Our Spring Breakfast Series continued in Chicago last Thursday with a spirited exchange of ideas with several corporate thought leaders that included representatives from Boeing, Allstate, Sears, Hyatt, Cummins, Abbott, Nuveen and Fresenius-Kabi.

One of the biggest sound bites involved the rise of strategic partners over old-school vendors.

Did you know that law firms are beginning to embrace the idea of corporate counsel selecting their vendors/strategic partners?

In the last 5 years, corporate counsel has been more active and more engaged in selecting their eDiscovery vendors. And the vast majority of outside counsel has objected and struggled with this business model and judgement. But recently, and especially in Chicago, we heard senior, in-the-know partners not only accept the idea of corp counsel selecting their eDiscovery vendors, but actually embrace and endorse, and I dare say prefer, this business model. What’s changed:

  • Many vendors aren’t vendors any more; they are strategic partners. Over the past several years, the top-tier eDiscovery vendors have become bona fide, deep seated, at-the-table strategic partners. (for lots of reasons, but this is a blog and we will explore this further later).
  • It’s undeniable that more and more corporate counsel see, hire and vet their eDiscovery vendors as strategic partners with more concern for productivity, efficiency, security, dashboards, metrics, seamless integration and deep knowledge of their people, systems and litigation profile.

This is a paradigm shift.

One senior partner in Chicago clearly stated that most law firms don’t want to be clients’ eDiscovery vendor, but rather want to be the counsel with expertise in eDiscovery. Corporate counsel has better choices than ever when making a service provider choice. I think this clearly proves out based on our most recent survey, indicating that 40% of the Am Law 200 are outsourcing low level litigation support to managed service providers. While this reduces the demand for technical analysts and specialists in the law firms, it increases the demand for eDiscovery attorneys, project managers and consultants.

Another partner of a boutique litigation firm raised the fascinating point that this paradigm shift points to the continuous improvement of the space. It’s not “best practices” he noted, like some target we are trying to reach, rather, we are striving for “better practices,” which are continuously evolving.

I am looking forward to seeing how this ongoing discussion with corporate counsel continues to unwrap this week in Los Angeles on May 20th and in San Francisco on May 22nd and New York on June 3rd.

For an invitation or more information about our breakfasts, dinners and market trends reports, please contact David Cowen at david@cowengroup.com.