Legal Operations

Myth-busting the claim: Our people are better than your people

When you approach a vendor for managed review of documents for litigation or an investigation, every single one will tell you they have the best people. This is a testament to the quality of attorneys that do this type of work and the experience that they have. But if everyone has the best people, how do you know what sets service providers apart for you, your firm or company, and your specific need? What myth-busters can you apply to this common claim?

Experience and data tell us that people are more productive when they feel respected, appreciated, and are given opportunities to be creative in their work (and to see the results of their creativity), all of which will drive the best outcome for your matter. This means that skilled review attorneys—often temporary workers—are ultimately only as good as the environment in which they do their work. The places to look when evaluating the “our people are better” claim, therefore, are items that impact how the review team members will feel, such as how a managed review vendor is organized, what training is provided, and what opportunities for advancement are given to the reviewers.

So, what does a “temp worker” really look for or how do they expect to live a creative, happy work life in our industry? Here are four concrete areas to consider when comparing managed review service providers.

Myth-buster data point #1: Competitive pay

Not surprisingly, the first thing review attorneys look for is competitive pay. People are aware of their value and if they perceive that they are being undervalued by their employer, it is not a starting point for success because they are not going to feel that their best interests are being considered. Associated with that are traditional benefits that a full-time employee typically would have, such as health benefits and retirement savings opportunities.

Myth-buster data point #2: Career growth

The second consideration is what has traditionally been called “opportunity for advancement.” This data point is especially valid for hourly workers assigned on a project basis! The first place to look is the reviewer community. Who are the people who have risen to management positions? Were they promoted from within or simply free agents from elsewhere? If promoted from within, what is the organic method for that promotion? A Managed Review vendor who is sensitive to the needs of the rank-and-file reviewers will have a program in place for training reviewers for higher level tasks and management skills. More importantly, it will have ongoing training for those who have risen to management levels in order to keep abreast of trends in the industry and to improve their technical skills.

Myth-buster data point #3: Team structure

Another consideration is the structure of the review teams. How are people organized? Are reviewers in a general population of plug-and-play “coders” or are there groups organized by practice area, vertical or industry? Creativity for lawyers is very much a function of their interests and abilities—if someone has a talent in patent law for life sciences, is there a place in the company where likeminded reviewers are brought together? If someone has an ability or interest in health care law, medical malpractice or insurance fraud, what are the outlets within the company to express that talent? For reviewers interested in antitrust law, what types of ongoing training does the review company provide?

Myth-buster data point #4: Humanity

Reviewers are attorneys who are people. While they have professional concerns, they also want to be treated like human beings who have a passion for the practice of law. However, there is a temptation in our industry to treat hourly, temporary workers as cogs in a machine, as expendable and interchangeable instead of unique contributors. Companies must fight against this temptation because the very reason the hourly positions are available is to get high quality legal work done at a fraction of the cost. This approach helps law firms and corporations and has created an entire industry of flexibility for attorneys. What it does not mean is that these people are simply low-cost replacements of inferior quality. In fact, the argument can be made that the industry of attorneys participating in managed review has become so specialized that these “low-cost replacements” are in fact more capable than case teams when it comes to the demanding discovery work that is necessary to turn chaos into order.

Driving the best outcomes

The perception of managed reviewers as people by a vendor is ultimately the key to success. It leads to stability, efficiency, productivity, and predictability—all stemming from the effort made to provide an environment of professional rigor, recognition of the needs of the reviewers for growth, and the constant awareness that these are human beings that need understanding, compassion, inspiration, and motivation to be at their best every day regardless of their status as limited duration employees.

When looking to onboard a team of contract reviewers, it is important to consider issues larger than cost. For the most effective team, buyers of these services must also consider the conditions of employment that ultimately drive quality and productivity.

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