What Is Litigation Support?
Lawsuits are complex beasts. And with the proliferation of new digital technologies, associated regulations and organizations with novel business models, they’re only getting more complicated. That’s why law firms and legal departments seek out assistance from professionals dedicated to providing the unique services modern litigation demands — litigation support professionals.
But what is litigation support exactly? When tasked with executing a lawsuit, attorneys outsource certain responsibilities to litigation support professionals to ensure a timely, cost-effective and — ideally — positive outcome to their matter. These responsibilities typically include time-consuming tasks that don't require a lawyer's expertise and high hourly rate, such as eDiscovery, legal drafting and more. Let’s explore the role of litigation support in a modern lawsuit from top to bottom.
What Goes Into Litigation Support
Litigation support services can span several aspects of a lawsuit. Different litigation support partners will provide different services, but you might expect to receive support for these common tasks:
Subpoena and Citation Services
Some firms specialize in tracking down hard-to-find individuals, like witnesses, and serving them subpoena and citations on behalf of a client firm.
Record Retrieval and Legal Research
Tracking down the right information needed to build an argument and legal strategy can be extremely time consuming, especially when dealing with unfamiliar jurisdictions, different agencies and different types of records.
Legal Document Drafting
Drafting affidavits, claims, and similar legal documents might seem like a small part of a lawsuit, but it can also take up valuable time, and making an error in one of these documents can have drastic consequences.
eDiscovery and Document Review
Often treated as synonymous with litigation support, eDiscovery is a critical service that litigation support partners provide. With so many potentially relevant documents stored in a variety of digital formats, identifying, preserving, collecting, processing, reviewing, analyzing and producing relevant documents for discovery is a highly technical and time-consuming process. Many litigation support partners specialize in this process, utilizing sophisticated AI solutions to expedite the review process.
Modern litigation is increasingly complex and digital; in order to carry it out efficiently, litigation attorneys and general counsel must involve advanced technologies in the process, whether that’s for eDiscovery, data management and storage, legal research or any other element of the litigation process.
While modern litigation frequently involves services such as those described above, no two cases are the same. Thus, you may find litigation support partners able to assist in a variety of areas, such as class action settlement management, general consulting, presentation assistance, data analytics and more.
Why Attorneys Use Litigation Support Professionals
For those new to the litigation space — whether they’re a member of an in-house legal team or a member of a law firm — the reasoning behind why one should outsource litigation support may not be entirely clear. Considering the sensitive and expensive nature of litigation, it might seem more desirable to handle everything internally. The truth is, however, attorneys can realize significant efficiencies by outsourcing to a litigation support partner.
Litigation support partners specialize in executing the tedious tasks in a litigation that don’t require the expertise of a senior attorney. Not only does this mean a law firm’s clients save money by not incurring the expensive hourly rate of an attorney just to conduct, say, a document review, but it also means that litigation attorneys benefit from the faster execution of these tedious tasks.
Lawyers must direct their energy towards the entire spectrum of a litigation — planning and strategy, research, presentation and more — but litigation support partners often only need to focus on one element (such as eDiscovery). This specialization ensures faster and more cost-effective results.
Attorneys are hard workers, but they’re limited to the same 24 hours in a day as the rest of us. Typically, litigation — especially complicated, corporate cases — will feature workloads and court-mandated deadlines that simply can’t be rectified without assistance. When your initial assessment reveals that you need to sift through a potentially relevant document set numbering in the millions to carry out eDiscovery, seeking support is a must.
While not guaranteed with every litigation support partner, litigation attorneys can often benefit from the greater agility that litigation support firms provide. Traditional law firms don’t often incorporate the kind of advanced technology and modern working methodologies that a litigation support firm or alternative legal service provider can offer. Such organizations can often, for example, refine their approach to eDiscovery upon discovering new, potentially relevant information, adapt to sudden timeline developments or adjust as needed to address the unexpected.
Because litigation support partners are specialists, outsourcing your litigation support to such an organization reduces the odds that the resulting work will contain any technical or procedural errors. Attorneys tend to be perfectionists, but they are not immune to error, especially not when they’re under the pressure of a tight deadline and a high-stake litigation.
Access to Expertise
Considering the scale of document sets to review, the technical expertise required to process and preserve data, the complexities of modern litigation software and more, litigation attorneys can’t be expected to cultivate both the legal and technical skills needed to successfully execute a matter. It would be entirely unreasonable to expect an attorney to be qualified as both a data scientist and an attorney. Yet law firms typically hire only attorneys or paralegals and not data scientists.
Litigation support firms and alternative legal service providers aren’t bound to that tradition in the same way. Often, a litigation support partner will have a wide variety of experts that they can bring to bear on your matter, including AI experts, data scientists, paralegals and attorneys.
The Importance of eDiscovery Expertise
As a foundational element in litigation support services, eDiscovery expertise is a must. But that doesn’t mean that your partner is guaranteed to possess it.
Why eDiscovery Is Challenging
There might easily be millions or tens of millions of potentially responsive documents that you’ll need to sift through in order to cull your document set down to only those relevant to the matter. Simply writing out a list of keywords and searching a match doesn’t cut it; what about synonyms, implied meaning, idioms, context and all of the other subtle meaning in digital communications that require a human to identify? At the same time, no human can sift through sets of documents numbering in the millions.
That’s why eDiscovery experts leverage AI in techniques like predictive coding (also known as technology-assisted review). They train an AI algorithm to recognize the data points that make a given document relevant or irrelevant to your matter and then review the results to confirm. Using such techniques often reduces document sets from millions down to thousands.
What You Need for a Successful eDiscovery
Working with eDiscovery data in this way requires a unique blend of legal expertise and technical know-how. Not only must an eDiscovery expert understand why a given document may be relevant to your legal matter, but they also need to understand how that relevancy can be translated into a form that an AI algorithm can ingest and apply to novel documents.
What’s more, they need an intimate familiarity with the law as it pertains to data management. For example, if your litigation involves a party based out of the UK and another based in the EU, then you need a partner that understands how to be compliant when transferring eDiscovery data across borders.
How to Evaluate a Litigation Support Professional
Working with the right litigation support professional can be transformative to your case, enabling a faster delivery of critical evidence and a significantly less painful invoice for your client. But since a litigation support service partner plays such an essential role, it’s important that you make sure they’re a good fit. We’ve written before about essential eDiscovery questions to ask a potential litigation support partner, but you should also keep an eye out for any of the following red flags.
1. Poor Data Security
Your litigation support partner is likely going to be handling highly sensitive data in association with your matter. Before agreeing to work with them and handing that data over, ask about their security practices, whether they adhere to any security frameworks and/or industry standards, whether they have designated document review workspaces, what secure file transfer application they use, what their identity and access control measures look like and so on. They don’t necessarily need to have every conceivable protection in place, but they should at the very least be able to confidently answer your security questions.
2. Inflexible Fee Structures
Out of all the reasons to outsource litigation support, cost savings may be the most significant. If your prospective partner only charges an hourly fee for eDiscovery services, you may be in store for unexpected budget overages, and your partner won’t be incentivized to deliver an expedient document review. For litigation efforts that depend heavily on eDiscovery, it’s a far better practice to find a firm that will charge per unit (e.g., by relevant document identified, by gigabyte of data, etc.) or on a fixed-fee basis.
3. Poor Defensibility Practices
When outsourcing eDiscovery and other litigation support services, it’s essential that you identify a partner with robust quality control and documentation practices. Particularly for eDiscovery, which today incorporates advanced AI-based methods that are still novel to some courts, it’s essential that all methods, search terms, review metrics, review exceptions, chain of custody practices and more are thoroughly documented should you need to demonstrate that your approach was reasonable.
4. All Tech, No Experts; All Experts, No Tech
Your litigation support partner shouldn’t be just a mini-law firm, nor should they be a tech company. Litigation support occupies a unique position at the intersection of technology and law, and the composition of your prospective partner should reflect that correspondingly. Modern litigation isn’t just a matter of manpower, nor is it as simple as feeding a document set into an eDiscovery platform and delivering the results. A healthy, cross-functional mix of expertise is necessary to deliver the most legally relevant outcomes in the fastest, most cost-effective manner possible.
About Exigent's Litigation Support Professionals
At Exigent, we offer a suite of litigation support services designed to support your matter no matter where it stands in the litigation process.
Early Data Analytics
Among the most needless costs associated with eDiscovery are the hosting fees eDiscovery platforms charge for documents that ultimately bear no relevance to your matter. We use cognitive analytics and AI technology to cull document sets down only to those that are most likely to relate to your case, ensuring that the document review process moves as quickly as possible.
Managed Document Review
Our team of lawyers and paralegals are experienced in using over 15 eDiscovery platforms, ensuring we can provide the solution that best fits the particulars of your matter. We’ll review your document set for relevancy, privilege and confidentiality — and we’ll apply our rigorous quality assurance process to make sure that it’s done right the first time.
After an exhaustive class action suit, it can be frustrating to have time-consuming follow-up in the form of claimant and settlement amount verification. Exigent will take that task off your plate so you can get back to your clients’ strategic needs.
Class Action Settlement Support
Demand letters, discovery affidavits, claims and legal reports need to be expertly crafted in order to protect the success of your case and shape its course. We’ll work with you to ensure that any legal documents you submit are tailored to meet the unique needs of your case.
Rather than waste billable hours digging for relevant cases and verdicts in the jurisdiction your matter falls under, you can outsource legal research to the Exigent team. Using the library of relevant cases we surface, you can focus on building an effective legal strategy for your client.