Legal Process Sourcing For Document Review

Legal Process Sourcing For Document Review

 By William Wallace Belt

"Legal Process Outsourcing" ("LPO") needs a new name.  Document reviews are a team effort and "outsourcing" throws a wet blanket on a team approach.  A better name is "Legal Process Sourcing (LPS)" instead.  Anyone who really works on large document reviews understands the flood of information that flows from the documents.  Success requires a team that knows what to look for; knows how to dig for it; and knows what to do when they find it.  If the approach to document review is a throw-it-over-the-fence approach, the projects are doomed.  Document review teams are intent on building stories and winning cases.  Stories need information; and information needs pipelines, not fences.  Document review means building a team, not outsourcing the work.

I just returned from my second trip to India.  The message from the LPS providers is clear - we have to work together to succeed, and if we approach LPS as simple "outsourcing" we will miss the mark.  The message from law firms like ours - law firms with 20 years of document review experience - is just as simple: let's take on these projects together.  There is plenty of work to be done, and what we lack is time and scale.  Sourcing is a way to get the job done. 

One more thing about the name: have you ever watched the TV show "Outsourcing"?  Skip it.   The India I visited was all about doing business.  With 80,000 law school graduates per year, India is home to talented legal minds and fantastic teammates for document review.  TV shows appeal to lowest-common-denominator stereotypes.  Doing a document review explodes stereotypes.  I prefer the message of teamwork I saw on tailgates from Delhi to Bangalore. "."  On streets jam packed with traffic, people managed to get where they are going only by cooperation and coordination.  "Honk; Please; OK" sets the tone for an amazing display of mass, coordinated movement...and the movement is forward.  Like the traffic, everything in India seems to be moving forward.

Cassandra Burke Robertson refers to the "law firm quarterback model" of sourcing in her Case Western law review article "A Collaborative Model of Offshore Legal Outsourcing."  Great metaphor.  Quarterbacks do not outsource to their running backs or wide receivers.  They work as a team.  A good law firm should play a similar role in document review.  In fact, let me pick up where Daryl left off in the last blog entry on this site - the communication protocol, technology selection, workflow process, written guidelines, and training - are the tools that differentiate experienced document review law firms from dabblers.  And experienced document review professionals are the right folks to quarterback a successful document review project no matter where the team's players live and work.  

Time is an in-house counsel's most precious commodity.  While I encourage my in-house colleagues to visit Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, and Delhi (or Ireland, the Philippines, South America or South Africa for that matter) a great alternative is to let your outside counsel quarterback the document review process.  But let's not call it "outsourcing."  Let's call it by a more accurate name, "Legal Process Sourcing" ("LPS").

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