|To hire or not to hire a legal technology consultant? originally written as a reply to an online discussion; Article by Ted Brooks|
I have the unique perspective afforded me by my previous employment at one the country's top technology law firms, as well as from my current status as a Legal Technology Consultant. Although much of this was transparent and simply "part of my job" while employed as an in-house Litigation Technology Consultant, I can now say I have seen the Consultant role come around full circle. I have always been of the mind that there are many solutions to every problem. The real "problem" is not necessarily that which needs to be immediately accomplished, but rather gathering enough information regarding the current need along with potential solution options, and then pulling it all together to successfully tackle and complete a given project. Hence, a very real project LTC recently took in, as a case-in-point: Although we (Legal Technology Consulting) focus our core business on trial-related preparation, support, and presentation, having a great deal of in-house experience (and reputation) has brought us much of the more typical "Litigation Support" type of work. That stated, a short while ago I received a rather frantic email, asking me if I could help out on a major database project, which was viewed as critical - given that the project was now a few weeks old (already far behind schedule), and had gone nowhere. I wish not to imply anyone did anything wrong from within the law firm, but simply to suggest that perhaps there was not sufficient information gathered to make a well-informed decision, resulting in failure to complete the project in a reasonable, timely manner.
It seems that a particular database application was chosen, based upon the fact that at one time, it was a very effective method of performing certain tasks. Unfortunately for those steering the ship in this project, the application had been abandoned sometime ago, having not been maintained, supported, or upgraded for months. To add the "insult to injury," an unqualified vendor was chosen for document scanning and creating database load files, which are essentially the building blocks of a litigation database (read: bad files = bad database). This combination, though somewhat profitable for us, could have been avoided. Not to say LTC or some other qualified consultant should not have been involved, but rather to say that it could have been a lot less stressful, and running on a better timeline had the right decisions been made the first time.
My point? I agree with at least a portion of an earlier post on this topic, that the money you think you might be squeezing up front may pale in comparison to what it takes to correct a "situation."
The bottom line: Regardless of whether or not you choose to engage a consultant, remember it is your client who is affected by your decision to utilize or reject the opportunity to locate and employ the best possible solution for the task.
The progress report: We have been able to fix the issues, and have gotten the project back on track. We have also identified a scanning vendor's shortcomings, which will likely cost them in the future- remember, they represented themselves as capable of taking on the job. As a result of our continually offering solution options, along with suggesting preferred methods, we will likely see more of this type of work from this firm (and in fact, have already begun another similar project for them).