In-House Legal Counsels need to be ever mindful of the Litigation Support Services they choose for their firm. While it may seem like an easy decision, choosing the wrong service provider can have costly consequences for your company in terms of both money and employee morale. There are many things that you should take into consideration when making this decision, but here are 10 factors that In-House Counsel should never overlook when hiring Litigation Support Services:
1. How to be a good Client:
Whilst many law firms and litigation support services offer great insight into the litigation process; one must remember that they are out there trying to get your business. Asking insightful questions at this early stage will go a long way towards gaining an understanding of how helpful they can actually be. Try asking about their experience in similar cases or if they have previous clients in your industry. Any seasoned litigator will tell you that fighting for each new client takes time away from winning court cases & getting the best results for their current clients. It's up to you to ask tough questions before committing full-service to any firm.
2. Understand your needs:
Whether it's for e-discovery, document scanning, paralegal support, or litigation management software, there are dozens of companies out there that can help you streamline your legal operations as you head into the trial; but the question for in-house counsel is whether they meet their specific needs? Legal departments need technology providers who understand their industry and are willing to work with them individually to develop a strategy that will not only get them better results quicker but also free up tremendous resources so the lawyers can be more productive. If you don't know where to begin, ask potential vendors how they'd advise a company similar to yours in handling discovery-related matters. Also, assess which service provider would be best at helping your team understand and meet the Court's expectations for managing their data in discovery.
3. Get a second opinion:
Choosing vendors is never easy but relying on the advice of colleagues or trusted third parties can make this process smoother. Ask others who have been in your shoes how they chose their vendor, what they like/dislike about them, and if there was anything they wish they had asked before signing off on a contract. Also research online reviews of technology providers you are interested in working with - it doesn't hurt to read what others have said about the product or service offered by these companies. In other words, when looking at vendors consider the same sort of questions you would ask your lawyer before entering into a partnership agreement with someone.
4. Understand the vendor's practice:
If you are not a technology professional, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the product claims you hear from potential vendors. However, if there is nothing specific that they can do for you and your firm this deal will be a waste of money. Get clarification on what service elements comprise their "package" and be sure they meet your business requirements before moving forward! Service agreements vary widely with some experts providing hourly billing while others charge monthly retainers or only provide results once litigation has been concluded. If this is all new to you then choose consultants who offer a range of services like consulting, project management, implementation support as well as training & development options. These sorts of firms will be most likely to provide the level of service you need moving forward. Finally, ask potential vendors how they plan on servicing you as the customer as this will give you a better understanding of how involved they will be after installation is complete. Some firms only communicate during the trial, and some offer ongoing support & maintenance services throughout your case.
5. Choose technology that fits your business:
While doing research on Litigation Support Services, don't fall into the trap of thinking bigger always means better! Ask prospective vendors about their system's compatibility with other platforms like Practice Management or Case Management software, any version upgrades, benchmarks for acceptable levels of performance, and scalability options. You also want to know if techs are available 24/7 in case there is an issue and how quickly they can get there if you are experiencing problems. Also, find out whether the software/service is mobile-friendly and understand what additional expenses may be incurred for using it with outside vendors like email or fax services.
6. Evaluate existing tools:
It's easy to want the newest version of a technology but be sure that your firm will benefit from new features or updates before purchasing them! If you have an in-house team of IT specialists, it may make sense to work with them to update older versions as opposed to purchasing brand new ones that don't offer any real benefit and may take more effort to integrate into your business systems. In addition, some firms choose to purchase enterprise packages only available directly from the vendor without any discount or support provided - be sure that you get what you are paying for!
7. Establish performance benchmarks:
After you have selected a vendor, establish "minimum requirements" for their product so that there is some measure of success during your initial implementation phase - otherwise, it's too easy to dismiss minor glitches as normal since you don't have an established baseline to judge from. For example, your firm may choose to only purchase software/service packages with 99% uptime guarantees. This way if anything falls below those expectations, they need to address it immediately in order to meet your contract terms. In addition, make sure that both parties - the Litigation Support Services provider and your law firm agree on the metrics by which you will evaluate your relationship including how often and for how long calls will be placed, who is responsible for making the decision to proceed with a new project or client /case management system, and what time frame needs to be adhered to if changes are required.
8. Get a thorough demo:
Before signing any contract make sure that you get plenty of hands-on experience with vendor technology! This isn't something you want to entrust without doing some due diligence first - ask for training options as well as an "unbundled" site assessment so that all elements work together successfully before committing to anything. Be wary of vendors rushing through the process. This may indicate that they are more interested in making a sale than providing quality service after it has been purchased.
9. Keep your options open:
Always try to negotiate a best-of-breed approach with Litigation Support Services providers. This way you can leverage their experience & proven tools while providing in-house staff the opportunity to learn from them and continue innovating going forward. Also, don't limit yourself if one vendor is too expensive or lacks certain features that you need, there are plenty of other companies out there that will work just as well! Do your research because not all firms offer the same level of service or capabilities to clients, and some may provide more value than others for what they charge. In addition, ask potential vendors about their training programs and how much time they set aside for client education. The more time they devote to training you, the better equipped your team will be to maintain and support their technology!
10. Don't forget about integration:
Be sure that all of your vendors are set up properly from the start. This way you can avoid having technology changes at a future date that may require reprogramming or extensive updates. In addition, make sure that your contracts have clear language addressing ownership & copyright issues as well as transferring content over to another vendor if necessary. Lastly, ensure that any information sharing is done securely via encryption and /or password-protected access. Do not put sensitive client data in an unsecured place for any reason!
Hiring Litigation Support Services is a big decision for any law firm. Don't make a costly mistake by jumping in too soon or making assumptions about costs & requirements! Make sure that you take the time to thoroughly research the various vendors and their capabilities as well as look into their business practices, licensing agreements, maintenance contracts, training programs, and references from existing clients before committing to anything. Remember, when hiring Litigation Support Services firms, it's not just what they are offering today but how prepared they will be to address your needs tomorrow which is most important. Don't place a financial burden on yourself by paying more than you need to. Take the time necessary to hire the right Litigation Support Services provider for your legal team first!
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