Litigation Support and "Bringing your Geek to Work"
By Kevin L. Nichols
Small to mid-sized law firms or companies typically operate at a disadvantage when it comes to utilizing legal technology and litigation support services. Larger firms and Fortune 500 Companies tend to have full-time staff and limitless resources for hardware, software, and consultative support for their cases. In order for smaller firms to compete, they should utilize independent consultants whenever necessary to save time, scarce resources, and ultimately money. This includes, "bringing your geek to work" for the critical Federal Rules of Civil Procedure â Rule 26(f) Meet and Confer requirement.
Imagine needing to prepare for 5 depositions in an asbestos case without a full-time paralegal? Or reviewing DVDs of documents that you have received from opposing counsel in order to prepare an expert for his/her deposition on a shoe-string budget? It most likely is not going to happen, or else the responsibilities will fall on an attorney’s hands, where ultimately the smaller firm will lose money. The attorney should bill his/her time to more substantive work, which would allow the firm to rely on a consultant to take this over. This is why hiring an experience consultant comes in handy, where you already know what their experience level is, they already possess proven methodologies to approach these situations, and when the project is done, so is your contract. A consultant can prepare work product such as deposition summaries, chronologies, demonstrative evidence, etc. on the firm’s behalf more efficiently and effectively, which can be very useful in preparing for mediation or trial.
Similarly, when the Rule 26(f) conference arises, and the parties need to meet and confer regarding discovery and electronically stored information (ESI), many smaller firms feel as though they can rely on their vendors to be their "bring your geek to work" representative at these conferences. Unfortunately, the problem with this is that these vendors are not independent, meaning that their economic livelihood and interest is based on the volume of data that is used to review in the said case. Thus, they have no real incentive to negotiate aggressively with opposing counsel’s "geek" to keep the volume down, which ultimately reduces the firm’s costs. Moreover, smaller firms/companies typically do not have a trusted independent source that has knowledge of ESI, eDiscovery, and/or adequate trial experience to help the firm maneuver through the litigation process completely.