similar concepts, while recognizing related documents and grouping them together for faster and more effective review.
With IPRO’s Litigation Readiness Suite, in-house legal departments have the tools they need to support their own litigation teams, mitigating the risks of incomplete searches and missed data without overcompensating—and driving up costs—through overcollection or overproduction.