Marketing Angle: Your Firm Knows E-Discovery

The courts have created a marketing opportunity for law firms with the promulgation of new guidelines for e-discovery.  Firms that have an expertise in electronically stored information have a new marketing angle, in presenting themselves as experts in this hot new area of law.

Electronic discovery is the factor that will have the greatest impact on the practice of law over the next five years, according to a survey of 300 lawyers by Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing firm.  (For more on the survey click the Continue Reading... link below for a news article about the survey.)

The survey results reflect the reality that e-discovery has changed the way law is practiced. If you're looking for a smoking gun, it's going to be in someone's e-mail at a defendant company.  In the old days, you'd get boxes of papers in discovery.  Today you get a CD with millions of emails and documents -- and lawyers have to find the 1% of content that is relevant.

Two top Google search results include law firms that have put teriffic information online:

  • Jones Day, which has a 12-page PDF article online. The site announces that its laweyrs are "leading scholars in the field of e-discovery. "
  • KL Gates offers a whole webiste at that includes case summaries, e-discovery case database, events, federal rules amendments, news & updates, resources and archives
December 17, 2007 Volume: 153 Issue: 246

E-discovery, globalization top list of tests

By John Flynn Rooney
Law Bulletin staff writer

Electronic discovery will have the greatest impact on the practice of law over the next five years, according to a quarter of the lawyers who responded to a survey.

Globalization followed close behind with 23 percent of the respondents saying that they expect increasing international linkages to have the most impact in the coming half-decade, according to the survey by Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing firm.

The survey consisted of telephone interviews with 300 randomly chosen lawyers from the largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada.

Of the lawyers who were asked to assess a list of factors for potential effects on the practice of law, 25 percent responded that electronic discovery would play a much greater role than it does today, according to survey results released late last week.

Seventeen percent replied that demographic shifts would make the biggest mark on law practices, while another 17 percent said corporate and regulatory issues would be most significant, the survey found.

New provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure relating to electronic discovery took effect on Dec. 1, 2006.

''Changes to document retention and e-discovery rules have placed greater demands on companies,'' Charles Volkert, Robert Half's executive director, said in a written statement. ''To prepare for litigation, legal teams must review massive amounts of material in short periods of time and determine relevancy to the case.

''The complexity and cost of the task, coupled with the associated information technology and human resources needs, make this a challenge,'' Volkert said.

Billie J. Watkins, division director for Robert Half's Chicago office, said that ''corporations and law firms will have to assess their staffing needs [to determine whether to hire] additional staffers or hire project professionals on a contract basis to address these needs.

''Oftentimes when you're dealing with discovery deadlines, they are time-sensitive and sometimes unexpected. So, your staffing needs may be predicated on that,'' Watkins said.

''What we've seen is that in lieu of adding additional staff, project professionals have been the solution,'' Watkins said.

Larry Bodine, who operates a law firm marketing consultancy, said Monday that the survey results appear to ''reflect the reality that e-discovery has changed the way law is practiced. If you're looking for a smoking gun, it's going to be in someone's e-mail.''

Watkins noted that Robert Half employees were not surprised by the respondents' expectations concerning globalization of the practice of law.

''If you look at the corporate growth into foreign countries, what flows naturally … is to have lawyers representing these interests thinking globally,'' Watkins said.

''Some of our data indicate that law firms are increasingly handling more cases in foreign jurisdictions and for foreign clients in the U.S.,'' Watkins added.

The same survey conducted in March suggested that 60 percent of the law firms have provided legal services to clients doing business abroad during the last two years, according to Watkins.

Since 2000, the 250 largest U.S.-based law firms have increased their attorney rosters in Europe by 60 percent and in Latin America by 42 percent, Watkins said.

''Those numbers alone clearly indicate how globalization is affecting the practice of law,'' Watkins said.

William D. Henderson, an associate professor of law at Indiana University who follows developments related to globalization, said foreign offices are where the fastest growth is occurring for law firms based in the U.S.

''The really rapid growth is taking place in the Pacific Rim'' in cities like Toyko and Beijing, Henderson added.

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