"Lit-Support - In-House or Outsource?", by Ted Brooks
From Yahoo Groups

The in-house litigation support department in our firm has steadily collapsed throughout 2002. We have recently decided to replace the department with an outside contractor, as several other firms in town have that setup and as best as we gather, it has worked well for them.What we have now is not working out at all.

Does anyone have experience with companies that do this type of contracting, and could anyone recommend some reputable and experienced outfits? Ideally they would set up shop, adapt to our system, and take over the duties from the existing department.

I have been honored by my partners to do the groundwork on this transition, as well as seeing that the transition goes well. I will be speaking with others in town who have similar setups, but I thought I would ask you pros also.

We are a large sized firm in a major market, with growing lit support needs. Any observations? What about logistics? This is early in the process but we want to move quickly.

Your scenario is precisely what launched our company (Litigation-Tech), right down to the large firm/major market part. Of course the need for litigation support never goes away, it just gets tough sometimes to manage (and finance) it all in-house. I can tell you that our firm went from a large, full-time litigation support department down to only a few (myself being one of the few), and that is when I took the initiative. And, it has worked very well - both for the firm and for my company.

The main focus of my company (initially) was to offer trial support and graphics services. This is fine - however, like your firm, my old firm's "standard" litigation support needs did not simply go away when the overhead was eliminated. This has encouraged us to evolve into more of a "full service" litigation support firm, offering services such as training, database development and maintenance, e-discovery, and so on. Basically, we have developed a team of professionals (including several former employees of the firm), which is available as needed. Having the "in-house" experience has certainly enabled us to understand and respond to the needs as they arise. We are essentially doing much the same job we did in the past, only now we just bill differently.

This issue of billing is seen by many as an advantage to a firm - that of being able to simply pass the invoice along to the client, as opposed to trying to justify expenses. I recall many instances in which the in-house litigation support services were written off as a result of a displeased client. When a third-party company is involved, the onus is on that company to collect payment.

We have also done non client-related work for the firm, where we bill the firm as any other vendor would. Again, since this tends to be project-specific work, when the project is completed, the billing ceases.

It is my observation that there is only a small handful of actual "full-service" litigation support firms (functioning in the same fashion as a typical in-house department). Although we are a standalone company, we tend to see ourselves more as a supplemental service to the firms we work with. In fact, in response to your "set up shop" scenario, we often find ourselves (and actually prefer) working inside the firms we are serving - be it a large database project, or in the remote warroom preparing for trial.

My response here is not-at-all intended to discredit any in-house litigation support department - just to offer that there are always alternative methods of addressing issues. Of course, we have now branched out to include many other firms in our client list, and are always actively searching for more. I would be happy to entertain further questions offline.