Technology is enabling off shore legal talent at “Le gal Process Outsourcing”(“LPO”) companies in India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and other emerging markets to accelerate their climb up the value chain providing outsourced legal services to lead- ing law firms and in-house corporate counsel in the United States. Contrary to the views of some offshore legal outsourcing critics who postulated that technology automation and ana lytics tools would replace offshore talent making offshore service providers less relevant, such technology is spur ring growth both in terms of volume and value add. While this growth is occurring across typical outsourced legal functions ranging from electronic discovery (“eDiscovery”), contract life cycle management, regulatory compliance, and patent analytics, among others, the developments in eDiscovery are particularly reflective of the trend.
“Dedicated offshore electronic discovery teams are increasingly able to demonstrate documented expertise across industries, fields of law, and knowledge domains”
In the eDiscovery arena where, to put it simply, teams of lawyers review electronic documents and other data (“Electronically Stored Information” or “ESI”)to tag and categorize them to the extent that they relate to issues in a case (“Responsiveness”), involve communications between a client and the client’s attorney (“Privilege”), or contain trade secrets, other confidential information or personal information (“Protected Documents”), technology advancements have made outsourced review teams far more efficient and advanced in terms of the quality and scope of their results.
In the not too distant past, the need to review several hundred thousand documents in a case would have resulted in large groups of lawyers preparing to be seated in rows upon rows of 1st line reviewers and smaller groups of quality control specialists (“QC”) in front of dual PC monitors to begin the manual task of eyeballing documents page by page and clicking on the various categories to tag the documents on technology platforms that to a large extent organized and tracked documents and created an interface to facilitate the manual tagging of the documents. A company faced with litigation and such a large document pool would have been thrilled just because an offshore service provider could reduce the hourly rate for lawyers by 70 percent to 90 percent while ensuring the same level of accuracy as their more expensive on shore counterparts. Year after year however, the technology platforms have grown more sophisticated, first enabling batching of relevant documents using key word searches, then enabling batching of documents using conceptual search phrases or paragraphs, and today enabling automated tagging of documents by software that learns from the judgements lawyers make on a small subset of documents (“Predictive Coding”). Some of the more sophisticated review platforms (e.g., Relativity, Ringtail, Axcelerate) today can reduce the number of documents that a team of lawyers must manually review by as much as 80 percent.
Technology advancements in work flow and project management tools that automate operational efficiency as well as technology advancements in quality maximization (e.g., Six Sigma) tools have made even further improvements in the capabilities and results of the offshore service providers. Increasingly, firms like Pangea3 and Quislex describe how their systems track every action of every reviewer in terms of the number of documents they complete per hour and every QC change of a 1st line reviewer’s error. The system analyzes the QC change and compares it to the QC changes made on a reviewer’s work and across the entire review team, analyzing the nature of the errors, patterns of errors, and ultimately recommending to the manager the likely cause of the errors. The system not only enables the earliest possible elimination of inconsistencies across a review team but also enables an automated team member assessment for productivity and quality. Such systems even keep track of individual reviewer history in dealing with specific industries, areas of law, fields of knowledge making future staffing decisions more relevant and aligned with a reviewer’s trending expertise.
Dedicated offshore electronic discovery teams are increasingly able to demonstrate documented expertise across industries, fields of law, and knowledge domains. They are able to share irrefutable system generated documentation of efficiency and quality assessment. As a result, companies and their law firms increasingly rely on these offshore teams not only for the traditional document review coding and production, but the ongoing assessment of themes and trends in documents, development of and in some cases to do so in an effort to improve compliance and prevent litigation strategy rather than as a means to defend in a litigation. Increasingly, organizations are retaining outsourcing firms to engage in real time monitoring and review of communications (email, chat, text) in order to identify early incidents of potential regulatory violations and prevent them from turning into the serious violations that have resulted in major breaches and liabilities in the past. Sanjay Kamlani factual background and witness trackers, data maps, deposition summaries, and the production of various other trial related support materials. Rather than making offshore talent superfluous, technology is actually enabling the growth of larger and deeper centers of excellence offshore.
In addition, the lower cost of these centers of excellence is enabling the US and European organizations to better handle the escalating volumes of electronic data and in some cases to do so in an effort to improve compliance and prevent litigation strategy rather than as a means to defend in a litigation. Increasingly, organizations are retaining outsourcing firms to engage in real time monitoring and review of communications (email, chat, text) in order to identify early incidents of potential regulatory violations and prevent them from turning into the serious violations that have resulted in major breaches and liabilities in the past.
A surge in legal technology innovation is all the rage today. Whether it is predictive coding in eDiscovery, machine learning based contract abstraction, or automated patent analytics tools, the counterintuitive result is that lower cost off-shore talent rather than being replaced by technology is developing the expertise to utilize the technology to deliver more impactful and high value services. Rather than becoming redundant, offshore legal process outsourcing businesses are growing into broader and deeper centers of excellence enabling US litigation attorneys to better serve their clients at a cost that to the relief of their clients continues to decline.