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Firms bridging the gap between IT and the law

One analyst firm expects a growing number of companies will hire legal specialists (with some IT background) to control costs and improve processes for dealing with electronic discovery.

Email and instant messages: They're evidence.

Because of it, IT organizations and lawyers have to collaborate more than ever. And since lawyers bill by the hour, CIOs might want to hire someone who can talk to them.

If you're a firm of that size, it's not like you have just one or two lawsuits pending at one time. In today's world you get sued and you sue other people. It's a lot cheaper to have someone in-house.
Stanley P. Jaskiewicz
attorneySpector Gadon & Rosen P.C.
"It's a classic problem. IT doesn't understand lawyers, and lawyers don't understand IT," said Debra Logan, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., adding that businesses will increasingly hire professionals with combined IT and legal backgrounds.

Indeed, this new crop of professionals, called litigation support managers, will possess a combination of legal and technological expertise that will allow them to make a company's processes for data retention and electronic discovery (e-discovery) more effective and efficient. She said they will create and maintain inventories of information assets, advise legal counsel on e-discovery, execute holds to preserve evidence and collect data for in-house and outside legal counsel.

"At big law firms, these people have existed for a long time," Logan said. "A lot of companies are bringing them in-house because it's expensive to outsource."

These positions will continue to be found mostly in large companies, particularly those in industries that face higher regulatory scrutiny and a likelihood of litigation such as insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and financial services. However, some public organizations such as law enforcement agencies will also benefit from them.

Logan estimates that 20% of Global 2000 companies will add litigation support managers within the next three years. Right now she estimates that fewer than 5% have them.

"I'd be surprised if it's that low," said Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, an attorney at Philadelphia law firm Spector Gadon & Rosen P.C., who often advises clients on technology issues. "If you're a firm of that size, it's not like you have just one or two lawsuits pending at one time. In today's world you get sued and you sue other people. It's a lot cheaper to have someone in-house. It may be only 20% only because the [Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] are so new. But as people get used to them, it wouldn't surprise me if that number goes up."

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court adopted amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that laid out strict guidelines for how organizations should handle electronically stored information during litigation. Suddenly, electronic discovery has CIOs up at night.

Adam Cohen, senior managing director, technology at FTI Consulting in New York, said he has seen several of his clients, all Fortune 100 companies, add such positions.

"There's definitely a couple of clients who have added this new position in terms of managing e-discovery," said Cohen, who helps companies with e-discovery readiness and compliance. "In terms of managing e-discovery there is no question that this is a trend. It is taking up so much time now that they realize they need a full-time resource, at least one person."

Cohen said the term litigation support manager evokes a more traditional position within a law firm. Among his clients, he's seen companies appoint directors or managers of electronic discovery.

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"They have these people who are responsible for whipping things into shape, working with technical consultants and lawyers to make sure that the technology is up to snuff and that the organization is read to respond," Cohen said. "They also make sure that their retention policies are in place and that a unified message and consistent information goes to outside counsel."

But finding people with the right professional experience and expertise to serve as litigation support managers will be a challenge, Logan said. She predicted that many companies will look to poach them from law firms. That creates a new demand for these skills that will drive up costs.

"It's going to be steep," she said. "Inside a law firm these people are paid $80,000 or $90,000. It's going to go up to $200,000, which is nothing compared to what companies are spending already."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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