Guest post by Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today
Happy New Year! Then again, as Keith Morrison would say, “Or is it?” Sometimes, it seems we’re dealing with more challenges than ever. That’s true in life, and it’s certainly true in eDiscovery. Those challenges are forcing change for legal professionals, and those who don’t respond may feel like they failed to get on the train that is leaving the station. Here’s what’s forcing change in the legal industry, what those changes mean for the legal industry, and why you should embrace change, not run from it.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
We’re not even three years from the last time we all were forced into a significant change in how we do things. Remember what happened when the pandemic hit? We were all forced into remote work and using web conferencing apps like Zoom to continue to meet with colleagues and clients. While some of us were already using these apps, many professionals weren’t using them before the pandemic.
Want proof? Just one month after the pandemic shutdown, Zoom had 300 million daily meeting participants worldwide, whereas, at the end of 2019, the number stood at 10 million daily meeting participants. That’s a 3,000 percent growth in less than six months! To paraphrase William Shakespeare, change was “thrust upon us,” and (one notable “cat lawyer” aside) we learned to adjust to it. Now, we all know how to use Zoom and other web conferencing apps. We handled the change that was “thrust upon us”.
Well, as Yogi Berra would say, we’re experiencing “déjà vu all over again” with regard to forced change. It may be more subtle this time, but we’re seeing external forces that are requiring legal professionals to change, such as:
- The Economy: According to the latest Global Economic Prospects report, global growth will slow from 2.9 percent in 2022 to 1.7 percent in 2023. The outlook has several downside risks, including the possibility of higher inflation, even tighter monetary policy, and financial stress. Guess what happens when companies are faced with inflation and financial stress? They cut costs, which means layoffs and reduction of outsourced costs as well. Those layoffs have happened across multiple industries, and I’ve personally spoken to several of you who have been laid off. Having been there myself at the start of the pandemic, I can relate.
- Big Data: The data growth problem is real. Studies have reported that data in businesses is doubling about every 1.2 years – and those numbers are close to ten years old so that growth rate is probably even higher now. Do you know what’s not doubling every 1.2 years? Budgets.
- More Litigation: According to Law360, companies are facing more litigation than ever, with the number of cases up 10 percent from a record year in 2021.
The result is that organizations are tightening their belts regarding personnel while the demands of data and litigation only go up. If that’s not forcing change, I don’t know what will. Organizations can’t continue to “do what we’ve always done” and expect the same results. They must become more efficient and do more with less – simply to survive these days.
Embracing Change Means Embracing Technology
So, what does an organization do when they must support a rising data and litigation workload with less people (in the company as well as outsourced)? Embrace technology and automation, which includes more emphasis on self-service capabilities and more emphasis on cloud-based solutions. Yet, many firms haven’t taken advantage of these capabilities. Why? I’m not sure, but those firms tend to fall into two categories:
- Firms with no technology at all: This includes the 79 percent of solo practitioners that have no litigation support technology available – the flip side of what Dr. Gavin Manes (the CEO of Avansic) reported here. These firms have never embraced the use of any technology to support litigation – even though technology exists that can enable them to address the challenges identified above.
- Firms using outdated technology: These are the firms that are using technology, but the technology they’re using is legacy apps that have failed to keep up with the challenges of today and the requirement to do more with less. The people at these firms are the “cat lawyers” of the litigation world – they think they are current with technology, but that’s like saying they’re using rotary dial landline phones while tech-savvy firms are zipping around with mobile devices.
What these firms don’t realize is that they’re losing business to the firms that have embraced change and that have figured out how to be more efficient and do more with less. The firms that have responded to forced change have embraced self-service eDiscovery in the cloud and all the efficiencies that come with that. They’re reducing costs and winning business because they are better equipped to handle the increasing workloads – even with less people.
The Train is Leaving the Station
So, where does that leave the other firms – those with no technology or outdated technology? They are stuck at the train station, even as the train leaves. They’re losing business and being left behind all because they are failing to respond to the factors that are forcing change. They are addressing those factors with “blinders on” – unable to see that embracing technology is the best way to address those factors.
And what they fail to recognize is that it’s not that hard. There are so many options for how a self-service eDiscovery solution can be implemented. Avansic has a terrific questionnaire via their AvansicNow eDiscovery Subscription Services that guide you through the process of deciding what your firm needs. All you have to do is answer a few questions – about the average size of matters, your current technology capabilities, the number of matters your firm is working on, the number of people working on them, and the lit support expertise within your firm – and you can be off and running. It’s that easy.
The technology train is leaving the station. Are you on it? You’d better get on it soon before your firm gets left behind – for good.
Doug Austin is the Editor of eDiscovery Today and an established eDiscovery thought leader with over 30 years of experience providing eDiscovery best practices, legal technology consulting, and technical project management services to numerous commercial and government clients.
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