By Tim Rollins
In the spirit of educating the legal market on best practices and trends, ACEDS and Exterro recently conducted a survey polling legal professionals on their pre-litigation processes. We developed a short questionnaire covering topics of interest to in-house legal professionals and their counterparts at legal practices and service providers.
The almost 70 respondents represented companies from less than 1,000 to over 100,000 employees, with roles ranging from legal operations and project management to in-house paralegals, attorneys, and even general counsel. With as many departments handling 50 or more matters per year as those handling fewer than 10, one thing for certain is that legal departments are busier than ever--and more than ever before, they're handling the workload in-house as much as possible.
The Accelerating Move In-House for E-Discovery
The past two years have seen a rapid acceleration of the trend toward moving corporate legal services in-house. More than half of respondents to this survey (56%) are performing more than three-quarters of their legal services in-house, and 75% of respondents are performing more than half. That’s a huge step forward from Exterro’s 2020 In-House Legal Benchmarking Report, which saw only 31% and 44% of respondents performing more than three quarters and one-half of their legal services in-house, respectively.
This is confirmed by the fact that 78% of respondents said the percentage of legal services they performed in-house increased over the past year versus only 22% reporting a decrease.
More In-House Document Review Than Ever
But what's also interesting about this move in house is just what e-discovery operations in-house legal teams are taking on. Traditionally, organizations with strong in-house legal teams focused on the early stages of the e-discovery process—identification, preservation, and collection—with technology like legal hold software and in-place preservation. This year’s survey show revealed an increasing proportion of legal teams investing in software traditionally used later in e-discovery, including processing, document review, and production.
The number of teams investing in document review software more than doubled in the past two years, from 29% to 69%, but the increase in teams performing first pass reviews in-house was more modest, with 62% (vs. 59%) always or most of the time conducting initial reviews. More and more organizations are seeing the value they can achieve by bringing more of the e-discovery process in-house—and investing accordingly.
As Don McLaughlin, Exterro Technology Counsel, explains, "For in-house legal teams, document review software is no longer a luxury. Between discovery in civil litigation, internal compliance or human resources investigations, data subject access requests, and data breach response, it’s increasingly seen as a necessity."