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GCs Embrace Outsourced Work

by Editors on January 25, 2008

High rates and the increasing bulk of e-discovery have pushed Scott Rickman, the associate general counsel at Del Monte Foods, to seriously consider using sources other than his outside law firm for the grunt work of litigation. “It doesn’t make sense to pay 150 or 250 dollars an hour at some of the larger firms to do the document review — it just seems like overkill,” said Rickman. Other in-house departments have already reached that conclusion.

Read more about the legal outsourcing trends at Law.com.

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Stewart Weltman January 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm

I a firm believer that corporations can and should lower their litigation costs but with all due respect, if Mr. Rickman is seriously suggesting that outsourcing document reviews is the answer in litigation matters he is setting himself and his company up for some potentially case devastating results.

As someone who has litigated and lead high stakes litigation matters for over 29 years – mostly suing large corporations like Mr. Rickman’s [but who has now changed sides] – there is one thing that is an absolute – the documents are the heart of virtually every major commercial case.

You can rest assured that no plaintiff’s counsel will ever outsource review of documents, and that they will all revel in the knowledge that their opponents have been hamstrung by a penny wise pound foolish approach to lowering litigation costs.

In fact, as a senior partner heading up major antitrust and securities cases I always participate in the initial first cut of documents.

Why? For a whole host of reasons including: (1) as one of the lawyers who is responsible for the big picture I can directly communicate this to the team that is conducting the review – as they are doing it – to better ensure that key documents are found – outsourcing precludes this; (2) cost conscious? – knowing the wheat from the chaff, I can review 10 times faster than those less experienced; and (3) by getting my hands dirty in the opposing side’s documents I obtained a tactile feel for the other side’s corporate culture – a feel that has always come in handy during depositions and cross exams later on in the litigation and at trial – a tremendous competitive advantage in cases where competitive advantages can translate into millions of dollars.

Putting aside the accountability risks that outsourcing presents, by sending even the initial cut overseas, you hamstring your litigation team in ways that can and will cost you far more.

In short, outsourcing is a faulty patch that avoids confronting the real problem – how to manage your outside legal teams so that they function effectively and efficiently. Outsourcing is not the answer to this problem – in fact it is dangerous and potentially case defeating.

There are ways to begin to solve this problem but they require systemic changes in the way in which in-house counsel manage their outside counsel. Shipping the problem offshore is a risky avoidance not a solution.

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