ALSP – Not Just Your Daddy’s LPO, Part Two: eDiscovery Trends

by CloudNine

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom also wrote a terrific four part informational overview on Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) titled eDiscovery and the GDPR: Ready or Not, Here it Comes (and participated with me on a webcast on the same topic) and wrote another terrific five part informational overview on Understanding eDiscovery in Criminal Cases.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding Alternative Legal Service Providers titled ALSP – Not Just Your Daddy’s LPO that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  We covered part one last Thursday.  Here’s part two.

What is an ALSP?

The first consideration in understanding new generation ALSPs is to understand how ALSP is defined. In general, ALSPs are niche companies that specialize in providing such high-demand legal services as:

  • Human Resources
  • IT Services
  • Document Review
  • Contract Management
  • Litigation Support
  • ECA
  • Analytics
  • Discovery and Electronic Discovery
  • Contract Lawyers and Staffing
  • Investigation Support and Legal Research
  • IP Management
  • Due Diligence

Industries such as banking started outsourcing IT services as a means to reduce costs almost 30 years ago. And now businesses and law firms are doing the same thing in the area of document services by turning to these new generation ALSP companies for even routine legal services that are too expensive and time-consuming to do in-house.

According to the Thompson-Reuters Legal Executive Institute report, there are five categories of ALSPs.

  • Accounting and Audit Firms that have a large amount of revenue in legal services. They tend to focus on high-volume, process-oriented work that’s complementary to accounting-audit work.
  • Captive LPOs that are wholly owned captive operations. Often located in lower-cost regions, they are focused on high-volume process work.
  • Independent LPOs, eDiscovery and Document Review Providers who perform outsourced legal work under the direction of corporate legal departments and law firms. They are typically engaged for matter- or project-based work often proactively managed and globally delivered. This category Includes eDiscovery services and document review providers.
  • Managed Legal Services Providers that contract for all or part of the function of an in-house legal team. They typically are engaged for ongoing work within scope and proactively managed.
  • Contract Lawyers, In-Sourcing, and Staffing Services who are providers of lawyers to companies on a temporary basis. Support can range from entry-level document review to highly skilled and experienced specialists.

So while the term ALSP is a reasonable capstone description for the multiple categories of ALSP specialization, it does appear that using only one term may, in some cases, be an over simplification of a complex grouping of services.

Another characteristic that defines an ALSP is the fact that it is not necessarily a law firm and does not engage in the practice of law nor does it necessarily have to be staffed by lawyers. Because of this characteristic, paralegals, legal assistants, and technical staff with the right type of legal expertise are in great demand at the new generation ALSP.  And more and more work is moving in their direction. According to an October 2013 article in ABA Journal, employment at traditional law firms peaked in 2004 and has declined moderately since then.  During the same time period, employment at ALSPs has doubled.

Although litigation and investigation support ALSPs are the third most-used category of ALSPs for law firms (behind eDiscovery and document review), the report found that they are used by just 28 percent of firms. Twenty-six percent of firms use ALSPs for non-legal factual research and 24 percent of firms use them for specialized legal services.

When breaking down the ALSP services used by corporations, there seems to be even more reluctance to adopt them. Regulatory risk and compliance services are the categories that see the most use proportionally, but even those ALSPs see adoption at only 29 percent. The only other category above 20 percent adoption in corporate legal departments is specialized legal services (21 percent).

Eric Laughlin is the general manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services. He expects continuing growth for ALSPs, saying this about the report:

“The data says that law firms are recognizing ALSPs for more expertise, so there’s a respect there for what ALSPs are doing. And then their experience in the market is that clients are pushing them more to disaggregate. They’re being asked to look at more models by their clients.”

The numbers in the report bear this out. But, as noted above, the uses go well beyond eDiscovery. ALSP services now extend to a wide variety of activities including not just LPO, managed services, HR, general accounting and so on. David Curle, Director of Strategic Competitive Intelligence for Thomson Reuters Legal, said in another panel at Legaltech that these non-traditional activities provide for roughly $8.4 billion in legal services each year.  While still a fraction of the $700 billion total global spend on legal services, it is an incredibly fast-growing segment of the market.

We’ll publish Part Three – Who is actually using an ALSP and why are they using them? – on Thursday.

So, what do you think?  Have you used an ALSP before?

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