Building an in-house eDiscovery team: the why and how for law firms
Digital data has become one of the most important resources for many aspects of our modern world. Numerous law firms have embraced the use of digital data, empowering litigation by using eDiscovery tools to examine data in a thorough and systematic way.
However, while eDiscovery is a powerful tool, it is also a complex one that requires highly skilled staff to ensure its efficient and effective application.
eDiscovery is part of a wider climate of change in the legal sector, which now sees a growing focus on the dovetailing of law and technology. The new discipline ‘legaltech’ (also known as ‘lawtech’) reflects this development, with eDiscovery forming part of the revolution across the sector. By offering tools that collect and analyse litigation data, eDiscovery actively empowers smaller legal firms to compete with their larger counterparts. The meteoric rise of eDiscovery technology is perhaps best demonstrated by the value of its market, which is currently predicted to grow at a CAGR of 10% to 2023, with a value of $17.32 billion (USD) per year. (1)
To take full advantage of this new technology, it is vital that law firms have the right people in place in order to keep pace with the constantly evolving eDiscovery landscape. As a consequence, a trend is emerging towards building in-house teams with a specific focus on making the most of this valuable technology.
This paper will look at this trend, examining the impacts it is having on the acquisition of eDiscovery talent and the levels of salaries expected.
Law firms are not, generally speaking, renowned for being fast adopters of technology – after all, technology is not a core focus for the majority of legal entities. Research from a 2019 report by The Law Society (2) found that, although lawtech was not displaying as quick an uptake as its cousin fintech, it was expected to show increasing importance in the sector over the next 18 months. However, if a technological development can give a law firm an edge, make processes and workflows efficient, and be used to manage the huge amounts of data that can come with litigation, then surely it is worth investigating.
For these reasons, according to a report by Exterro, more than half of law firms (51%) are now moving litigation services in-house. In many cases, in order to manage their work efficiently, they are also increasingly looking to use tools like eDiscovery. Among the responses noted in the report is this one:
The drivers for in-house implementation of eDiscovery include:
- The vendor and consultancy market seeing well-established players reduced in size because of acquisitions in the market
- Increased efficiency in legal project management
- Use of new types of data
However, this drive leaves potential gaps in the availability of skilled professionals who can use eDiscovery correctly there is great demand for those who are technically competent and understand the application of eDiscovery in the context of law. This scarcity of the right mix of skills is well-illustrated in another Exterro/EDRM report (3), which highlights the fact that 74% of judges in the USA said they were frustrated by lawyers’ widespread lack of expertise in the correct application of eDiscovery.
Small firms and eDiscovery
Law is a crowded marketplace, where small firms need to be agile and innovative in order to compete with their larger cousins. eDiscovery is a tool that has proven itself to be a worthwhile investment, as the technology brings with it an opportunity to ensure that a firm can ‘add value’ for a client. As eDiscovery itself has developed and moved into a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, the technology has become more affordable and accessible for smaller law firms. However, there continues to be a slow uptake of these powerful tools among such law firms.
The competitive landscape for smaller law firms is complex, as identified by a 2019 survey (4). In order to face up to these challenges, small firms need to take advantage of technological help. Modern, cloud-based eDiscovery solutions afford even smaller organisations the opportunity to use an enterprise-level technology. The SaaS model has reduced the entry costs of eDiscovery, making the technology accessible to firms of all sizes. However, the prediction of the non-availability of suitably skilled and talented staff persists.
To a degree, this concern over skilled staff is justified. There is indeed a fight to attract the best talent, but small firms can often capitalize on their unique selling points in order to recruit the right person. In doing so, they remove the barriers to using eDiscovery and can make it a reality for their practice.
The eDiscovery recruitment landscape in 2019
Apt Search and Selection is in a rare position within the legal tech recruitment community. Using our own data sets, collected from many hundreds of placements in law firms, we are able to develop unique insights that we can use to advise and tailor our offerings to the sector.
This data, collected between 2015 and 2019, has clearly demonstrated an emerging shift in the sector towards the use of in-house specialists who can utilise lawtech. The figures below show the extent of this movement towards the recruitment of in-house eDiscovery staff, and we have also given an indication of the levels of salary expected by such specialists in a separate report downloadable here:
In-house vs. consultancy/vendor
eDiscovery is now being viewed as an essential tool for the modern law firm, but there remain several ways of utilizing the technology. Use models cover both implementation and ongoing usage, either by an in-house team or via third-party consultants and vendors.
Data collected by Apt shows that there has been a significant upward shift as eDiscovery has become more commonplace and accessible via SaaS architecture. The figures, which relate specifically to in-house management of eDiscovery, are shown below:
Notably, prior to 2015 0% of placements at law firms were within an eDiscovery capacity. For subsequent years, the figures were as follows:
These figures are in contrast to numbers of placements of external candidates with no eDiscovery experience:
% of Placements made from people coming from outside of the business with no eDiscovery experience
These data sets concur with Exterro’s outline of a general trend for moving litigation resources in house, and they also line up with the growing embracement of lawtech by the legal sector.
Here at Apt, we have identified this trend towards in-house recruitment and adapted our focus accordingly in order to fully align with this shift in the market. Our focus has always encompassed eDiscovery, ever since the company’s inception in 2012.
However, we also recognize the need for a broad-brush approach, in order to encompass the wider legaltech landscape and develop bespoke services that bridge the skills gap in areas where technology and law overlap.
As we see an increasing number of our clients requesting eDiscovery assistance within their law firms, we have worked hard to hire the specialist talent needed to meet this demand.
Using Apt Search and Selection to find your eDiscovery expert
Apt Search and Selection is a market-leading recruitment firm specializing in eDiscovery and legaltech. As a company, we are passionate about finding the most suitable talent that will take your law firm to the next level in this competitive market.
Apt is made up of a team of highly experienced consultants with a unique insight that comes from deep understanding of the law sector and the application of technology.
This allows Apt to offer bespoke staffing services for law firms, vendors and corporate. In addition, we work with candidates to provide career consulting and find unique opportunities.
Our extensive network of relationships provides us with access to the best talent in the market and a vast array of opportunities across Europe, the USA, and Asia.
Big data now also incorporates big legal data. The data-driven law firm is here to stay, putting data to work in order to create a peerless offering in a highly competitive field. To take advantage of new technologies such as eDiscovery, law firms need to recruit the best talent: candidates that have a perfect mix of technological know-how and legal competence. Apt has many years of working at the intersection of law and technology, bringing the best available candidates to suitable roles at law firms. Together, we can work with your firm to give you the in-house expertise you need to incorporate lawtech into your daily business successfully. Results will be seen in greater efficiency, cost reductions, and ultimately better client experiences. In the highly competitive world of law, the right recruit can give you the edge you need to stand out from the crowd.
For further information, call us on
+ 44 (0) 203 643 0248
or visit www.apt-search.co.uk
(2) The Law Society, Lawtech Adoption Research, February 2019
(3) Bloomberg Law: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/ip-law/judges-frustrated-by-lawyers-lack-of-e-discovery-expertise
(4) Thomson Reuters, 2019 State of US Small Law Firms Report: http://ask.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.info/LEI_2019_SmallLaw_State_of_Legal_Mkt_PR